Vikash Anand (22) is a MRF Formula 1600 champion. The Chennai racer made a comeback in March this year — after a sabbatical that lasted nearly 18 months — with double victories in the MRF 1600 category in the second round of the MMSC FMSCI National Racing Championship. In August, Vikash again secured a double win in the finals, clinching the championship title and also won a ticket to the Mazda Road to Indy.
As of early Monday morning, however, Vikash will be known for a tragic car accident in which he, allegedly under the influence of alcohol, drove a Porsche into 12 parked autorickshaws in Chennai, killing one person and injuring 10 others.
In an interview with Vikash, conducted late in March this here, he opened up about his interests, his inspiration and his experiences. Edited excerpts follow:
When did your tryst with racing begin? What got you interested in the sport?
I was always interested in cars, probably right from the time I was born. I started steering a car when I was four years old, sitting on my mother's lap. By the time I was seven, my dad took me karting and when I was eight, I participated in my first kart race — which I won. Fearing the risk associated with this sport, my parents stopped me from racing, but used to take me karting every Sunday, which helped me develop over six years and become a much better driver.
What sort of support did you receive from your family to pursue your racing career? What was it like to carve out a career in such a sport in a cricket-dominated country?
(laughs) It is not so much about how I carved out my career in a cricket-dominated country, but how I managed to carve out my career in a cricket dominated family. Dad wanted me to play cricket and eventually represent the country. But cricket was never my forté. However, it was my dad who supported me in racing, although he was very reluctant initially. Since he was a sportsperson, he did not mind my choice of career. It was the combination of love and respect my parents had towards my interest that helped me grow in this sport. Luckily, I have a brother who took up my parents' love for cricket — in which he is doing well and presently playing in the first division in Tamil Nadu.
The biggest sponsor I've ever had in my life is my family, which has sponsored me with its love and affection, and completely backed me throughout my career. It is really difficult to make a career in a cricket-dominated country, because sponsors are only interested in investing in cricket. If a sponsor is sponsoring a racer, either he or she has to be a motorsports enthusiast or a person who understands the difficulties and details of the sport.
On the topic of sponsors, what sort of support have you received from them so far?
Most of it is monetary. But as far as I have seen, sponsors are more interested in sponsoring mainstream sports. But I am definitely grateful to every company that has sponsored me upto this point. Without them, I would not be where I am right now.
My only message to young racers is that if you want to make a mark in this sport, do not fear death.
Who are your role models?
Narain anna (Narain Karthikeyan). He is the first ever Formula 1 driver from India and has mentored me since 2009, guiding me every step of the way to the top. So I look up to him a lot. I also consider Lewis Hamilton as a role model for his aggressiveness when he needs to be aggressive and his calmness during dire situations, Ayrton Senna for his greatness, and Nikki Lauda and James Hunt for the greatest battles and friendship Formula 1 has ever seen.
What are your thoughts on the sort of infrastructure India offers for this sport?
The government has never shown interest in supporting such a glamorous and adrenaline-pumping sport. We have a very beautiful Formula 1 track in Delhi. Even though the hosts are ready to conduct the race, the government is not ready to waive their taxes and is very stringent with their customs as Formula 1 brings a lot of logistics into the country. I remember in 2013, the Ferrari team’s essential spares were stuck with the customs and they were running on a very limited amount of spares for the race.
When the biggest event in the world does not come to our country, we definitely don’t get investors to invest in this sport regionally. Since I started racing, I have seen a significant amount of improvement in infrastructure, but not as much as we'd like it to be. I’ve been observing growing numbers of people getting into this sport. I just wish Formula 1 could return to India so that more companies could become aware of racing and invest in helping to develop the infrastructure.
Do you have any message for upcoming racers?
Yes. This sport is very challenging, involves a lot of risk and only the gutsy ones will survive. My only message to young racers is that if you want to make a mark in this sport, do not fear death. And don’t worry, technology has improved a lot, so these days, this sport is safe enough. Also I would like to mention, coming into this sport requires a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work, concentration and requires the elimination of distractions young people would go through. For the record, I have lost my childhood but I have gained something more valuable that that.
What do you enjoy doing apart from racing?
I love to spend time with my friends. I’m a huge movie buff. I like to take long drives and also, I’m a very social person who loves to meet new people. I love playing video games. I’m a huge foodie and a big time food critic. Chinese is my thing. My other interests include music and taking care of stray dogs.