Karting never gained as much popularity as cricket or football in India. One of the more obvious reasons being the super long list of requirements. It comprised of things like karts, mechanics, safety gear and a smooth piece of twisty tarmac - stuff one won’t be able to gather overnight. Whereas football demanded a small piece of land, some bricks for the goal post, a ball and some legs - kind of stuff India has in abundance.
This inaccessibility has led the sport to gain a reputation of just-a-fun-weekend-activity-for-kids in India. And that has had a severe impact on the knowledge and understanding of the sport here. No wonder I met some stares and shocked faces when I announced my plan of attending a karting workshop to my friends.
Although those alarmed faces had me going over my doubts, the first session of the workshop was all I needed to throw those stupid emotions back to where it belonged - the bin. Greeting the participants, which were 6 in total, was a lean and fair Finnish bloke who introduced himself as Elias of ENH Motorsport. Trying to keep the early morning yawns off our faces, he was quick enough to pass on a few jokes. Minutes later, his next words were what got our eyes wide open, as if at high beam, “Let’s proceed to the track!”.
But let’s not go that far that quick. We’re not on a track. Allow me to provide you with a logical breakdown of how this all panned up before I go any further.
On a random Monday morning, I happened to stumble upon a sponsored post on Instagram. This was an advert for the workshop as mentioned above, being organised at Hyderabad for two days. On enquiring more about this programme, I understood that this wasn’t just some go-around-the-track-as-many-times-as-you-want type thing. The instructor, Elias, already had a plan in place, allowing participants to switch between theory and practice continually. Both segments were meant to educate the drivers on one thing - how to go around a track properly yet rapidly. Determined to gain some knowledge and more importantly, to drive around the track several times, I signed up.
Post our first track session, I was happy and sweaty. Even though I didn’t want to leave my kart and head for the theory lessons, I still got out. Because for the first time, I was about to get schooled on the sport, its history, various flag signals, acceleration tactics, braking techniques and the correct racing line by a professional racer with almost ten years worth of professional experience. And also because Elias asked us nicely and offered us some sandwiches as well.
Since my schooling days, I was always taught that all theory classes had to be completed before moving into practicals. But here, the approach was different. And better. The day was divided into small segments. Each segment consisted of a particular topic like the racing line or braking techniques. At first, every topic was taught theoretically, followed by a track session. The topic was put to rest only after an experience-sharing discussion post our short while at the track.
If you think, this just made my driving better, you’ll be correct….partially. All that knowledge helped me understand motorsport better, as a whole. Watching Formula1 races wasn’t something I did every Sunday. But post this workshop, the commentators’ statements made sense to me. I could appreciate those sharp overtakes and manoeuvres by Vettels and Alonsos because for once, I partially knew what it would take to perform such steering inputs.
As the workshop neared its end, Elias further briefed us about the financial requirements one needs to meet to see a future at karting. Although the prices are quite high for a middle-class Indian, the scarcity of facilities and resources can be primarily blamed. But for those looking to attain some individualised training or a career in the same, ENH Motorsport could organise something on those lines as well.
So, does attending such karting workshops really help? In a word, undoubtedly. Apart from educating me on the sport and its technicalities, the workshop was an eye-opener in terms of track driving and car control. You’re pulled back to perfect just your basics involving the accelerator, brakes and steering wheel. Does your complain about modern cars involve no road feel via the steering wheel? Try karting, and the road might even greet you with chips hitting your visor. And to answer the original question, I've quoted a bloke above.
As Elias had successfully conducted several rounds of the workshop over the past couple of months, he decided to pit his students against each other. He devised a proper karting race weekend consisting of qualification, heats, pre-finals and finals. Naturally, I had to take part.
The race didn’t go as planned for me. Although I had secured a respectable third place on the pre-final starting grid, a catastrophe struck in my initial laps. While looking to overtake the man ahead on a hairpin bend, I forgot the brakes on my cart wasn’t that effective. Carrying more speed than usual, I turned the kart, only to realise I hadn’t stomped on the brakes hard enough. That resulted in me ending up in the tires.
While I was distraught with my stupidity and lack of self-realisation, I tried to make up some ground. It merely took me another corner to realise, I had fallen way behind. But then, not losing hope, I accelerated more violently. Seconds later, I found another man less than half a lap ahead of me. And this time, I wasn’t letting him go.
Following every Elias-educated technique religiously, I cut those corners, nailed those apexes and slingshot my way out via the outer line. By the end of it, I had my man. And even though I was out of the final, that pass felt nice. But what Elias mentioned post that race made me prouder. As per him, the guy I passed hadn’t attended the workshop. Hence, his knowledge of driving around the track was restricted. And that was one defining moment for me to realise how much of a difference does workshops like this, really make!
You can know more about these workshops or ENH Motorsport by visiting them here.