Karun Chandhok and his first car

Karun Chandhok grew up in the driver’s seat, but bought battered machines as his first wheels in two countries

Updated - January 16, 2018 06:13 pm IST

Published - January 16, 2018 05:08 pm IST

I was born into a household surrounded by motorsports: my father, my grandfather and my grandmother used to race. So I grew up surrounded by cars and wheels. I guess the first time I drove something was when I was probably three years old: my parents got me a little electric car — these toy cars that you get.

You could press the button to go, and you could reverse, and I had indicators and stuff. Then I had a pedal car, with which I would be pedalling up and down the street.

I got a go-kart when I was very young, when my dad [Vicky Chandhok] was racing Formula 3 here in Chennai. There was a big race meeting that used to happen in the city, in February every year, and the cars used to be brought in from Europe. At that time, they just put a go-kart in the freight along with it, so I got a go-kart when I was six! So I suppose that was the first engine car — or kart — that I remember driving.


And then I learnt how to drive a manual car: my uncle’s Maruti 800, at a race track in Chennai, when I was probably nine years old.

So that’s when I first drove a car; but it was at a race track, so it was private property, not a public road.

I first bought my own car when I turned 18 and got a licence. One part of our business at the time was running a rally team for JK Tyres. We had a team of eight or nine rally cars, and I sort of inherited one of these, which had done a year of rallying and had been beaten and bashed up all over the country.

It made a lot of rattling noises, and had seen a year of abuse, but for me it was a set of wheels, and it gave me a bit of freedom.

But that was only for a few months, because then I had to move to England to race in Formula 3. At the time, I bought a second-hand Vauxhall Vectra, which I got at quite a low price. Again, it was an old and beaten up car, but it was all I could afford at the time.

But it lasted. It lasted probably two years, and then it completely died, not the healthiest machine. I had to leave it in the junkyard. It was the first car that I had when I went to live in England, and it got me around the country.

As told to Meghna Majumdar

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