Racing Team India – with drivers Narain Karthikeyan, Arjun Maini and Naveen Rao – completed the 4 Hours of Dubai, Round 1 of the 2021 Asian Le Mans series, in 5th place. The day marked another big step for India on the world motorsport stage, with the team becoming the first all-Indian outfit to compete internationally in endurance racing.
- Karthikeyan, Maini and Rao finish 5th at 4 Hours of Dubai, Race 1
- First all-Indian team to compete internationally in endurance racing
Racing Team India 5th at 4 hours of Dubai
The Indian squad is fielding the Le Mans-winning Oreca-07 LMP2 prototype, with full technical support from reigning Asian Le Mans Series champions Algarve Pro Racing and backing from JK Tyre. After running into some issues with the car’s brake balance and front setup, the team managed to qualify 5th for the opening round of the championship.
Having identified and addressed some of these issues, it was time for the race start. It was 2020 IMSA Prototype Challenge champion Rao who ran the opening stint. With almost all of his career spent in the American sportscar racing scene, Rao had the most experience with rolling starts, so this seemed like the logical choice. This would also allow Karthikeyan and Maini – who has the most LMP2 experience out of the three – to put their endurance racing experience to use to gain ground later in the race.
While speaking to Autocar India, Karthikeyan had mentioned how the technical layout of the Dubai Autodrome would be a big challenge, specially since it was uncharted territory for LMP2 cars. Adding to this challenge was that fact that this year’s championship sees a record 36-car grid, making traffic a major problem.
Ultimately, Racing Team India survived a 5-sec stop-and-go penalty (for speeding in the pit lane) to finish 5th on their debut outing. The condensed calendar means they won’t have to wait too long to have another go at chasing a podium finish at the Dubai Autodrome, with Race 2 getting underway later today.
The No. 26 G-Drive Racing trio of Rene Binder, Yigei Ye and Ferdinand Habsburg ended up taking victory in the first race.
Racing Team India at Le Mans
The winner of the 2020 Asian Le Mans Series will get an automatic entry into France’s iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans, and that’s a goal that Racing Team India is very much chasing. If it secures an invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which takes place in June 2021, it will become the first squad flying the Indian tricolour to take part in the event.
You can read our exclusive interview with Karthikeyan, Maini and Rao for more details on the team’s Le Mans ambitions and future plans.
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