Teen biker Sarath Kumar all set for Italian Championship

Chennai teenager, the first Indian to race in a MotoGP, is confident ahead of the Italian Championship

Like most youngsters Sarath Kumar too has eyes full of dreams and aspirations. But what distinguishes him from most boys his age is that he has already embarked on his world-conquering journey. Sarath, who turns 20 this month, became the first Indian to race in a MotoGP World Championship, when he debuted for WTR-Ten10 racing at the Portuguese GP in the 1255cc category earlier this year.

Sarath Kumar prepares to race at Circuito de Jerez ealier this year.
Pic/Getty Images

The Chennai lad, who finished 24th in that race, did not get a chance to compete again. But he has been drafted by Mahindra Racing nevertheless and will represent the Indian team in its debut at the Italian Championship next season, it was announced yesterday. Italian Riccardo Moretti will partner Sarath at the competition.

Sarath is certain this stint will help put his career on the right track and confident of returning to MotoGP in the future. "I want to get back to MotoGP. But first I am focussing on doing good here (Italian Championship). In Italy, I'll get a chance to learn more and get even better, before I return to MotoGP, maybe sometime in 2013," he said.

Sarath's dreams include wanting "to become the first Indian MotoGP champion" and "to ride at an Indian GP someday, with the crowd shouting 'Sharath'". But most importantly, he wants to make his mother, Shanti proud.

Sarath's parents separated when he was very young, and his mother has provided for him and his younger sister ever since. "She is my motivation. I want to make her proud," he said with an air of confidence. "She has been working for the last 25 years. Thereafter, I started earning too and got some sponsorship. Now we're all happy and don't have any problems," Sarath said with a stern face but moist eyes.

When asked how his mother reacted to the death of Italian rider Marco Simoncelli, who met with a fatal accident during this year's Malaysian GP (250cc), Sarath replied: "She is very supportive and understanding. She knows it is a very rare thing (fatal accidents)," said Sarath, who has been involved in a number of minor crashes himself. "I've had around 50-60 minor crashes. Once even at the speed of 185-190 kmph. Fortunately I wasn't badly injured. The worst injury I've suffered is a ligament tear."

Sarath, who has been racing since 2006, doesn't regret not being able to attend college, and do other things boys his age usually do. "I've finished my schooling. But it is very difficult to manage studies now. I spend most of my time in Europe, so I can't attend classes and exams.

I'm pursuing a Bachelor in Business Administration degree in marketing from the Madras Open University, but I'm finding it difficult to continue the course (because of racing commitments). However, I don't regret any of it. And I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything, as I love racing," said Sarath, whose biggest moment so far was when he got a chance to see his favourite rider, Valentino Rossi during a photoshoot in Qatar. Sarath did not meet him but was honoured to be in the presence of 'God'.

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