Racing Team India in Asian Le Mans
It is with great National pride that we announce the formation of Racing Team India.
Racing Team India will feature an all-Indian driver line-up, consisting of Padma Shri Narain Karthikeyan, Arjun Maini and Naveen Rao. Together, the team will participate in the LMP2 class of the 2021 Asian Le Mans Series, with a view to competing in the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 2021 Asian Le Mans Series will consist of four races at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi in February 2021. The season will start with the first two races held on the 5th & 6th of February. The final two races will be held on the 19th & 20th of February. Each race will be four hours long. The races will be run on two different track layouts, with a mix of daylight, twilight and night-time racing.
Racing Team India is being led by none other than Gautam Singhania, who is a member of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) World Motor Sport Council, as well as being an accomplished racing driver himself, having won races in the Ferrari Challenge in Europe among other accolades in various forms of motorsport.
Racing Team India will field an ORECA 07 LMP2 car, with technical support from the championship winning Algarve Pro Racing Team, in our bid to win the Asian Le Mans title, and become the first all-Indian squad to secure an entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The programme also resurrects a winning driver-engineer partnership between Karthikeyan and Algarve Pro Team Principal Stewart Cox that dates back just over 25 years, to Narain’s early racing days in the UK Formula Ford Championship, where they won three of four races to clinch the 1994 Winter Series.
Karthikeyan ascended the single-seater ladder over the course of the next 11 years and became India’s 1st Formula One driver when he signed for the Jordan F1 team in 2005, where he re-connected with Stewart, who was his Chief Mechanic for his debut season in Formula 1. Karthikeyan achieved a best F1 result of fourth and subsequently tested with Williams F1. He then went on to represent his country in A1GP, winning races in that World Cup of Motorsport. He has tackled the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2009, racing an Audi R10, and finishing seventh overall.
Since 2014, Narain has become a firm fixture of Japanese motorsport, having spent five seasons in Super Formula and one year in Super GT as a Honda factory Driver. He won the 2019 season ending DTM x Super GT Dream Race, against a field of World Class opposition. Looking to 2021, Karthikeyan has a great deal of confidence in the Racing Team India concept.
Narain Karthikeyan: “2020 has been such a strange year for all of us. For me personally, It’s the first time in 27 years that I’ve been in one city for such a long time. The upside of it of course has been that I’ve had some excellent quality time to spend with my family, but my mind has been working overtime on how to get back on track. Racing Team India is probably the most exciting project I’ve ever undertaken in my career as a racing driver. Going back to Le Mans is something I’ve been dreaming about for quite a few years now. The Asian Le Mans Series is going to be a massive test for our young and fledgling team, and I hope the amazing Indian sports fans support us big time in our new adventure.
Naveen Rao has spent the entirety of his four-year motorsport career in the American Sportscar scene, and the 45-year old comes to Racing Team India as the reigning 2020 IMSA Prototype Challenge LMP3 Champion, having finished all but one race on the podium, and winning twice.
Naveen Rao: “I'm super excited to be partnering with Narain and Arjun to bring the first ever Racing Team India to Le Mans! Le Mans has a magical quality and is the dream of many kids to be a part of. I hope we can bring that dream to kids throughout India and inspire a new set of top racing drivers. 2021 is only the beginning!”
The Bangalore-based driver Arjun Maini, made a big splash after switching from Formula 2 single-seaters to endurance sportscar racing in 2019 and was subsequently signed up for Algarve Pro’s assault on the 2020 European Le Mans Series (ELMS). Unfortunately, his planned full-season campaign was scuppered by the Coronavirus pandemic and he instead took up a reserve driver role, which led to two race outings at Monza and Portimao. Of the three Racing Team India drivers, Maini has the most LMP2 experience, but, while his knowledge puts him on a strong footing, he’s tempering his expectations for the new Asian season.
Arjun Maini: “I’m excited to be back racing so soon after the 2020 European Le Mans season, and to run with Algarve Pro – the reigning Asian Le Mans Series Champion – is hugely exciting because it gives us the best possible chance of securing an entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. I’m going to focus on doing my job and taking little steps without thinking about the end game, especially as Narain (Karthikeyan), Naveen (Rao) and I have never worked together as a team. I’m sure that our Asian Le Mans Series campaign will be great preparation for whatever comes next.”
Cyrille Taesch Wahlen, CEO of the Asian Le Mans Series: “It is very exciting to welcome Racing Team India to the Asian Le Mans Series. Having an Indian flagged LMP2 team is not only a first for the Asian Le Mans Series, but it is also a first for ACO racing around the world. We have a growing supporter base in India, and now they have a team to support! I wish the team all the best and look forward to seeing them in Abu Dhabi!”
Racing Team India is also very proud to be associated with JK Tyres, as one of our inaugural partners. JK Tyres has been and continues to be the largest supporter of Indian motorsport for over 50 years. They have been instrumental in developing and supporting both Narain & Arjuns careers over the past two decades and their commitment to the Racing Team India program demonstrates their commitment to the future of the sport as well.