The crowds at Imola in Italy go wild cheering as the first Indian motorbike racer ever wins the fourth leg of the World Supersports Championship — the equivalent of F1 in the world of motorbikes.
No, it hasn’t really happened yet. Nor will we see an Indian rider this year, or the next for that matter. But will we see one in three years? Yes we can, say the owners of the Mahi Racing Team (MRT), which, in its first full season at the WSSC has already raced away to the number two spot in
Sure Indian motorcycle riders (or many of them) will win any obstacle race across the globe. Who else will have driven on such potholed and congested roads after all? But can they drive their bikes at 250 kilometres per hour consistently? That is exactly what Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his gang are trying to find out.
The Mahi Racing Team, which is currently second in the World Supersport Championship table and boasts of defending world champion Kenan Sofouglu in its ranks — is now looking for an Indian rider to be on their high-profile team (the current team also has former world champion
Arun Pandey, chairman of the Mahi Racing Team is upbeat about the talent hunt as he calls it. “In India, a sport reaches cult status only when there is a role model. Just as Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi inspired kids to take up tennis or Saina Nehwal is a role model for young badminton players, we believe that for motor sports to grow here an Indian rider is critical. The sport has a huge potential in India but this missing link needs to be bridged,”
So how is the team and its owners Rhiti Sports going to find this ace rider? “India is going to host the last leg of the championship at the F1 Track in Greater Noida in November. This will be the first time that such a race will be taking place in India and I am sure this will generate lot of interest. Even our team will be competing in front of home audience and we believe by the end of this race season people will be considering Motor Racing as a serious game. We want to do the talent hunt once the interest level has reached its peak,” says Pandey, whose company has been in the news in recent months, not always for happy reasons.
The entrepreneur, who counts MS Dhoni as a childhood friend, says they will be looking for talented riders, whose skills can be honed and then train them. “Our current riders, Kenan Sofouglu and Fabien Foret too believe India has potential and they too will join in the hunt,” he tells us.
The Search Begins
Sources in the MRT say unofficially the process to zero in on an Indian superbike racer has already begun with the team trying to get various biker gangs in the country to come under one roof. “A few months back we had organised an interaction of our champions with the GODS Gang, a biker gang from Delhi.
Kenan Sofuoglu and Fabien Foret conducted safety classes for the gang and gave some riding tips to them as well,” the source reveals.
Yet, in many ways, Rhiti Sports and MRT is still looking at cricket and its living gods to give motor sports the much-needed boost.
“Dhoni’s passion for motorbikes is well-known and the very idea of co-owning a team was to promote the sport in India. Dhoni’s popularity and fan following will inspire the youth to take up the sport. We want it to be one of the most followed sports in India,” says Pandey.
So can anyone try their luck, or will this be open to only biker gangs? “No, anybody who is passionate about riding will be welcome to participate in the contest. Obviously age restrictions will be there, since we want a person we can train to be a part of the team that races in the world championships,” says Pandey, whose team has just won the race in Imola in Italy. Sofuoglu, the reigning world champion won the race to move into second position in the overall standings while Foret is currently third.
Pandey admits that the world may have to wait a few more years before an Indian racer debuts on the two-wheeler circuit. “We have the best bikes and two of the world’s best motorcycle racers at our disposal. It was our debut season last year and finished in the top three. This year going by our performance, we hope to finish right on top. That will be great for the sport and its growth in India,” he concludes.