"Racing runs through our veins"
With over 50 years and three generations into motorsports, Mumbai's Patel family has not only inspired people on the track, but also continue to live it, off the track
It has been over 50 years since the Patels got into motorsports, and till date, the flag has been flying high. Every member in the Patel family has had some association with motorsports —for some it was short, others long, and for a few, like Rustom K Patel, who recently launched his bike training institute, Bikers Academy at the I-Land Recreation Centre in Wadala, it’s been an ongoing affair. “Motorsports run through our veins. It’s not just a Parsi passion; it’s in our blood. Even on the dinner table, the talk centres on motorsports,” says the eight-time national champion, with over 275 trophies to his name.
The Patels’ love for motorsports began in the 1960s, when two brothers Kersi M Patel (Rustom’s father) and Fali M Patel participated in the Himalayan Car Rally. The two established themselves as top-notch drivers on the rough terrain of the Himalayas. Kersi also rode a Formula 3 car on the Juhu Airport Road, when it was a racing venue. But by the 1970s, car rallies had become too expensive, and the two moved to two-wheelers. While Fali went on to become a dirt track national champion, Kersi proved his mettle both on and off the track winning races like the Bombay Hill Climb in the 1980s at Film City, where Kersi came first in all the seven races.
The second generation of Patels’ wasn’t behind either. Fali’s eldest son Kaizad went on to become national champion multiple times in motocross, rallying and dirt track. Next was Zubin K Patel, Kersi’s second son, now a racing legend across India. “There are bikers who still have Zubin’s photo in their wallet,” shares Rustom. Zubin’s motorsports career, however, took an unfortunate turn when he met a near fatal injury in the Raid de Himalaya in 2000. Zubin went into comma for three months. He got out of it, but never raced professionally, thereafter.
“He still tests his skills once or twice on the track, but it’s not the same anymore,” adds Rustom. When Zubin was injured, Rustom was in the last round of the MRF Supercross National Championship in Bangalore. “I wanted to come back, but my dad said, “Win the race for Zubin. If you don’t win the race, don’t come home,”” he adds. Rustom won both races and became a national champion for the first time in his career.
Such a long road
Rustom, who also runs a scooter workshop, RNZ Service Station in Mazgaon along with his brothers Neville and Zubin, has had his own share of mishaps, including a broken finger. He has crossed 40s, and despite being the only member of the second generation of Patels’ still living life on the track, he believes there’s plenty left in him. “It was always a dream for me to start my own bike academy. Now, that I have one, I am going to work hard on it. But that doesn’t mean I will give up racing, I will race for as long as I can.” And considering the third generation of the Patel family is not far behind, Rustom, who started riding motorcycle at six, hopes that the Patel legacy will move forward as Zubin’s son Kayan, 11, has already taken up motorsports, and is raring to follow on the footsteps of the senior Patels.