i1Super Series drivers to be unveiled Monday

December 19th, 2011 - 5:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Yas Marina (Abu Dhabi), Dec 19 (IANS) There is palpable sense of expectation ahead of the formal unveiling of drivers who would be participating in the inaugural i1Super Series here Monday night.

In a first of its kind in Indian motorsports, a projected nine city-based franchise teams, each comprising of two drivers, one of them Indian and the other a foreigner, is set to be flagged-off Jan 22 at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

The series that has attracted a clutch of Formula One drivers like 1997 champion Jacques Villeneuve, Giancarlo Fisichella, Jean Alesi, Mika Salo, Sakon Yamamoto, Vitantonio Liuzi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen, according to the CEO of the series and promoter Machdar Motorsports, Darshan M.

“We are hopeful that Narain Karthikeyan would come on board as he has assured us his support,” said Darshan when asked about participation of India’s first Formula One driver, Karthikeyan.

Apart from Karthikeyan, all other top Indian racing drivers, including Karun Chandhok who made his F1 debut last year, and Armaan Ebrahim would be available for the series, he added.

The city franchise teams include Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, Pune, Kolkata, and Jaipur or Goa, Darshan said.

Of the lot, the owners of Kolkata, Pune, Chandigarh and Jaipur/Goa, are still to be finalised, Darshan said, but revealed that former India cricket captain Sourav Ganguly had evinced interest. “We will know in due course,” he added.

The drivers will get their first feel of the Radical SR3 cars on Tuesday when an official two-hour test session is scheduled.

The ambitious project that offers a prize-money of $2 million while offering an international platform for aspiring Indian racing drivers, comprises five rounds of two races each with Bahrain (Feb 4), Qatar (Feb 11), Delhi (Feb 26) and Abu Dhabi (March 10) after the opening round in Malaysia.

“Our intention is to provide exposure and experience to Indian drivers who get an opportunity to race with and against Formula One drivers,” said Darshan in an impromptu interview here Monday.

Motorsports being essentially a capital-intensive sport, the investments are quite high and Darshan opined that it would take the franchise teams at least four years to break even.

“But unlike Formula One, it would cost considerably less to run an iSuper Series team because it requires fewer support staff,” pointed out Darshan.

Further, the wear and tear requiring constant replacements of parts and tyres, are far less in the single-make iSuper Series that will have the Radical SR3 Sportscar which is said to be very sturdy.

The cars were put through a shakedown at the Yas Marina Formula One circuit here Monday morning, though according to unofficial timings, they did not run the full race lap. But the high-pitched whine of the engines that reverberated through the neighbourhood did set the pulse racing.

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