For Karun Chandhok, one of the two Indians to drive in Formula One, the future now lies in sports car racing and his focus in 2013 will be on the FIA GT series and Endurance races.
After making his debut in the GT series with Seyffarth Motorsport team in France recently, Chandhok, on Wednesday, announced a deal to race in the historic 24 hours of Le Mans with Murphy Prototypes LMP2 squad. He had raced in the FIA World Endurance Championship last season, but his team JRM Racing pulled out of the championship just ahead of the season, which left him without a full season contract.
Now that he has secured a deal to race at Le Mans in June, Chandhok is relieved. Lack of financial backing had forced the Indian driver to move out of F-1 in 2011.
“The focus would be on sports car races. I enjoyed my time during Endurance races last year. Doing GT and sports car racing is different and satisfying. There are good drivers, great tracks, good teams. It is an opportunity for me to earn a living out of sport. I am happy to do more Endurance races, Le Mans and Sports Car races,” Chandhok said.
“F-1 is F-1, everyone knows the financial situation. F-1 is difficult at the moment unless you have millions. I like to do more (races) in WEC and fortunately, there’s no clash in calendar. In the future, both WEC and GT are good options.”
Chandhok added that Formula One is the pinnacle but it was not mean achievement racing at Le Mans considering the satisfaction one derives out of it.
“Finally, got that deal sorted out on Friday. JRM pulled out late in January and by then the drivers line-ups were finals for full season. Le Mans is the biggest sports car event. It’s in top three sports car events in the world along with Indianapolis 500 and Monaco,” he said. “It was difficult to get a seat for full season, so I tried for Le Mans. I was lucky to get a deal with Murphy.”
Brendon Hartley was Chandhok’s teammate at Red Bull in 2007-08. “We can make a strong team together,” he said.
On his experience of driving in GT series, Chandhok said it was challenging since the cars were completely different from what he had driven before.
“I had never raced any GT car before. The car is very different; it’s the biggest change from WEC to GT. They (WEC, F1) are all very high grip cars. GT cars are more like sports cars... modified. They have a lot of power but not a lot of grip. They are very heavy, so the car moves a lot, you have to get used to car moving around.
“I feel very alien driving this car. Very different, but in the end I am very happy as I was fifth, sixth fastest in lap timing during the first race, it was great for a complete GT rookie. Honestly, I needed one more weekend, to get myself up to speed. But we should be fighting for podiums in coming races,” he said.
Asked if he needed special skills to get the performance out of GT cars, Chandhok said: “Skills play a part in all races. In a down-force car, great skills are required to use it. You have to know how to use it. It’s different style of driving, you just to need to apply skills differently.”
This year, there is no Indian in Formula One as Narain Karthikeyan was left without a team after Hispania pulled out and Chandhok was candid to admit that at present there is no Indian, who could be looked at as a future F-1 driver.
“Next F-1 driver from India... at the moment don’t see anyone else. If any Indian has to be in F-1 in future it would be either me or Narain. To be able to do well in F-1, you need to win in Europe and so far only I and Narain have been able to win in GP2, A1GP and Formula 3. No other Indian has been able to do it. Have you seen anyone in the junior ranks... there are a few but no one is winning,” he said.