Winning moment

Karun Chandhok savours victory on the podium at Spa.-

For Karun Chandhok, the victory at Spa was a moment to relish. It was also historic, for never before has India’s National Anthem been played at a GP circuit, writes S. Thyagarajan.

For Karun Chandhok a dream is turning into reality; a passion entering the threshold of fulfilment. As he stood on the podium amidst the carnival ambience, accentuated by the strains of the Indian National Anthem at the GP2 circuit in Spa, Belgium, on September 16, 2007, it was not easy to quantify Karun’s emotions.

“I had tears in my eyes,” said the Durango Corse driver, who scored his maiden victory in the GP2 Series at Spa.

It was a moment to relish; a momentous occasion and an imprimatur in his career graph. The victory was historic. Never before has our National Anthem been played at a GP circuit.

Karun’s rise has been anything but meteoric — his graduation has been gradual, methodical and well programmed. Step by step, the cherubic 23-year old from Chennai has been endeavouring to reach his goal, which seems well within his grasp. It takes a great deal to be in the driver’s seat of a Formula One car.

The blossoming of Karun into a driver of immense potential makes for a fascinating study. The blessings of his parents have been vital in the growth of his career. Born in a family where the essence and elements of sport are more an article of faith than a mere pastime, Karun’s progress isn’t really surprising.

Not many of his generation know that Karun’s grandfather, Indu Chandhok, was among the earliest aficionados of motor racing in Tamil Nadu. He not only was one of the founders of the Madras Motor Sports Club, but an active participant in races, in cars that not many might have heard of.

Growing up in an environment where sport occupied a prime place in any of the discussions and debates in the family, Karun’s interest in motor racing needs no amplification. His grand uncles were more involved in tennis and badminton; his grandfather even wielded the willow with some authority for the Madras United Club in the city cricket league.

Karun’s father, Vicky, is a source of inspiration, support and encouragement. A fierce competitor in the local motor racing circuit, especially at the disused Sholavaram airstrip, and a reputed national rally driver, Vicky, a former president of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI), knows all about the aura and glamour associated with motor racing.

When the family, impelled by a desire to see Karun behind the wheel of a Formula One car, chose for him motor racing over academics, it was a bit apprehensive. But Karun displayed the gumption to make it big in the high voltage of motor racing. The task was, understandably, demanding, calling for extraordinary sense of dedication, devotion and determination. Above all, it demanded of Karun a sense of fortitude, the courage to wink at failures and view them as stepping stones to success.

The dawn of 2001 saw Karun getting into a winning mode. As the youngest Formula Asia (V6) winner, he underpinned his talent and grasp to elevate the level of his performances. His consistency in the British Formula 3 between 2002 and 2004 earned him recognition, bringing him into contact with some of the big names of motor racing.

It is only a matter of time before Karun breaks into the big league. Bernie Ecclestone, the high priest of Formula One racing, has assessed and admired Karun’s potential as a Formula One driver. His championship victory in the 2006 World Series (Renault) was another big leap towards his goal.

The victory in the GP2 race at Spa is a turning point in Karun’s career. After some frustrating moments — the race at Istanbul turned out to be a nightmare as did a few earlier ones — Karun hit a high octave on September 16 for his maiden triumph in 19 starts.

Spa brought out the spark in Karun. His sponsors, Red Bull, JK Tyres, Amaron and ISCA, would now feel gratified by their decision to back a driver with proven credentials. They expect him to reach the highest echelons of motor racing.