At one point in his life, Arjun Narendran was just another youngster — he found his life boring and monotonous, and resorted to rash driving on the streets, for some sort of excitement. But, once his uncle,V. Ramnarayanan, a former racer himself, came to know about this, he was determined to channelise his nephew’s talent in an effective and profitable way. Ever since, Arjun started taking racing seriously, there has been no looking back. At only 22, this computer engineering graduate is now being touted as one of the most promising talents in the racing circuit.
Being a part of Red Rooster Racing team for five years, he won Indian National Touring Car Championships back to back in 2014 and 2015 and is vying for a hat-trick this year. In the second round of the Indian National Touring Car Championship held in June 2016, he was on pole position and won all three races. In a candid conversation, Arjun speaks about his career, his aspirations and also on the misconceptions about the sport.
“I actually wanted to be a cricketer when I was younger, but luckily, I didn’t do well,” starts Arjun on a lighter note. Speaking about how coming from a family with a rich racing heritage — both his father S. Narendran and uncle V. Ramnarayanan were former racers — has had a massive impact on his career, he says, “In spite of being surrounded by people who are experts in this field, I didn’t know anything about racing in India. In fact, I had never been to a race track until I started racing. And as I was driving myself crazy on the streets, my family was concerned. That was when my uncle took the onus of turning me into a successful racer. In 2011, I started off with the Indian National Touring Cars with a best finish of seventh place. It boosted my confidence a lot.”
Looking back at his short yet successful career, Arjun feels that he is pretty satisfied with the exploits so far. “Though, I managed to win consecutive national championships in the past two years, I don’t focus only on one tournament. I participated in the Toyota Etios Motor Racing and managed to get a couple of podiums and a win. I have to say that MRF Challenge Formula 1600 developed me as a racer and I even managed to become the second runner-up in the event last year,” he muses.
So what does he feel is his biggest achievement thus far, the boyhood Michael Schumacher fan says, “When I was young, I used to hear a lot about lap records and national championships. I never thought I would be anywhere close to it, but I hold the lap records in my category in all three circuits in India. I also achieved an unbeaten pole streak in 2014 in the Indian National Touring Car Championship.”
Apart from his uncle, Arjun also says that he owes a lot to N. Leelakrishnan, who dominated the rally circuit for several years, for being a major inspiration in his career — “Since 2012, he’s always been there guiding me and if I’m a champion today, I think it’s because of him. After every session, he sat with me discussing data, and made sure I never made those mistakes again,” says the racing champ.
Stating why he prefers touring cars over formula racing, he says, “I think, it comes more naturally to me. Having tested the Renault Clio in the UK a couple of times, I hope to expand my horizons in motorsports. It’s my dream to drive with a top team in the British Touring Car Championships and in the World Touring Car Championship.” One major challenge in accomplishing this dream is the lack of sponsorship, “In motor racing, finding the right sponsor is really hard. An average overseas budget would be anywhere between Rs 1.5 to Rs 2 crore. This is one aspect in which I’m lagging behind now. Hence, my realistic dream would be to first get into TCR Championship and then gradually move on to other tournaments.”
Contrary to popular misconception that racing is glamorous, he says, “People outside the racing world think that it is so easy and glamorous. But the amount of hard work we put in is massive. You need to be absolutely fit and on top of your game. A lot of intensive training goes into preparation. Not just physical but also mental strength is important,” he opines. On a concluding note, Arjun has an important advice for young racing aspirants. “Though, it’s always romantic to dream big, I would want all youngsters to be more realistic about their goals. And I would also stress that ‘Formula One’ is not the only form of racing,” he bids adieu....