2017 in review [Part 2]: Indian sportscar drivers
2017 saw increased participation from Indian drivers in sportscar racing, with single-seater convert Akhil Rabindra joining the likes of seasoned racers Armaan Ebrahim and Aditya Patel.
Aditya Patel (Blancpain GT Asia)
Aditya Patel came agonisingly close to winning the Blancpain GT Asia title, eventually losing out on the crown by just one point.
Patel started the season with a bang by winning the opening race in Sepang. However, purely based on his personal performance, his showing in the season-concluding Zhejiang round was far better.
During that particular weekend, the Audi India-backed driver was comfortably faster than teammate Mitch Gilbert and played a crucial role in their double win.
However, there were several mistakes on Patel’s part over the course of the year.
Spins in Shanghai - admittedly in tricky conditions on slicks - and Fuji proved costly in the end, although one could easy apportion the blame on a technical problem-induced retirement in Buriram as the reason for the lost title.
Photo by: FFF Racing Team
Armaan Ebrahim (Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia)
Armaan Ebrahim joined FFF Racing team for his third successive season in Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia series, but his campaign hardly went the way he would have had hoped for.
There was never a question mark over Ebrahim or his teammate Jack Bartholomew's pace as proved by their podium finishes in the first two rounds of the season.
However, constant technical gremlins prevented them from making full use of opportunities and ending higher up in the standings.
An electrical glitch put Ebrahim’s car on safe mode during pitstops at Buriram (Thailand), while a broken driveshaft and differential left him at the back of the grid at Suzuka (Japan).
Things got worse in the penultimate round at Fuji (Japan), where he even failed to take the start due to yet more technical troubles.
For the last round of the season, FFF Racing shuffled its driver line-up, placing Ebrahim with Am driver Carrie Schreiner together in one car.
The change brought some unforeseen consequences with Ebrahim having to adjust to a seat designed for Schreiner, who is much smaller in size than him.
The Indo-German duo ended the two races at Shanghai in ninth and seventh places, capping off the season on a modest note.
Photo by: Nikolaz Godet
Karun Chandhok returned to France’s iconic Le Mans 24 Hours race for the first time since 2015 after signing up a deal with British squad Tockwith Motorsport.
However, testing showed that Tockwith’s Ligier JS P217 was no match to teams running the Oreca chassis, immediately ruling out a top-notch result.
The race itself didn’t go according to the plan, with technical issues leaving him and teammates Nigel Moore and Philip Hanson 10th in class.
Chandhok, on his part, did all he could to get a reasonable result for the rookie team. He started off with a quintuple stint in the evening while also took over the driving duties during the crucial night hours.
Photo by: JEP / LAT Images
Akhil Rabindra (British GT)
2017 was a year of seismic change for Akhil Rabindra, who switched over to sportscar racing after spending much of his career thereto in single-seaters.
Despite joining the McLaren Academy which allowed him to drive a Garage 59-run 570S GT4 in British GT, Rabindra was quick to put a lid on expectations - and rightly so.
Rabindra took his time to adapt to the this form of racing, but was able to score rookie podiums from the very beginning.
There were some impressive performances over the course of the year, but he was never in contention of an overall podium slot.
The fact that his teammate, karting graduate Dean Macdonald, was equally inexperienced to sportscars didn’t help his cause.
Overall, Rabindra can be satisfied with how his first season in sportscars went, but pressure will be on him in 2018 when he will have to shrug his rookie tag.
Ishaan Dodhiwala (Polo Cup China)
Ishaan Dodhiwala made a one-off appearance in the Polo Cup China, the drive coming as a reward for winning the Vento Cup in 2016.
Despite it being his first international appearance, Dodhiwala put on an impressive lap in qualifying to put his car on the front row of the grid.
A first-lap collision undid his good work in qualifying, but he staged an impressive recovery drive to finish on the final spot of the podium.
He finished third on the road in Race 2 as well, but was handed a hefty post-race penalty after stewards deemed that one of his overtaking moves took place under the red flags.
Prashanth Tharani (12 Hours of Spa)
Prashanth Tharani made his race return in the 12 Hours of Spa, driving a SEAT Leon TCR-spec car for Zest Racecar Engineering.
Despite being plagued by a slew of issues and lack of preparation on Tharani’s part, the Chennai-based driver and his teammates Viktor Davidovski and Boris Miljevic did well to finish inside the top 15 in their class.
How Indians performed over the weekend (October 13-15)
Patel stays in Blancpain GT Asia for sophomore season