A little more than a year ago, motor sport buffs were wondering why Vijay Mallya did not have an Indian driver in his Force India Formula One team. With the country getting into the F1 calendar, there was talk that Narain Karthikeyan would get a chance to drive Mallya's chariot but that did not materialise too.
The Mahindra Racing team, now in action in the MotoGP – the 18-round world's premier motorcycle racing championship – which opens with the Qatar GP on Sunday, seems to be in a similar situation.
The Indian team Mahindra's two riders who compete in the championship's all-new Moto3 class are both foreigners, Danny Webb is from Britain and Marcel Schrotter from Germany. But Mahindra Racing is grooming a young rider, Chennai's 20-year-old Sarath Kumar, slowly getting him ready for the big, glamorous and dangerous world of MotoGP.
“We've been watching him,” said Mufaddal A. Choonia, the Chief Operating Officer and Team Principal of Mahindra Racing , just before the Qatar MotoGP's qualifying rounds at the Losail International Circuit here on Saturday. “Last year, when he was at the National Championship plus the little while when he was on the MotoGP (125cc class), we saw that he had talent. We want to groom him well.”
And while Mahindra Racing watches Webb and Schrotter closely at the Qatar MotoGP's qualifying rounds and the main race on Saturday and Sunday, it will also be tuning in for news from Imola where Sarath is now in action in the Italian Championship along with the seasoned star Riccardo Moretti in the 125cc class.
“ Moretti (the 2009 Italian champion who now rides for Mahindra in Italy) does offer advice to Sarath,” said Choonia. “That's why we have teamed them up together. Both have hit it very well.”
Moretti won the opening round of the Italian Championship for Mahindra in a stunning manner which should inspire the young Sarath.
“Sarath was a bit unlucky in the first round, there were minor technical problems with his bike,” explained Choonia.
“We're putting him through the right path. We didn't want him to straightaway get into the MotoGP. May be, if Sarath doesn't do well (in the MotoGP), it will affect his confidence very badly. We didn't want to do that.”