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ASHWIN ACHAL
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MOTOR RACING With a sponsorship deal from the Embassy group in hand, Raj Bharath hopes to achieve success on the field

Setting higher targetsRaj Bharath
Setting higher targetsRaj Bharath

Motor racing, unlike most sports, requires more than just talent to hit the big time. To get behind the wheel, the driver must bring with him substantial financial backing in order to meet the huge expenditure that a team requires to keep afloat. Investments in technology, R&D, and testing, are some of the essential areas where resources are spent, with the driver expected to contribute. This situation often makes it hard for Indian racers to make the transition from national to international success.

For Bangalore’s Raj Bharath, timely assistance has come in the form of a sponsorship deal from the Embassy Group. The real estate company will assist Bharath till March 2014, after which, it will take a call on extending the deal. “If a driver wants to find a spot in the European circuits, he needs to bring some sponsors with him. All racers would like to be with a good team, which has the best technology. This will provide them the best possible results. But, in order to have the best technology, the team needs to depend partly on the money which the drivers bring with them,” said Akbar Ebrahim, the President of Meco Racing, which Bharath represents.

“This is a big day for Bharath and other Indian racers as well. Sponsors coming forward is essential,” Ebrahim said, at a press conference recently.

The 18-year-old will compete in the Formula Masters series, which is viewed as a platform to gain entry into the tough Asian GT Racing Championship (such as the Porsche Cup, the Audi Cup, the Lamborghini Cup and the Sirocco Cup). The double-seater cars will be powered by Volkswagen’s Formula 3 engines, which will replace the Fiat Abharth engines used previously. The new engines will raise the profile of the Formula Masters, as quicker race times will be recorded.

The teenager did well to grab 13 podium spots in the previous season of the Formula Masters (then called the Formula Pilota) with Meco Racing (supported by JK Tyres), prompting Ebrahim to describe Bharath as a “good prospect”. “This year, Bharath has a good chance to finish in the overall top-3. Sometimes, things could get cruel – you could have some minor issues with the car, crash out and lose out on points. But if a driver’s race pace is strong, it will help his credentials. With a bit of luck, I think Bharath can do very well,” Ebrahim said.

The mild-mannered and wide-eyed Bharath, who afforded a shy smile when quizzed if he was still in high school, gave his views on the year ahead.

“The podiums that I had achieved last year give me confidence to do well again. I’ve had a good association with Meco Racing; I’m comfortable with them. I’m also grateful to the Embassy Group for their support,” he said.

Bharath will have the trusted Patrick Roberts, the chief engineer, by his side.

The Englishman, who has worked with popular Indian drivers such as the late S. Karivardhan (Ebrahim’s mentor), Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandok and Armaan Ebrahim (Ebrahim’s son), enjoys a good rapport with Bharath.

“Roberts understands my style of racing, and his technical knowledge is great.” The Bangalorean, who kick-started his career by winning the national karting championship as a 14-year-old, begins his 2013 Formula Masters on Friday (May 10), with a race in Zhuhai International Circuit (China). Five more races follow over the next four months.

ASHWIN ACHAL

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