Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hunt for India's next Formula One driver begins

BANGALORE: For all those aspiring to make it big in motor sports, and probably for a seat in Formula One, here's some good news. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal of Force India Formula One team, announced the launch of the Force India F1 Team Academy, sponsored by ExxonMobil.

The academy, based in India, is an initiative aimed at identifying racing talent in the country, and probably identifying an Indian F1 driver.

"I have been looking for this day ever since my association with Formula One," said Mallya, at the launch of the 'Hunt For 1 From A Billion' programme on Tuesday.

"The setting up of the Force India F1 Team Academy is a milestone in the sports arena in the country," pointed out Mallya, who came a good hour behind schedule. However, he didn't waste time in announcing the launch of an ambitious programme.

"We will create a pool of talent and groom aspirants who show exceptional promise by providing them corporate funding and support, backed by a clear professional path in motor sports so that one day they can go on to represent India in the international arena and hopefully bring glory to the country," he went on.

"The academy was conceived with a vision to inspire young Indians who have talent but so far have had no proper opportunities to showcase their skills. I hope this venture will give young Indians a chance to excel," Mallya explained.

"If the academy is able to place even one Indian on the F1 grid then all the effort would have been well worth it," he added.

The programme, purely a karting one and which consists of three stages, will kick-off on April 25 at Mumbai. While the first stage is the grassroots programme where 100 finalists will be identified through seven regional trials - in Mumbai (April 25-May 1), Goa (May 2-8), Kolhapur (May 9-15), Bangalore (May 16-22), Hyderabad (May 23-29), Chennai (May 30- June 5) and Amritsar (June 6-12). This comprises top 14 drivers from each centre plus two wildcards.

The 100 finalists will compete in the National finals in September, the venue for which is yet to be announced. For the record, the driver hunt will be held every two years. The top 10 finalists will do a weeklong stint at Silverstone between October 3 and 8, which is the second stage of the programme. The top three will be announced during the Indian Grand Prix in October.

In the final stage, the winner will be put through a full season of racing in a competitive championship in Britain. The first runner-up will compete in India and the second runner-up will receive special racing tuitions in an Asian racing school.

The academy will fully support the winner over the next three years. "The intent is to groom the winner through the various stages leading up to where the winner is qualified and ready to apply for a super license from the FAI to drive in Formula One," Mallya noted.
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