Racing Team India will take its first step on the road to the 24 Hours of Le Mans this weekend when it makes its debut at the season-opening round of the Asian Le Mans Series in Dubai.
The all-Indian squad, spearheaded by a star-studded driver line-up of Narain Karthikeyan, Arjun Maini, and Naveen Rao, will compete in the LMP2 category over two, four-hour-long races at the Dubai Autodrome. The endeavor is partnered by JK Tyre, India’s largest supporter of Motorsport for over three decades.
The two runnings of the 4 Hours of Dubai will take place on February 13th and 14th, respectively.
The series will then move to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit for another round of two, four-hour races on February 19th and 20th.
Racing Team India’s Dubai debut will make it the first outfit with an all-Indian driver line-up to compete in international endurance racing.
If it secures an invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which takes place in June 2021, it will become the first squad flying the Indian tri-color to take part in the iconic twice-around-the-clock endurance classic at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France. The race is considered to be one of the trifectas of legendary motor races alongside the Monaco GP & the Indianapolis 500. It is the world’s oldest sports car race, which has been held every year since 1923. The distance covered in this one single race is equivalent to 18 Formula 1 races, thus making it the most extreme test of man and machine in the world of motorsport.
Fielding the Le Mans-winning ORECA 07 with technical support from reigning Asian Le Mans Series champion team Algarve Pro Racing, Racing Team India has already displayed a promising turn of speed. The car has a 4 litre V-8 engine which produces 600 bhp and has a top speed in excess of 320 kmph.
Karthikeyan ended the first day of testing, also held in Dubai, at the top of the timesheets. The success of the project lies in the combined efforts of the team which are now being synchronized.
Padma Shri Awardee and India’s first Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan said, “It is an incredibly proud moment for me to be representing our nation’s first all-Indian endurance racing team. I have flown the flag for our country across various motorsport disciplines from Formula One to NASCAR and SuperGT racing. I’ve raced at the 24 Hours of Le Mans once before, and it was an incredible experience, one which I always wanted to repeat. However, I couldn't have imagined anything better than to compete there for an Indian team. I’m extremely grateful to the ACO for giving us the platform to compete. They have been incredibly supportive from the first time we approached them, and this support has been instrumental in getting our team up and running.
“As for the weekend ahead, I’m looking forward to it. Arjun, Naveen, and I have considerable racing experience between the three of us. Our package has also been quick through testing. We did have some issues on the second day with traffic and difficulty in switching on the new tyres. But there’s a lot of speed in the car and I’m confident we can deliver a strong result on our debut.”
Former F2 and European Le Mans Series racer Arjun Maini said, “Firstly, it’s great to be back behind the wheel again, and to be flying the colours for an all-Indian team makes the experience even more special. Endurance racing is a format I’ve come to enjoy during my time racing in the European Le Mans series. I believe it plays to my strengths as a driver. It feels strange to think that of the three of us I have the most endurance racing experience. I’ve competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and I can tell you it’s an incredible feeling. I’m really looking forward to going back there. We have a strong package, a proven driver line-up and with support from Algarve Pro Racing, who I know well, I believe we have all the ingredients in place to make it happen.”
2020 IMSA Prototype Challenge Champion Naveen Rao said, “My entire career has been spent racing sports cars and for me, Le Mans is the absolute pinnacle of competition. I have spent a long time dreaming about one day driving in this iconic event and I am grateful for the opportunity to do it for a team representing the country in which I have my roots. I’ve got a good feeling for the car, the three of us have struck up a strong relationship and I believe we genuinely have a package that can help us fight at the front.”
Racing Team India is also very proud to be associated with JK Tyre, as one of our inaugural partners. JK Tyres has been and continues to be the largest supporter of Indian motorsport for over 50 years. They have been instrumental in developing and supporting both Narain and Arjun over the past two decades and their commitment to the Racing Team India program demonstrates their commitment to the future of the sport as well.
Sanjay Sharma, Head-Motorsport, JK Tyre said, “At JK Tyre we have been steadfast supporters of Indian motorsport over many decades. Not only have we created a robust domestic motorsport ladder but we have always been extremely proactive when it comes to identifying, grooming, and supporting the international racing careers of some of our most talented youngsters. Now, with Racing Team India we have yet another chance to create history for Indian motorsport. We are confident the team has what it takes to be successful and race at Le Mans which would deliver the breakthrough that Indian motorsport needs.”