Naren Kumar poised to make history

May 29th, 2008 - 9:55 pm ICT by admin  

By Anand Philar
Chennai, May 29 (IANS) Indian motor sport can boast of another “first” on the international stage when V.R. Naren Kumar takes to the wheels of a Subaru Impreza in Athens Friday for the start of the three-day Acropolis Rally of Greece. The Sidvin-sponsored 34-year-old from Coimbatore will become the first Indian to participate in a Production Car World Rally Championship (P-WRC).

“I am very excited. It has been a long wait for me since the announcement of my participation (a few months ago). Now, I just cannot wait to get into the car,” said Naren, on the eve of his departure from India.

It will be baptism by fire for Naren Kumar. Acropolis Rally is considered the most challenging and unforgiving event on the WRC calendar, with a rocky and mountainous terrain. And there is the searing heat.

The event has attracted 62 entries from 29 countries, 17 in the World Rally Championship (WRC) and 27 in P-WRC. The competitors include reigning world champion Sebastian Loeb and current leader Miko Hirvonen. They will cover a distance of 1,311.32 km, of which 339.94 km comprise the Special Stages (route closed to non-rally traffic).

Naren said this year would be a learning experience for him because he is making his debut. The race is known for high level of competition and has drawn drivers from Japan and the Middle East. There is also a strong European representation. All of them have previous P-WRC experience.

For long, Naren has been harbouring dreams of participating in the WRC, the pinnacle of international rallying and equivalent to Formula One.

“I want to know how good I am by competing against the best in the world, not just in India or in Asia,” he had said a year ago when he was plotting his WRC campaign.

Having won the Indian National Rally Championship six times and the Asia Zone title, Naren broke away from Team MRF and drove a season in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship where he achieved two podium finishes last year.

A couple of years ago, Naren had an offer from FIAT to drive in the Italian championship, but lack of sponsorship to meet the budget precluded his participation.

“That was a huge disappointment. Since then, I have been dreaming even more of running in the WRC, even if it is the production class category. When Sidvin, the software firm from Bangalore, came up with the offer to sponsor me in the P-WRC, I could hardly believe my luck. I am indebted to them,” he said.

Sidvin, who had part-sponsored him in APRC last year, have underwritten all the expenses for Naren’s six-round campaign in the P-WRC. The budget is estimated at Rs.50 million.

Backed with funds, Naren had his Subaru Impreza prepared by former WRC champion Tommi Mikanen. In recent weeks, he tested the car in Finland and said he was pleased with the vehicle, which is far more powerful and quicker than any car he has driven.

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