The new kid in town

Armaan Ebrahim, the latest big motor racing talent from India, has already turned the Renault V6 Asia Championship on its head in his first season by taking the lead in the drivers’ standings after six races, writes G. Raghunath.

At first sight, he gives you the impression of being a mystic, perpetually lost in a cogitating reverie. You are not sure if you could even strike a conversation with him, leave alone engage him in a meaningful chat. But a mere mention of the Renault V6 Championship is enough to jolt Armaan Ebrahim out of his trance.

“It’s been exciting… very, very challenging I should say,” Armaan set off, struggling a wee bit to pick himself up all of a sudden.

The latest big motor racing talent from India has already turned the Renault V6 Asia Championship on its head in his first season by taking the lead in the drivers’ standings after six races. And this after failing to finish in the first two races at Sepang (Malaysia) in May. “That was really bad,” Armaan said of the two races. “I started fourth in both the races and subsequently had a shunt in each,” he added.

“The problem in the first round was getting used to the car which was faster than the one I drove in the Asia Formula BMW Championship. It was a real struggle — as difficult as the transition from BMW to A1 GP. Ultimately, it’s all a challenge nevertheless,” said Armaan, son of yesteryear champion racer Akbar Ebrahim.

Once Armaan overcame his homesick blues — it’s not always that he is accompanied by his father to the races (“one has to get used to being alone on the circuit,” he says) — and got used to the conditions, the circuit and, most importantly, his V6, he made his intent clear. That there’s more to his driving than getting wedged between cars, and ending in pile-ups.

In the next round in Sepang, he won both the races. He then followed it up with a victory at Sentul (Indonesia) in the first race of the third round. Though he finished second in the next race, his position at the top of the Championship table was not disturbed. Armaan leads the championship by 17 points over the British driver James Winslow (Team Meritius).

Armaan, driving for Team TARA-DTM, a Malaysian-French collaboration, is eagerly looking forward to his next two races of the fourth round at Chengdu (China) on September 8 and 9. “I am quite confident of winning in China. That’s where I will be pushing for the championship crown,” he said.

Armaan last raced at Sentul on July 22-23, which means he has a fairly long break before he gets back on the track at Chengdu. So, this is a well-earned rest?

“Not really. You get to drive the car only three or four days before the race. So the only way to prepare for the races is to work on your mental and physical fitness during such breaks. I have been focussing on my next round of races, preparing mentally through meditation. I am also working on my physical fitness, sweating it out in the gym nearly two and a half hours a day for six days a week,” Armaan said.

Though the 2007 Renault V6 Asia Championship is only halfway through, Armaan has already chalked up his plans for 2008. He intends competing in the new GP2 Asia Championship — similar to the GP2 Europe — which Armaan and his father Akbar insist is the right route to Formula One.

Incidentally, the cars in GP2 Asia are single-make chassis powered by single-make engines that deliver a maximum of 620bhp. Though the cars are homogeneous, the mechanical and aerodynamics package they offer is vast. It’s here that the proficiency of the team crew will be tested. As for the drivers, they have to not only be extremely skilful, but should also have a thorough grasp of their cars to be able to provide information to the pits both during and after the race. The races are all run on Formula One circuits, which would be a great advantage for drivers aspiring to enter Formula One.

Armaan though isn’t in a hurry to enter Formula One. “I will grab the chance (to drive in F1) if it comes my way, but I am not in a hurry. I know, I have a long way to travel,” he said. That speaks of the 18-year-old’s equanimity. Sure, Armaan has a mature head on his young shoulders.

SIGNPOST 2007

Leads the Formula Renault V6 Asia Championship with three victories — two at Sepang (Malaysia) and one at Sentul (Indonesia) — and a second place finish at Sentul.

2006

Finishes consistently in the top 4 of the Graduate Cup in the Formula Renault UK Championship.

11th in the A1 GP race in Beijing. 2005

Finishes third in the Asian Formula BMW Championship scholarship class.

First ever rookie to win a Formula BMW Series race at Sepang, Malaysia.

Youngest ever to drive in the A1 GP Championship.

2004

Wins the Asian Zone Rotax Max Karting Championship in the Philippines.

Runner-up in the Asian Zone Karting Championship in India.

Wins the Indian Rotax Max Karting Championship.

Wins the JK Tyre National Formula LGB Single seater Racing Car Championship.

2003

Wins the Johor Bahru Open Karting Cup in Malaysia.

Runner-up in the Malaysia Dunlop Endurance Karting Championship.

Wins the Pro Am Rotax Karting in Bangalore.