The Formula Regional Indian Championship – along with support series F4 India and the Indian Racing League – was announced with much aplomb last year. Things went quiet for a while as organisers worked through hurdles. But a revised calendar for 2022 was recently announced, with all three series set to run under the ‘Indian Racing Festival’ banner.
Those who follow the Indian motorsport scene already know Aditya Patel as a proven racer. He’s now taking his experience behind the wheel and applying it to the organisational side of things as the director of Racing Promotions Pvt Ltd (RPPL).
Formula Regional India: revised calendar
Originally, the inaugural season was supposed to get underway in February 2022. But that failed to materialise due to production and pandemic-related delays. One of the major reasons for targeting the February-March slot was that it’s usually off-season for traditional racing championships, making it possible for more drivers to participate. That same logic is why the debut season has now been pushed to November-December 2022, with five rounds across five weeks.
“Most championships basically begin in April and end in October, particularly the European championships. So that’s why we had to postpone it all the way till November and couldn’t do it in between, which is fine for us because the weather is good in most parts of the country,” explains Patel.
He adds that the F3 and Wolf cars (the latter being used for the Indian Racing League) are already in India. The F4 cars have already been delivered in Italy for preparation and should reach India soon. “Everything is moving and now all the ground work is being done to ensure the event goes off well”.
|2022 Indian Racing Festival calendar|
|Pre-season testing||November 8-10||Buddh International Circuit|
|Round 1||November 11-13||Buddh International Circuit|
|Round 2||November 19-20||Hyderabad|
|Round 3||November 25-27||Kari Motor Speedway|
|Round 4||December 2-4||Madras International Circuit|
|Round 5||December 10-11||Hyderabad|
Level playing field
Prema Powerteam is one of the biggest names in junior single-seater racing, and they’ve come onboard as technical partners. Patel further clarifies what that entails, “Prema will run the technical side of things, which is provide us with the engineers, the chief mechanics, etc., to ensure that everything runs on a level playing field.”
It’s the ‘level playing field’ bit that will be a defining factor for the championships. Most international Formula Regional or F4 championships have multiple teams participating. As a result, the title winners are often crowned depending on which drivers end up in the fastest teams.
But here, Prema will be preparing and running all cars in both championships, in theory handing all the drivers equal machinery. So it’s up to the drivers to show their skills out on track. “It gives drivers a lot of comfort,” adds Patel.
Super Licence points
Another big draw is that drivers in both championships – Formula Regional and F4 India – will be eligible for Super Licence points. Currently, Indian drivers have to collect large funds that are required to race abroad if they want to collect any Super Licence points, but this opens up big opportunities for budding racers in the country.
“It creates that first step towards collecting your Super Licence points to race in F1. Everyone knows how crucial it is to be young and if you lose a year driving in a championship that doesn’t provide you with those points, then it all builds up later. At the end of the day, F1 teams lose interest in you if you’re too old,” Patel says matter-of-factly.
“What’s good is that F4 drivers can start collecting Super Licence points at the age of 15. So if they’re really good, they can be in F1 in their teens and I think that’s what most drivers – not just Indian but also international participants – will be looking forward to.”
Selecting the grid
The Indian Racing Festival puts in place a much-needed ladder structure for Indian racers looking to break into international motorsport. F4 India will offer the opportunity to take the first step up from karting into the world of single-seater racing. The winner will get a free drive in the following year’s Formula Regional Indian Championship. The winner of Formula Regional India will in turn get to compete in F3 Asia.
The Indian Racing League, essentially a revamped version of the X1 Racing League, will continue with the format of city-based franchise teams. It will be mandatory for each team to feature a female racer.
Patel reveals the organisers have been travelling to various championships – be it karting, national or even international racing championships – to scout out talent. “To shortlist them, we’re looking at the best of the best within these championships,” he states. “We shortlist them, then we put them through a final selection and then give a scholarship to the drivers who we would like to be in these championships.”
Given the condensed calendar, the relative frugality of racing in India and the Super Licence points up for grabs, the championships will be a tempting proposition for a lot of international drivers too, and Patel promises “a good mix of Indian and international drivers”.
The international drivers have been signed on, while the Indian drivers should be shortlisted by end-September.
Outside the scheduled testing days, all selected Indian drivers will also go through a training process. “The international drivers who we’ve got lined up, most of them have a lot of experience already. So it’ll be important that the Indian drivers also bring themselves up to a certain level,” Patel explains.
Plans are in place to facilitate this ecosystem, too – Mumbai Falcons owns all the cars, while a new home base for testing is being developed in the form of the CoASTT track in Coimbatore. “When you own the cars, you don’t have that worry of planning everything around when the cars are going to be in the country. We can have proper driver development programmes, which we have planned out for next year and testing is most important,” says Patel.
“With most drivers from India who go and race abroad, the testing is usually limited because the costs are ridiculous; whereas in India, it would cost a fraction of that. For drivers living in the country, they can do multiple test days at a much lower cost. I think it’ll help us see a lot of drivers start to take part in more international competition.”
The bigger picture
The Indian Racing Festival only marks the beginning and RPPL already has some big plans in mind to further push Indian talent and make the country a genuine racing hub.
Patel reveals that, along with expanding the Indian Racing Festival into an international event, plans are also in place to explore GT racing. He outlines an ambitious goal of having Indian representation in every form of racing – “Apart from getting drivers through the ladder to F1, [the goal is] also to spread our wings in the world of motorsport and to have drivers in pretty much every championship that you see out there – be it GT sportscars, Le Mans, etc.”