MotoGP still a distant dream for Indian riders: Mahindra RacingNovember 15th, 2011 - 6:34 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi, Nov 15 (IANS) If Vijay Mallya’s Sahara Force India brusquely dismisses the idea of employing an Indian driver just because he owns a team, the Team Principal of the lone Indian MotoGP outfit Mahindra Racing, Mufaddal Choonia, feels he can’t see Indians riding for his team as they have a long way to go to get anywhere near world class.
There is one Indian team in Formula One and there is one in MotoGP and curiously both do not have India drivers and riders in their teams. Both the team owners have a similar argument, that the Indians have a long way to go before entertaining hopes of becoming world-class competitors!
Choonia told IANS that realistically it is very difficult for an Indian rider to find a place in the team at the moment but hoped to see one in the near future.
“Well we hope so since we are an Indian team. But realistically it is very tough. We don’t want to expose a raw Indian driver. To be very frank the difference is too huge. But I hope to see an India rider coming up in the foreseeable future,” said Choonia.
Mahindras made an impressive debut with British rider Daniel Webb and German Marcel Schrotter.
An unexpected pole position and a third-place finish in the constructor’s championship in their debut season have made Mahindras hungry for success as they move to a higher category next year.
“It was a satisfying year. We set modest targets keeping in mind that we were making our debut against some of the heavy weights. We wanted one of our riders (Schrotter) to finish among the top-15. As a team we also wanted to stay ahead of the non-Aprilia teams, especially Honda, in the constructors’ championship and we finished a creditable third. Overall, it was a satisfying season for us. The pole position of Danny (in the last race in Valencia) was the icing on the cake,” he said.
Choonia also hoped that Mahindra Racing may get a chance to race in front of its home crowd soon at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC).
The MotoGP calendar is crammed with 18 races in 13 countries and Greater Noida and Abu Dhabi are seen as possible new entrants next year.
Encouraged by the raving reviews of the inaugural F1 race at the trendy BIC, there is intense speculation that the International Motor Sports (IMS) may bring MotoGp, the world’s premier motorcycling championship, next year itself.
“We would love to race in front of our home fans. I heard there were some reports that Dorna (the management group that runs MotoGP) were in talks with Jaypee (promoters of BIC) to have a race in India. It all depends on the promoters and the Dorna,” he said.
Choonia says the first season was a learning curve for the team.
“We learnt how to operate a successful team in the competitive world of MotoGP. Our technicians also got the hang of the riding skills of our two riders so as to modify the bike accordingly,” he said.
Choonia said for Mahindra Racing, which was the only team in its category (125cc) to design its own chassis and engine, it will be a challenge to fight it out against top brands like Italian giant Aprillia, Japanese major Honda and Spain’s Derbi in the 250cc category next year. The 125cc has been replaced by 250cc from the next season.
Choonia said things will become tough for the team but it will only help them.
“It will be a challenge indeed for us. We were happy to stay ahead of Honda in the 125cc but 250cc will be a different ball game. Teams like Aprillia have been in business for the last 20 years. We can’t displace them. The research and the hard work they have done for the last 20 years cannot be replaced,” he said, adding that Mahindra Racing has no immediate plans to take part in the 600cc or the premium 800cc category.
Mahindra Racing doesn’t want to rush in with their new bike MGP30 and they opted out of last week’s testing in Valencia.
The Valencia testing was not a part of our schedule. We don’t want to make a desperate attempt to get back on track immediately,” said Choonia.
Asked about his expectations for the next season, Choonia told IANS: “We will have to consolidate our position and move higher. I don’t want to speculate too much since this is a new category for us. We will be spending a considerable time on testing our bikes.”
Choonia also said teams are emphasising on safety standards. The death of Italian MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli and British Indycar racer Dan Wheldon on the racing track last month shocked the world of motorsport. Choonia saw Simoncelli’s death in an accident at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia.
“Safety is of huge concern in motorsports. It was unfortunate that last month we saw two deaths on the track. Those were terrible losses for motorsports. But now safety standards have improved a lot and there are very few accidents. But at the end of the day we accept that it is motorsports and it is risky,” he said.
Choonia refused to divulge the amount the company spends on R&D; but said that the research in developing a bike in MotoGP was leveraging their two-wheeler segment.
“Lot of design and hard work go into making a racing bike. The development work also leverages our two-wheeler business,” he said.
(Abhishek Roy can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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