Racing Team India takes first step on the road to Le Mans
Racing Team India got its bid to become the first all-Indian squad to compete at the 24 Hours of Le Mans underway with a solid debut over the opening two rounds of the Asian Le Mans Series (ALMS) in Dubai this weekend. The JK Tyres-backed team’s Oreca 07 LMP2 car, piloted by Narain Karthikeyan, Arjun Maini and Naveen Rao, with technical support from reigning ALMS champions Algarve Pro Racing, finished fifth and fourth in the two four-hour races held at the Dubai Autodrome on February 13 and 14, respectively.
The team’s number 64 car showed promising pace throughout the weekend, as it had in the pre-race test sessions. But its challenge was hampered by racing incidents and a penalty. The team had to make an extra precautionary pit-stop in Saturday’s opening race which dropped the car down the order. A five-second time penalty for exceeding the speed limit further set it back, forcing the drivers to claw their way back up to fifth, where they had qualified.
The second race on Sunday got off to a promising start with Maini, who has plenty of endurance racing experience from his European Le Mans outings, setting competitive lap times and even leading the race at one stage. But any hopes of a maiden podium were dashed after a collision with a slower GT car forced the team to pit the car and carry out a nose change that cost valuable time.
Nevertheless, the two races in Dubai offered an important learning experience for the team, which on its debut became the first outfit with an all-Indian driver line-up to compete on the international endurance stage. It also confirmed the pace of the overall package.
With the drivers also more comfortable in the car, the squad is looking to maximise its potential at the final two races of the ALMS in Abu Dhabi on February 19 and 20. Racing Team India has entered the Asian Le Mans series as part of its bid to become the first Indian team to race at the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team that wins the overall Asian Le Mans championship will gain an automatic entry to this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.