How India's NRT team is making waves in World Supersport
India’s NRT squad has taken the World Supersport Championship by storm this year, winning three races in its debut season so far.
One would have been forgiven to take NRT lightly when it stepped up to the World Superbikes-supporting series at the start of 2018.
In one of the world’s most competitive production bike racing championships, it’s hard to imagine how a new team can regularly fight for points, let alone upset the pecking order at the front end of the field.
But that’s exactly what NRT has managed to do in the first half of the season. Anyone who made the mistake of overlooking this India-owned, Dubai-based outfit would now be chewing its own words.
The team’s journey started in the Middle East, when it competed in the guise of Nerds Racing Team. As such, it was well versed with running a racing team - albeit at a smaller level.
More crucially, for its step up to world stage, it forged a strategic alliance with Supersport specialists KME Engineering for preparing a pair of Yamaha R6s - and it has proved to be the underlying reason behind its early success.
“This was a dream honestly. It was in my plan,” NRT boss Vafi Khan told Motorsport.com. “Honestly we wanted to do Moto2 but it would have been a very big jump.
“So I decided I want to start with World Supersport first, then get into World Superbikes. This was a starting step for me. Started year and a half ago. It wasn’t planned, but arranging finance and everything started one and a half years ago.”
He added: “It’s hard work. What we do locally is the same thing what we do over there. So basically building the bikes, how things work, mostly similar things, we had the idea.
“The bike that we are running is definitely good. The company KME engineering, who built our bike. I was a very expensive deal with them, but if you see whoever have used their machines have won the championship.
“So somehow I convinced them that we are starting a new team. We want to do something why don’t you join us. So they agreed and they came back in this sport for us. “
The setup NRT had in place was clearly up to the mark, allowing it to lure multiple race winner Jules Cluzel and sign him as its star rider.
And the deal has clearly worked wonders for both parties. Not only Cluzel sits second in the championship, just two points adrift of leader Sandro Cortese, but NRT itself is in the hunt for the title.
The team currently trails GRT Yamaha squad by 22 points with six races still remaining. Given that NRT has won three of the last four races, it’s only a matter of time the pendulum shifts in its favour.
“Eventually the whole goal is to win the championship, try to make history,” Khan said. “A new team, non-factory supported, first time in the series, wins the championship. It’s like a dream but hopefully. We are planning to give our best. Let’s see.”
NRT will next be seen in action at Italy’s Misano circuit on the weekend of July 6-8. Should it go on to win the elusive title, it will become the first team from India to do so in an FIA/FIM-sanctioned world championship - a truly historic feat that may go some way in capturing the public imagination in a country where motorsport is still a niche.
Brno World Supersport: Cluzel scores NRT's third win
Ex-MotoGP racer Barbera makes World Supersport move