2018 in review: Biggest stories in Indian motorsport
We list down 10 of the biggest stories that caught the attention of the Indian motorsport fraternity in 2018.
10. Deodhar NASCAR Euro title
Advait Deodhar, BVR Motorsport
Photo by: NASCAR Euro Series
Advait Deodhar made an emphatic return to competitive motorsport this year, winning the Elite Club division of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series on his debut.
Deodhar won the opening race of the season in Valencia and scored two more victories over the course of the season to be crowned the undisputed champion in NASCAR Euro Series’ entry level category.
He started the season with Mishumotors and subsequently switched to BVR Motorsport, and successfully defeated main title rivals Clemens Sparowitz and Andreas Kuchelbacher.
Deodhar also made two appearances in the higher level Elite 2 Division, driving for the Dexwet Racing team.
9. Mahindra’s cross-country rally return
Gaurav Gill, Mahindra
Photo by: Mahindra Racing
Mahindra returned to the domestic cross-country rallying scene in 2018, re-igniting its rivalry with Maruti Suzuki.
Mahindra’s re-entry served as a wake-up call for Maruti as the Japanese manufacturer had no answer to the Super XUV500’s pace in Dakshin Dare. Team stalwart Gaurav Gill led a dominant 1-2 finish, with the lead Maruti only finishing third.
That said, Mahindra too has a lot of work to do. It finished off the podium in Raid de Himalaya, despite no factory-backed opposition from Maruti.
8. Kush Maini British F3 race win
Podium: race winner Kush Maini, Lanan Racing
Photo by: BRDC British F3
Arjun Maini’s younger brother Kush firmly established himself in 2018 with a successful maiden campaign in British F3, where he finished third in the championship.
The highlight of the season was the victory at Rockingham, where he charged from fifth on the grid to the lead by the end of lap 1.
He eventually crossed the line with a five-second margin, showing just how dominant he was that weekend.
7. Arjun Maini F2 radio rant
Arjun Maini, Trident
Photo by: FIA Formula 2
Arjun Maini received plenty of attention - from sympathy to utter disgraceful comments - when he openly expressed his frustration with F2’s new car over team radio in France.
After another weekend where he was hamstrung by issues out of his and team’s control, Maini, unaware that his views were going to be telecast live on TV, said: “I swear you guys don’t support me at all. "I do everything every f***ing session!
"You can’t do this to me, mate! I have no f***ing power out of the corner, why doesn’t anybody f***ing believe me?”
"I don’t want to race in this championship anymore! F*** this!”
Maini’s comments went viral on the internet and an investigation into his car’s engine indeed pointed to a problem.
A replacement unit was subsequently delivered, which allowed him to become a regular top 10 qualifier towards the remainder of the season.
6. Mahindra’s Marrakesh win and championship lead
Race winner Felix Rosenqvist, Mahindra Racing, Dilbagh Gill, CEO, Team Principal, Mahindra Racing, celebrate with the rest of the team
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / LAT Images
Mahindra Racing emerged as a serious challenger for the Formula E title at the start of the season 4 with back to-back-victories in Hong Kong and Marrakesh.
The Indian manufacturer suddenly found itself in the lead of the championship while series’ regular front-runners Audi and Renault struggled to be competitive.
However, two high profile retirements for Felix Rosenqvist while in the lead derailed Mahindra’s title bid and a subsequent decline in form meant that the team couldn’t even finish on the podium again.
However, it’s early season pace was a good indication of what to expect from it in the future.
5. Jehan Daruvala European F3 win
Podium: Race winner Jehan Daruvala, Carlin Dallara F317 - Volkswagen
Photo by: FIA F3 / Suer
Jehan Daruvala scored a mighty victory in the Spa round of European F3 this season, showing just why he is touted as India’s next F1 star.
After dropping to third place with a slow getaway, Daruvala quickly re-passed both Marcus Armstrong and Alex Palou to seize the lead, eventually winning by a healthy margin of 3.235s.
Carlin’s decline in form meant that he was unable to replicate the same feat in the remainder of the season, but there were several other performances - such as in qualifying of the Hockenheim finale - which showed just how good he is as a driver.
4. Formula E boss on India race
Dr. Pawan Goenka, Chairman Mahindra Racing, Patrick Carre, VP, Shell Golbal Lubricants, Gul Panag, Jerome D'Ambrosio, Mahindra Racing, Ruzbeh Irani, President, Mahindra Group, Mansi Tripathy, MD, Shell Lubricants India and Dilbagh Gill, Team Principal, Mahindra Racing
Photo by: Mahindra Racing
Formula E boss Alejandro Agag ruled out a race in India until he was assured by the authorities that his series will not be taxed in the same way as F1 was in the past.
F1’s commercial right holder was asked to pay taxes on the earnings apportioned to India when the Buddh International Circuit hosted three grands prix between 2011-13.
Agag, however, made it clear that he will not go to any extent to bring Formula E to the country.
"Our main worry for India is the tax,” Agag told PTI. “We have been doing a lot of research on the race in India. We have seen that Formula 1 faced so many tax issues in India. It is very risky to race in India because of the tax authorities.
"They [tax authorities] are very aggressive at the moment. They want to tax everything. So you don't know where you stand. I think that is the reason Formula 1 did not continue in India. We would like to have complete tax safety and then look at going to India.”
Since then Mahindra Racing boss Dilbagh Gill has stated that India very remains on the radar of Formula E and suggested season 7 as a “very realistic” date for a possible first race.
3. Gaurav Gill and MRF join WRC2
Gaurav Gill, Glenn McNeall, Team MRF Tyres Ford Fiesta R5
Photo by: M-Sport
MRF’s plan to join the WRC2 field had been in the pipeline for several years and was officially announced in April of 2018.
MRF had found plenty of success in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and jumping up to WRC2 was the next logical step for the Indian tyre giant.
However, to the surprise of many, it chose to terminate its relationship with Skoda and join forces with Ford instead.
That meant that instead of the familiar Fabia R5, Gaurav Gill made his WRC2 debut at the wheel of an M-Sport prepared Fiesta R5.
Gill and MRF’s first three WRC2 appearances were a success and they even briefly led Rally Australia before technical problems dropped them down to fifth.
MRF will return to the world stage next year for a full WRC2 assault, with Gill remaining in the driving seat.
2. Hamilton calls India “poor”
Race winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W09
Photo by: Manuel Goria / Sutton Images
Lewis Hamilton, who remains one of the more popular F1 drivers in India, caused a stir recently when he described India as a “poor” nation in an interview with the BBC.
Answering a question about F1 expanding to nations without a motorsport culture in Asia, Hamilton said: “I've been to India before to a race which was strange because India was such a poor place yet we had this massive, beautiful grand prix track made in the middle of nowhere.
“I felt very conflicted when I went to that grand prix.”
The poorly-worded comments drew widespread criticism, forcing the five-time world champion to issue a clarification.
In a Twitter post, Hamilton stressed that he is very fond of India and was merely highlighting the financial disparity between the rich and the poor in the country.
He also suggested that the money spent on building the Buddh International Circuit, which is rarely used for racing these days, could have been better utilised on poverty alleviation programmes.
1. Sale of Force India
Esteban Ocon, Racing Point Force India VJM11 leads Sergio Perez, Racing Point Force India VJM11
Photo by: Joe Portlock / LAT Images
The sale of Force India was the biggest and the most shocking announcement for Indian motorsport fans in 2018.
While Force India’s financial troubles were an open secret, few would have imagined things would pan out the way it did this year.
With debt pile rising and upgrades delayed due to a cash crunch, several of team’s creditors, including driver Sergio Perez, put the team in administration to safeguard its future.
The idea was clear: they needed a new owner amid Vijay Mallya’s continued troubles.
Several parties lodged applications to buy the team and ultimately a consortium led by Lance Stroll’s father was allowed to purchase Force India’s assets and enter the championship as a new team.
The sale marked the end of the Indian team’s decade-long presence in F1. While Mallya has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent years, he deserves full credit for turning the former Spyker team from a perennial backmarker to a solid, podium-scoring midfielder.
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