Seduced by speed

Tarun Reddy... "Winning the overall title in the JK Tyre Rotax Max National Championship gave me the direction."-M. VEDHAN

Lewis Hamilton is Tarun Reddy’s inspiration. “I want to be like him. If not, I want to remain in the world of motorsport, maybe in DTM Racing or NASCAR,” he says. By K. Keerthivasan.

This kid is growing up pretty quickly. Tarun Reddy, standing at 5ft. 8in. and only 15 years old, brightened up a damp, gloomy afternoon at the Madras Motor Sports Club race track at Irungattukottai, near Chennai, recently with a performance that would make even the senior professionals envious.

In his first season in a Formula car, Tarun, driving in the MRF Formula Ford 1600cc category, outmanoeuvred senior drivers such as Ashwin Sundar and Sudarshan Rao among others to finish first in the second race of the third round of the MMSC-FMSCI National Racing Championships. In the overall standings, with two more rounds remaining, Tarun is in the second spot with 105 points, behind Ashwin.

It was a sensational debut for the Standard XI student of Lady Andal in Chennai. “It feels good to win a race in a Formula Ford car. I will try to pick up more wins,” Tarun said.

What started as fun, watching his friend Akhil Kushlani at Kart Attack, a karting centre in Chennai, turned into a big passion for Tarun in 2009. At the age of 11, he claimed the overall title in the JK Tyre Rotax Max National Championship, winning three of the five races at the Mohite racing track in Kolhapur. “That was my first major victory. That gave me the direction,” Tarun said.

Tarun got a big break when he was chosen by the Sahara Force India Drivers’ Academy last year after a rigorous selection procedure.

The selection trials were held in seven different cities culminating in the National final in Goa where 100 drivers took part. Of these drivers, 10 were selected to go to Silverstone, where fitness and racing assessment and media relations exercise were held for them. Of the 10 drivers, three were selected to race in the British junior karting championship.

“I, along with two other drivers (Arjun Maini and Jehan Daruwala), was selected for the races in the UK. We took part in the British Junior Karting Championships in several places including Wales, Scotland, Milton Keynes and Cumbria,” Tarun said.

He took part in seven rounds of the British Junior Championship guided by Terry Fullerton (driver coach) and Louis Di Resta (manager). Fullerton, a former World karting champion, raced karts throughout his career while Di Resta, the father of Force India driver Paul Di Resta, is an ex-karting driver and a formula Ford racer.

According to Tarun, he cherished each moment in the United Kingdom. “I learnt quite a lot. Their philosophy was to give us less track time. They wanted us to adapt as quickly as possible. It was a good learning experience. I improved after each weekend considering that the other racers had more experience than I had,” he said.

Hiring the services of Rupert Stevenson-Cook, a British racing driver now competing in the European GT and Lamborghini Trofeo Series, for the second round of the National Championship in Coimbatore helped the teenager a lot. And in the subsequent round in Chennai, Tarun stole the show by emerging first in the second race.

“My performance improved after hiring Stevenson. He taught me a lot about braking and cornering techniques. I learnt how to balance locking the brakes and slowing the car down. I think I learnt that technique pretty quickly. In Coimbatore, I finished second in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2. We carried the momentum to Chennai,” he said.

Tarun is sponsored by JA Motorsport, one of India’s largest racing and rally teams with more than 25 years experience in Indian and international championships.

He also plays football and squash, and his inspiration is Lewis Hamilton.

“I want to be like him. If not, I want to remain in the world of motorsport, maybe in DTM Racing or NASCAR,” Tarun said.