Pune: In its 20th year of existence, JK Tyre FMSCI National Racing Championship has pulled out a joker card of sorts by bringing in a 21-year-old Ricky Capo of Australia.
A multi-faceted racer Capo, who is literally living a life on a fast-lane, has decided to give his time for an Indian national series, just to taste how things are in India and hone his skills for the tougher challenges.
Capo was hooked onto racing in early childhood as his father owned a motorsports engineering company. He spent most of the time in his father’s workshop and it was a no-brainer that he would soon start taking a liking to cars.
It was one of his birthdays during his early days, when his father bought him a Go-Kart as a present. Life changed for him ever since and after having moulded himself on the karting track, he shifted to the Australian Formula 3 Championship, feeder series for the Formula 1 in 2014.
He eventually tasted success in 2015, when he won the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship by the virtue of his seven wins, three pole positions and two lap records.
He also became the youngest driver to race in the BMW Z4 category in the GT3 category and also picked up one podium finish at the Albert Park Circuit. After having tried his hands in single seaters and touring cars, this year he participated in the endurance category and raced in the European Le Mans Series in Monza already winning one round.
Capo, who idolizes Aryton Senna, is currently fifth in the standings. It will be his first time in India this week when the four-leg National Racing Championship, gets underway at the Kari Speedway in Coimbatore.
Following are the excerpts from the interview:
You have previously raced in Europe, America, New Zealand and Australia and this will be your first time in India. What made you choose JKNRC as a destination this year?
I have recently started racing outside Australia and idea about racing in India was born when I spoke to Antonio Ferrari, CEO of Euro International. He spoke to me about the JKNRC and told me how great an opportunity it is for me to develop and hone driving skills.
How much do you know about the racing scenario of India?
To be honest, I actually do not have much knowledge about the racing scene here in India. But I know that Sebastian Vettel clinched his fourth Formula One World Drivers’ Championship after he won here at the Buddh International Circuit. And the final round of the JKNRC is also at the BIC and I am really excited about it. I am looking forward to learning more about India and what motorsport is like here in India.
Last year you became the youngest driver to race in the BMW Z4 category in the GT3. Could you please share with us the experience of driving in the GT3? How big of an achievement do you think that is for you?
I was competing in the Australian GT Championship and the grid was always full of amazing cars. I also scored a podium at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit against DTM and V8 Supercar drivers.
You have recently won the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) in Monza. Could you please tell us about your experience of taking part in an endurance racing series?
It has been my first season competing in endurance racing so it is something I am still getting used to. It is very important to remain consistent and focused throughout the stint because one needs to be driving continuously for a considerable period of time.
You have taken part in all different categories of racing such as endurance, touring cars and single seater cars. Which one do you rate as your personal favorite and why?
Formula 3 has been my favourite because of the amount of downforce you have. You can go through corners at really high speeds because of the aerodynamical grip and I just love the feeling of driving in the Formula 3 series.
You are used to driving Dallara F311 in Australia Formula 3 Championship and in JKNRC you will have to race in BMW FBO2. How difficult do you think will the transition from Dallara to BMW be?
I have not driven the BMW FBO2 yet but I think it will have a little speed and grip and I will be able to tell once I get in the car. I have not driven an open-wheeler car in almost a year so it will take me a little while to get used to it again.
You have always aspired to make it into the Formula 1. How far do you think from realizing that dream?
At the moment my main focus is on prototype cars. I have my aim set at competing in the World Endurance Championship in LMP1.
What are your future plans and apart from JKNRC, what are the other races that you will take part in?
I will continue competing in the European Le Mans Series where I am currently 5th in the championship.
Tell us about how the racing scenario back in Australia. How different you think it is as compared to other countries of the world?
This has been my first season competing outside Australia and I think it is really different. The level of professionalism and competition is a lot higher in Europe.
Drivers to watch out for:
Nayan Chatterjee: This 20 year old Mumbai driver missed the National title last season even after dominating the first two rounds and being one of the top contenders. He suffered battery failure in key races and lost in round three to drop down the leader board. Nayan bounced back to top again and finished third overall. He will be a lot more optimistic this year and his experience in the X30 Southeast Asia Tournament where he finished fifth in the 175cc KZ Kart, will surely be of great benefit to him.
Mira Erda: This 16-year-old girl from Gujarat became the first Indian female Formula racer of the country by getting her ticket into the Euro JK 17 category in the iconic 20th JK Tyre–FMSCI National Racing Championship, the highest formula racing in the country as well. She was part of the LGB Series last year and her impressive performance saw her finish eighth on the table. She was also awarded the "Outstanding Woman in Motorsport Award" by FMSCI. She will be the lone woman in the Euro JK 17 and will eager to make presence felt.
Vishnu Prasad: This 24 year old racer from Chennai is the most experienced one in the lot. He has participated in 10–11 seasons of JK’s National Racing Championship and is the reigning Foormula LGB Champion. He had also participated in the FB02 class and was the winner of two seasons and also the winner of JK Euro series once. He took a break from Euro category last season but is back at the Euro 17 and his prior experience in winning this category does make him a driver to watch out for.
Nirmal Umashankar: This 16-year-old racer from Chennai comes from National Rotax Max Karting Championship and will take the country’s top formula circuit and brush alongside the seasoned drivers for the first time. Nirmal is currently second on the leaderboard the National Karting Championship’s Senior Max Category and is expected to give his competitors a run for their money.