What's a fine arts student of Chitrakala Parishath doing all geared up at the Silverstone International Racing Circuit in the UK? Revving and reveling it up, of course. This Hubli-born Benglauru boy dreamt of kissing the tarmac. And he did just that at the famed Silverstone International Circuit in August with his heart pounding, on a high that only racing endows. Shantanu Kallianpurkar was among five Indians chosen from over 10,000 participants who were part of the GT Academy programme run by Nissan and PlayStation. Nissan’s GT Academy 2015 national finals for India saw top 20 qualifiers from online and live qualification events compete. The grande conclusion is that one winner will get a chance to undergo a driver development programme and compete for Nissan at Dubai 24-Hours!
Invited to Silverstone along with four young Indian gaming enthusiasts, Shantanu is chuffed at being a part of this special competition – The Nissan GT Academy hunts for a racing driver every year. At a national final at Sriperumbudur Racetrack, near Chennai, where he was unstoppable, Shantanu’s tryst with Silverstone Internationa Circuit is memorable. “We drove a Nissan Micra around a course set by Karun Chandhok. I had an amazing time, racing with them. Race Camp might have come to an end, but this is just the beginning. Just the fact that we’ve had the privilege of racing the kind of cars we did, while being instructed by some of the finest and most experienced racing drivers, you can find has boosted our confidence by leaps and bounds,” reveals the speedster from Hubli.
The GT Academy provides an alternative route into mainstream motorsport where Gran Turismo gamers get a chance to go from virtual to reality with a professional racing career with Nissan. And Shantanu Kallianpurkar, Anush Chakravarthi, Abhishek Dwarakanath, Akshay Gupta, Dhruv Dayal and Jaideep Chahal were the lucky ones who went to Silverstone and lived the adrenaline-filled days of race camp. “Race Camp at Silverstone Racetrack in UK saw us as part of the Asian Camp with teams from Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and India,” explains the avid racer.
After orientation, meeting competitors, the next day was a thorough medical and then came the choosing of gear and racing kit. Shantanu then went to the Bedford Autodrome for some driving challenges and a written test for ‘Level C’ race license (required if they won). The Caterhams came next. “The Palmer F3000s were three litre 250 bhp, six speed, single seater race cars, that looked similar to Formula One cars. We were then made to drive the JPLM. For the final driving challenge, we were asked to drive the mighty Nissan R35. It’s one of the most sought-after supercars today, it’s super quick but very practical,” says the enthusiast who might not have come on top of the Silverstone round but is hoping to be called for escapades.
While Akshay from Ahmedabad goes on to drive for India in the final against other countries, the camp has given Shantanu a new understanding. “It’s been an unbelievably exciting week. We got to drive some amazing machines, while being guided by some of the finest instructors. Our mentor Karun Chandhok is an ex-Formula One driver. I thank Nissan India and GTA Global for giving us the opportunity,” he says. Abhinay Bikkani, who won from India last year, is currently racing in the Nissan Micra Cup in Canada and stands at the fifth position. So there’s hope for motor sports just yet, in the quagmire of team orders.