Formula Regional Indian Championship announced, promises to unearth India’s next Formula 1 driver
FIA Super License points are coming to India! Racing Promotions Pvt Ltd (RPPL) announced today that it will be hosting the Formula Regional Indian Championship based on Formula 3 cars early next year, along with the F4 Indian Championship. Both these championships will be certified by the FIA and winners of these championships will be awarded FIA Super License points. In addition to this, the Indian Racing league (which was formerly the X1 Racing league) will run as a support race with and also as a feeder series to the F4 and Formula Regional championships. However, it isn’t just these three championships that are on the cards. RPPL has grand plans to set up racing infrastructure and start building talent from the grassroots!
What exactly is Formula Regional?
Formula Regional is the second rung of FIA’s single seater ladder, towards the top levels of racing. Essentially, it is a championship that bridges the gap between regional Formula 4 championships and the global FIA Formula 3 series, by offering F3 spec cars in regional championships. A number of Formula Regional championships exist around the world, acting as feeders to global series like the Formula Regional European championship, the Formula Regional Americas championship and the Formula Regional Japanese championship.
In addition to Formula Regional, RRPL will be running a Formula 4 championship that will allow racers to bridge the gap between the current series that we have in India including single seaters and karting, and the Formula Regional Indian championship.
Crucially, both these championships offer FIA Super License points. The winner of the Formula Regional Indian championship will get 18 points, while the F4 winner will get 12 points. It is necessary to accrue these points before driving in Formula 1 — a minimum of 40 points over three seasons is required to get a drive in F1.
Why is this significant?
This is significant because this gives racers a ladder straight up to global motorsport championships. Motorsport championships continue to exist in India — you have the MRF F1600, the F-LGB 1300 that runs in the MRF-sponsored national championship and the Formula JK 2000 and F-LGB that runs as a part of the JK Tyre-sponsored national championship. And despite the fact that these championships exist, very little Indian talent has risen to compete on the global stage.
“It has just been kind of stagnant for the last 15 years. There have been cars that have been built like the Formula Rolon, the MRF two-litre is a great car. But we just didn't have enough Indian talent coming out of that series. The F1600 again, a great championship with lots of good drivers actually came out of that series. But there just wasn't enough being done,” says Aditya Patel, a former racer and a director at RPPL. Yes, Jehan Daruvala and the Maini brothers are racing the best in the world at the moment but they also have really strong personal backing. Aditya threw up the example of Vishnu Prasad, nine-time national champion who hit a glass ceiling and couldn’t find a way to race on the global stage simply due to the lack of financial support.
What these series aims to do is bring together a number of organisations that are looking to unearth talent, and give them a roadmap that can take that talent to the global stage. This means starting out at the grassroots with karting, jumping to the Indian racing league and then up the ranks to F4 and Formula Regional. The idea is that once the cream rises to the top of Formula Regional, organisations like the Mumbai Falcons, the Hyderabad racing team or even corporates that want to develop talent can take these racers to compete in the Asian and global championship. “So far nobody has really had a proper foundation in India,” says Aditya, and that’s what RRPL aims to change with this championship.
It is also significant because the draw of Super License points and the fact that the championship will be significantly more affordable to enter compared to Europe or the Americas, should attract top talent from around the world. With the best in the world coming to compete in India, it will give Indian racers a great platform to benchmark themselves and understand the progress they need to make without spending big money to race abroad.
What cars will they be running?
The Formula Regional Indian championship will use brand-new Formula 3-spec single-seaters made by Italian constructor Tatuus and will be powered by Autotecnica Motori-tuned Alfa Romeo 1.8-litre turbo engines, putting out 270 horsepower. These are the same cars that are used in Formula Regional championships the world over, including the F3 Asia series. F4 drivers will not be using any old locally built cars but will have brand new F4 chassis, also built by Tatuus, and using the 160bhp 1.4-litre Abarth engine. Both the Formula Regional Indian and Formula 4 Indian championships are using the very latest spec cars, with the integrated halo safety device that was first seen in Formula 1. The assets will be owned by Mumbai Falcons, and the organisation has purchased a total of 16 F3 cars, 13 F4 cars and 13 Wolf racing cars (for the Indian Racing league) that will be brought to India.
“We procured the asset because we come from an infrastructure company. And our main holding company is an infrastructure-focused organisation. They believe in creating foundations for anything, even sport, is essential before putting in place the championships. So, what we did was we went out and we procured the vehicles first,” said Moid Tungekar, the CEO of Mumbai Falcons.
But it isn’t just about the racers, is it?
No it isn’t! RPPL and Mumbai Falcons have a holistic approach to this, and one significant aspect is developing local skill sets when it comes to engineering and mechanics as well. “We have to uplift everybody who contributes to the ecosystem,” said Moid.
To that end, they have tied up with one of the top names in global motorsport, Prema Powerteam to develop the ecosystem that surrounds the driver. Prema Powerteam will be running the technical side of things to ensure parity amongst all competitors (including the Mumbai Falcons that own the car) — running all the cars to European standards. But at the same time, they will be working closely with Indians to develop their skills. This includes race engineers, mechanics that will work on the car and even event organisers, with the idea being a knowledge transfer so that Indians can learn these skills from the best in the world. They also have plans of reaching out to universities and tapping in to the Formula SAE programmes to get youngsters involved with internship programmes.
The fact that Prema is involved will be another huge draw for racers, though. Prema is one of the top teams in the world, with Charles Leclerc, Mick Schumacher and Pierre Gasly having risen through its ranks. Drivers will certainly know that Prema will be watching them closely at the Formula Regional Indian Championship and that could land them a seat at the team if they are good enough.
How much will it cost to race in the series?
“I can't tell you exactly how much it will cost for a driver. But it will definitely be more attractive than any of the other formula regional championships running anywhere else in the world,” said Aditya rather frankly.
Racing is expensive and they believe that they have been able to work out a cost structure that will make the Formula Regional Indian championships one of the most affordable in the world. But in addition to this, they want to design the championship in a manner that genuine Indian talent can access it in a subsidised manner, or free. Which involves attracting sponsors and organisations that are willing to pump money in to talented racers, and take them to the global stage. No names have been taken yet, but Mumbai Falcons and the Hyderabad team will definitely be taking part. That said, with modern race cars and global partners on board, it is very likely that this championship will be a fair bit more expensive than the championships that currently run in India.
How will the Formula Regional and Formula 4 championship be structured?
Mumbai Falcons currently owns all the assets, including all the cars. However, during the season, Prema will be managing all the technical operations to ensure it is a level playing field. Meanwhile, RPPL will be the promoter that will see to the running of the championship. Sponsors and investors can get involved directly with individual racers or teams.
How will the Indian Racing League work?
Aditya was part of the core team that organised the X1 Racing League and has learned from his experience there. He admits the cars in that series were a problem, and these new cars would fix that. But that’s not all. They are retaining the city-wise franchisee model, but are tweaking things to make them more exciting.
“Again, it's going to be men and women racing against and with each other. A mix of international drivers and Indian drivers. You know there's going to be pitstops there's going to be drama in the pits. It's going to be short bursts of races. The races aren't going to be much longer than say 35 or 40 minutes. So it's going to keep the viewer captivated right through the entire race, who ever is watching it, whether you're the track where they're watching it on TV. We've taken the negatives and now we're working towards making something much better. Much easier to understand as well. And a lot more fun to watch,” says Aditya.
What will the season calendar look like?
Formula regional has 15 races over five weekends, F4 has 15 races, over five weekends, IRL has 18 races over five weekends. These races will take place at tracks like the BIC, the MMRT and the organisers also have a street race planned in Hyderabad! The season will start at the end of February 2022 and will have back to back weekends till the end of March 2022.
What happens to the cars for the rest of the year?
These cars won’t be sitting pretty once the season ends!
“The vehicles will be coming in and out as well because we will be participating in global championships also. A bulk of the vehicles will be here, and we'll be running active testing programmes. Aditya here is heading the Formula 4 programs for the group. Armaan [Ebrahim] is handling the Formula 3 and Formula Regional Program for the group. So we've definitely got something in mind for doing developmental programs at highly subsidised fees for aspirants, and we want to be able to bring more and more technology in,” said Moid.
He also believes that India could become a hot bed for testing for international racers as well, because one again, the cost structures offered here will be much better than those offered abroad.
How do they manage to make it so affordable despite the expensive new cars?
Moin has the answer to that.
“Obviously there's a lot that comes down to manpower, that comes down to local support from having manufacturers or having sponsors involved, all that goes on through the year. We have programmes running through the year as a part of this whole corporate partnership that we have with any sponsor. It's not like it's just a five-weekend thing that somebody's going to be putting their money in and then we say see you next year. Whatever they put in is there for the entire year because it's a complete development programme. I think that's what will really help make it affordable for all drivers. Like I said, our main focus is making it very affordable for Indians, and of course giving the opportunity for foreign drivers to come here and race but it's more focused towards the affordability for Indians,” he says.
Can you watch the races live?
The organisers are in talks with television channels and OTT companies for live broadcast rights, and fans from India and around the world will be able to watch the races live. Sony had broadcast the X1 Racing League in its inaugural season and RPPL is in talks with them going forward as well.
All of this is incredibly exciting for the motorsport community in India. Modern cars prepped to European standards, the best talent in the world gravitating to the country, new infrastructure that will significantly widen the reach of the sport and hopefully, a ladder that can allow an Indian talent to reach Formula One. Stay tuned to our social media and website for more news and details about the championship as things progress!