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I’m not a great fan of cricket but even if you’ve been living under a rock you will be all too aware of how the IPL has transformed Indian cricket, and the benefits have been across the board: the governing body, clubs, teams, players, support staff, everybody has got a massive leg up. Players that were earlier unheard of have bagged fame and fortune. And now two of India’s young international racers, Armaan Ebrahim and Aditya Patel aim to do the same for Indian motorsport with the Xtreme 1 Racing League. Except, as anybody who has been involved with Indian motorsport is acutely aware of, sponsorship is incredibly hard to come by.
“The first few people we went to, who never ever had to do anything with motorsport, actually said that this is a brilliant idea and they wanted to be a part of it straight away. We have got 5 investors right now to put in and promote this whole concept.”
The X1 series will be modelled along the IPL with a mix of street races and the existing racetracks and teams running two cars and five drivers per team including a reserve. To raise the standard of the sport each car will have one domestic driver paired with an international driver. Each team will have to have one driver in each of the four categories – international drivers already in F2 or F3 and with serious F1 potential, Indian internationals who have driven two or more years in international races, Indian domestic who have won the national championship at least once and have not more than one year in international racing, and international women taken from the mid-level global series. Each team must have a lady driver.
Teams will not be auctioned like the IPL but the right people will be invited to be a part of the series, with each team costing Rs 6.5 to Rs 7 crore that includes the cars, driver salaries, logistics, entire running of the event with the only additional costs being marketing cost and logistics of support staff. All drivers will be paid and while no numbers have been given, Aditya does mention it will have global benchmarks – to give you an idea, a driver in Malaysia will make 10 to 15,000 Euros every race weekend, a figure that is a potential windfall for Indian domestic drivers. And the team will also have a patron seat where the sponsors can nominate someone to drive the car and win points for the team.
Each race weekend will have three races and Aditya tells me the race format is “really unique, the races are very short, they are almost half an hour races and there will be a change in drivers at some point of time.” He doesn’t go into the details, “but it is different and not been used anywhere else.”
The cars, 2-seater prototypes, are being finalised and is rumoured to be a toss up between Radical in the UK and J A Motorsport in Coimbatore. The cars will all be a single-spec and talks are on with manufacturers to supply the spec-engines, targeted at 280bhp (so a 1.6 to 2-litre turbo-petrol). Tyres will again be a one make to ensure parity of performance.
“We are promoting Indian engineers as well and each car will have an Indian engineer. Our plan in the next 2-3 years is to go all-electric and build a completely in-house engine.”
The X1 Racing League has already got FMSCI sanction and will kick off in the first quarter of 2019 with four weekends, with six races every weekend. “As far as the costs [of running street races] go, it is expensive but we are meeting cement and steel manufactures who are willing to support us with safety barriers and more, that itself is a huge cost. We have got some people on board who are very well connected to sort out government issues.”
Finally does this mean the duo’s racing careers will take a back seat? “No. We have only six weekends [Armaan driving the Lamborghini Huracan GT3 in the Blancpain Super Trofeo Asia series and Aditya the Audi R8 LMS GT3 in the Blancpain GT Asia series]. We have a marketing team, PR team and even though we are travelling these guys don’t stop working.”
The plans are super-ambitious but even if it does just one per cent of what the IPL has done for BCCI, it could transform Indian motorsport as we know it.