Twenty-four-year-old Chittesh Mandody, a racer from Kolhapur, stole the limelight when he swept all the three races of the Formula LGB 4 category last month. He won in the opening round of the JK Tyre National Racing Championships.
Chittesh belongs to a family of car mechanics, who have been running a garage for the last 85 years. His family garage is famous as Kolhapur's erstwhile royal family has been sending its cars for servicing and repairs there ever since its inception. Talking about his journey in an interview with IANS, he said,
"I started taking interest in racing from the age of eight. As a young kid, I would go to the garage, set up by my great grandfather, and often wanted to drive those luxury cars. From there it all started... the passion for driving, the dreams of becoming an F1 racer... and this journey got a meaning when I reached the final of the JK Tyre Karting National Championship in 2002–03."
Everything was going fine until he started facing problems due to a lack of funds, because of which he had to put his childhood dreams on the back burner for two–three years.
However, as often happens in life, he got a second chance in 2007, thanks to the support of a Kolhapur businessman, Shivaji Mohite, and JK Tyres. He came back to win the Rotax Junior Championship in 2007 and from then on there has been no looking back. Elaborating on the difficulties faced by people who choose this sport, he said,
"Unlike other sports, racing doesn't get any government support. There is a limit beyond which you can't expect private companies to support you. So most racers are forced to rethink their future. India does have a lot of motorsport enthusiasts, but money is always the hindrance."
The government has of late officially recognised motor sports but Chittesh feels there is still a long way to go.
Though he is concentrating on his business for now, driving is what he lives for. With Ferrari's Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen as his idol, he looks forward to the day when he will be acknowledged as a successful racer at the international level.
(With inputs from IANS)