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Jehan Daruvala’s long road to racing

Jehan Daruvala became the first Indian to win a Grand Prix earlier this year, but there is still a long way to go for an F1 ticket

Jehan Daruvala driving his Carlin during the Spa-Francorchamps race.
Jehan Daruvala driving his Carlin during the Spa-Francorchamps race.

As a child, he was interested in motorsport, loved watching racing on television and wanted to become a driver. In 2005, at age 7, Jehan Daruvala sat in a kart for the first time. It was the same year a certain Narain Karthikeyan made his Formula 1 (F1) debut with Team Jordan, baby steps in his own racing career, and a giant leap in India’s F1 history.

Karthikeyan is the first Indian to have raced in F1.

At 13, Daruvala was selected in a talent hunt for the Sahara Force India academy. A month shy of his 19th birthday, he has already created history, becoming the first Indian to win a Grand Prix (the New Zealand Grand Prix in February) and the first Indian in 18 years to win an FIA European F3 championship event (winning the third race at the Norisring circuit in July).

“It was a very important win," says Daruvala over the phone from Mumbai. “It gave me the confidence that I can compete with the best in the business at the top level."

F3 is an important junior series, a training ground for F1 racers. The 2015 F1 champion, Britain’s Lewis Hamilton, comes from F3; so did 18 of the 22 drivers on the grid for F1 last season.

“I would say Jehan has the best shot internationally," says Karthikeyan. “He has the right approach, and drives for Carlin Motorsports, one of the best teams in Europe. He probably has the best chance of making it to the top from among the pool of drivers from India right now."

Jehan Daruvala.

In a country where sports can broadly be divided into “cricket" and “non-cricket", racing has its own challenges. Mumbai, for example, doesn’t even have a racing track.

“India does not have a culture of motor racing, which is a very capital-intensive sport due to the technology and cost of equipment," says Karthikeyan. There are few training facilities for aspiring drivers, he says, adding that sponsors too are few and far between.

No wonder then that the Mumbaikar moved base to the UK in 2013. “I was already competing in races there. And Europe really is the breeding ground for motor racers, and provides them the best conditions. So I decided to move there on my own," says Daruvala.

The only thing on his mind right now is the next race, the Nürburgring F3 race in Germany next weekend.

“I have been practising, and at this moment I feel confident about the race," says Daruvala.

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