It may be a race promoter’s dream to put Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok, India’s only F1 drivers in the same team against some of the best in the business and provide everyone with similar cars. That may not be a fantasy any more as Narain and Karun will come together and race as one team, when India makes its debut in the Race of the Champions to be staged in Bangkok on December 15 and 16.
Thanks to an invitation from the 25-year-old event, in which German stars Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel have won the team title in the last five editions, Narain (busy on the F1 circuit) and Karun (competing in the World Endurance Championship) were able to get into the same team after many years. The two had competed in the World Series Renault Championship in 2004. Apart from the F1 stars, the event will also feature MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo and Indycar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay.
There will be drivers from touring cars, Le Mans and X-Games, and will battle head-to-head in identical machinery, in a knockout format on parallel tracks around the stadium.
The drivers will have to tackle a variety of cars and the best eight will make the quarterfinals.
Since the event had moved to the Rajamangala Stadium in Bangkok, it was decided to have a strong Asian representation, with teams from China and India, to attract Asian fans.
“It is a great opportunity to represent India. Last time, it was the A1 Grand Prix.
“There have been a few surprise winners, but the competition will be tough.
“The challenge will be to adapt quickly to different machinery. I will do the best I can and see how it goes,” said Narain.
Karun said he was excited about the unique opportunity to race alongside a variety of drivers, and that the idea would provide a further boost to motor sports in the country.
Narain said the idea of fielding an Indian team in the event, after the successful conduct of the F1 Grand Prix for two years, had the possibilities of being a commercial success as well. “It will be nice to have the event in India,” he said.