Pushing the boundaries, the Narain Karthikeyan way
Let’s face it. There is a general sense of respect accorded to those who come first in any kind of competition, be it of any field. Even Boman Irani agrees in a popular scene from the film 3 Idiots, where he refers to the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, saying that not many know who achieved the feat after him. Boman also says that ‘life is a race’, something that almost sums up Narain Karthikeyan’s approach towards life. Making time for both racing competitions in Japan and his own startup, TorqueX , he seems to be trying to stay ahead of the curve as much as possible. Being the first Formula One driver in the country, and after inspiring a generation to take up motorsports as a career, Narain remains one of the biggest names from India in the international circuit, followed by others like Karun Chandhok, the only other driver from India to compete in the holy grail of car racing.
Chasing the finish line
Last week, Narain touched down in Chennai as a chief guest for The New Indian Express Auto Expo at the Chennai Trade Centre, where an impressive collection of the latest cars and bikes was on display. After doing a quick circuit of the venue, he sat down with us for a quick chat. Despite the apparent rise in the number of people taking up motorsports as a career, even among women (refer to our cover story), Narain is hesitant to paint a pretty picture of the sport’s scenario in the country. Referencing his own struggles in Japan, where he has managed two podium finishes in the last four years that he has been racing in the country, Narain agrees that motorsports is not something for everyone, and there are a lot of challenges to overcome, for it to grow in India. “There is a lot of competition (in the international tournaments), even in the Super Formula races,” he admits, stating that this competition is the next best thing to the Formula One. “Thanks to Japan, I have the opportunity to keep racing. Probably after F1, there is nothing as fast as the Super Formula cars,” says the Padma Shri awardee.
What’s the right formula?
Talking about the Indian motorsports scene in the country, Narain is pretty straightforward when he says, “Nothing much is happening, apart from a couple of series which have been there for a few years, from which not much has come out anyway.” Reminiscing the days when Formula One first came to India in 2011 at the Buddh International Circuit, he says, “At that time, Formula One was at its peak and national interest in it was high. So I guess I was at the right place at the right time.” However, due to tax regulation problems, the Buddh has not seen Formula One action for around five years. “The circuit has some world-class infrastructure, but unfortunately, they have their own share of problems,” he laments. As for the impending changes in regulations that Formula One is expecting in 2021, Narain says, “To be honest, I do not follow much of F1 now. Regulations keep changing, so even for me it is hard to keep up with them!”
The inside story
Moving on to how he still manages to look fit and dapper at the age of 41, Narain explains that age does not really have an effect on the amount of work put in. “As I am getting older, I am more prone to injuries because I have to do the same amount of work that I was going 10 years ago. I am also lucky to have a great physio with me all the time,” he says, adding that he often seeks help from assistants designated by Ramji Srinivasan, former strength and conditioning coach of the Indian national cricket team. “We do a lot of new-age workouts that keep me fit. My body fat is in the 10 per cent bracket and I weigh just under 63 kilos, which was what I weighed in 1999!” he shares.
Off the track
The Coimbatorean has recently gone into the entrepreneurial mode with TorqueX, a digital car recommendation platform, where he guides customers right from the stage of choosing cars, according to their budget and other requirements, to helping them get in touch with the best dealers to buy from. He test drives each model before listing it on the site, after which they give their expert reviews about the performance and comfort level. Comprising all segments, the collection on the site features over 10,000 variants.