Zooming ahead

“The year 2013 is going to be all about development. We will be racing on different tracks and logging thousands of miles. Hopefully, we will be ready to compete in the Grand Touring Series (GT3, R8), the year after that,” says Aditya Patel. R. Narayanan listens in.

He was in seventh heaven on the Green Hell track in Nurburgring (Germany). He was on the podium on both days at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) during the JK Tyre Asia series. The year 2012 has seen Aditya Patel, 24, make a giant leap from a consistent driver to a sizzling performer. The youngster speaks to Sportstar about his life in the fast lane.

Question: Given that you don’t race regularly in a Formula car and had never raced at the BIC, how did you feel being on the podium?

Answer: It felt absolutely great to be on the podium and that too in front of the home fans. Though I had not taken part in a race at the BIC, I had done a lot of programmes there for Audi. I knew the racing lines and what to expect there; it was only a question of synchronising the car and the circuit.

This was your third race in the JK Tyre Asia Series this year. Strangely, you didn’t do well in the European leg where you drive regularly, but reserved your best for the Indian fans…

The last time I drove Formula cars on a regular basis was in 2008. I have since moved on to saloon cars which are double the weight of the Formula cars. It took me a couple of drives in Europe to get back to Formula mode. Thankfully, everything fell in place at the BIC.

The podium finishes have enhanced your popularity and profile…

Before the race, I had signed just one autograph in India and that too for an alcohol-influenced ‘fan.’ At the BIC, quite a few track marshals ran up to me to get my signature.

You have raced in many circuits across the world. How would you rate the BIC?

The track did not look particularly interesting when I did the programmes there, but I found it unbelievably fast during the race weekend. In fact, the BIC is a very unforgiving circuit and you can’t take your foot off the pedal even for a moment.

Talking of circuits, Nurburgring seems to be your favourite. Your first overseas win happened there in 2010 and you also clinched the honours in the ‘24 hours of Nurburgring’ this year…

It’s one of the most dangerous tracks in the world as there is absolutely no margin for error. Luckily, I have a great chemistry with the circuit and everything seems to flow nice and smooth when I drive there.

Which is the toughest time to drive in the 24-hour race?

The race begins at four in the evening and twilight is the trickiest period for all drivers. I got the opportunity to race during that time (8.30 to 11 p.m.) and really enjoyed it. It was my maiden stint in the 24-hour marathon and I am glad that I could contribute to Audi’s first-ever victory after many attempts.

You specialise in delighting in your debut races whenever you race… BMW Asia Pacific Series in Sepang (2008), 24 hours of Nurburgring this year, your first drive at the BIC...

I am still trying to figure out what brings the best out of me in my debut races! Frankly, that has been the case right from the start, as I won the first-ever race I competed in. I was just 12 then!

Your three-year deal with Audi began on a rousing note in Nurburgring. What next?

The year 2013 is going to be all about development. We will be racing on different tracks and logging thousands of miles. Hopefully, we will be ready to compete in the Grand Touring Series (GT3, R8), the year after that.

Sometimes being the son of an illustrious father can be an extra baggage and additional responsibility. But you seem to have taken it in your stride…

My father Kamlesh (Patel) has played a big role in my career. He makes sure that I am on the right path always. Given his vast experience in motorsport, he knows what’s best for me.

Do you think India will have a podium finisher in Formula One anytime soon?

Realistically speaking, it will take eight to 10 years for that to happen. But if someone like Narain Karthikeyan gets the chance to drive a better car, it can be realised even in two years. Armaan (Ebrahim) and Karun (Chandhok) are the others who can make it count if they get an offer.

Your ultimate dream…

To compete in the DTM (German Touring Car) Series and LeMans 24-hour race, the most gruelling competition in the world.

* * * SIDELIGHTS

* Aditya would love to spend a day with Barack Obama just to find out how the U.S. President’s mind works.

* The late Brazilian driver, Ayrton Senna, is his biggest inspiration.

* JK Tyre has been his biggest sponsor and supporter throughout his career.

* * * Lucky charm

It was a special gift. And it is turning out to be a rather unique one.

When Narain Karthikeyan presented Aditya Patel with a shiny headgear for winning the JK Tyre National Championship in 2007, even he wouldn’t have imagined that it would become the latter’s lucky charm.

Aditya used the helmet when he tasted his first success overseas, at the Scirocco Cup in Nurburgring in 2010.

For the BIC campaign, Aditya decided to use a normal helmet when a Malaysian competitor enquired about his ‘talismanic’ one. Luckily for him, Aditya’s father was able to get it for him in the nick of time. And the rest is history…