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LAUNCH PAD FOR RACERS Narain Karthikeyan (centre) at the press conference
LAUNCH PAD FOR RACERS Narain Karthikeyan (centre) at the press conference

Narain Karthikeyan and Amaron Batteries have come together to set up a racing academy

Where Narain Karthikeyan is concerned, time flies on tweaked wheels. The day he stood on the podium at Sriperumbudur some 15 years ago, taking the top honour in the FISSME (Formula Maruti) category, in what was his very first race, seems like yesterday. Probably because Narain has changed little. That self-conscious boyish smile has been safely bolted away, from time's hands. So, it is difficult to believe that Narain, the boy wonder, the speed kid, is old enough to take young aspirants to `gravity-defying speed', under his wing. Even as he is trying to leave `testing times' (as one journalist referred to his stint as Williams F1 test driver) behind and pilot a return to the racing circuit, a big responsibility has come his way. He has to "identify, nurture and groom Indian racing champions".He will be the driving force behind the Amaron-NK Racing Academy, the launch of which was announced recently at a press conference. (Before the objectives of the academy were spelt out, an Amaron promotional video featuring Narain was played out. It was an unedited footage where Narain is seen struggling to pronounce Japan in Japanese).

Promoting motor sport

Jayadev Galla, managing director, Amara Raja Batteries Limited (ARBL), said, "We have been associated with Narain Karthikeyan since his early racing days and he has made us very proud. We are strengthening our tie-up with him by extending our contract. The Amaron-NK Racing Academy is the next step of this association and our long-term commitment to the promotion of motor sport and motor racing in the country, from the junior school level."The academy, part of the six-pronged effort by Amaron Pro Racing Initiative to promote motor sports in the country (the others are sponsorship/ endorsement programme, Formula Amaron Asia championship, Formula Amaron Karting championship and Amaron merchandising of promotional racing accessories), is expected to "leverage existing racing infrastructure in the country". The academy will conduct racing workshops at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore and also identify and single out four promising drivers, "through a rigorous selection process", for greater training and to run two teams - Amaron and Speed (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited) for the Formula ROLON championship. Narain said that this was a premier championship and it would introduce these youngsters to top-level, international racing standards. Unlike in the Formula Maruti, where road components and a transverse engine were used, these aspiring drivers would drive consummate racing vehicles. For this year, fourteen young drivers from across the country have been short-listed. For next year, the selection is expected to follow a more structured route. Narain said the academy would closely watch performances at inter-school karting championships. Although there would be "some clashing dates with my Formula 1 testing commitment," Narain said he will definitely make time for the academy. PRINCE FREDERICKThe academy... Will conduct regular workshops for promising drivers. Will get them to race in professional championships. Will manage and run teams in championships. Will take up the cause of motor sports with policy makers. Will promote events that encourage young talent.

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