It has been just over a month since the inaugural season of the X1 Racing League ended. The league is the brainchild of Indian GT racers Aditya Patel and Armaan Ebrahim. Having raced for years in international championships, the duo embarked on a plan to have a series in India.
The idea was to club racing with entertainment just like cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL). The initial plan was to run open radical cars from Coimbatore’s JA Motorsport. They even had their first media session at Buddh International Circuit (BIC) with the two-seater cars to give a glimpse into the championship.
But as the event drew close, it became
evident that it was not possible to have those cars and anything to bring in
from international shores will be costly. The last-ditch idea put in then, was
to use the old Formula BMW cars from Italy’s Euro International team.
The cars were last used in JK Tyre’s Euro JK championship and were put out due to its age. The decision eventually backfired when the organisers stepped into the first weekend as the idea of racing wasn’t designed for the single-seater cars they had. On top of that, the mechanical issues started to creep in.
Both the rounds at Buddh and also Madras
Motor Race Track had their own sets of challenges. With some time passed since
the events took place, The Bridge connected with Patel to
reflect on the challenges he faced in the inaugural season of the league.
“It was definitely a tough couple of
years getting the series off the ground,” Patel stated.
“We did meet a lot of challenges along
the way. We have to remember that only a handful of people have spent money in
promoting the sport and it is always going to be a huge task to sell to people
who have not had any prior involvement in the sport before.”
Fortunately the league had great support from its investors and team owners along the way. There were fare share of issue that came along, be it in terms of cars, circuits or even organization. However, there were plenty of positives as well.
“The audience that was there in huge numbers
enjoyed themselves, the TV numbers were a pleasant surprise and the drivers welcomed
the concept,” Patel said.
One big plus point as Patel mentioned was a
TV deal with Sony ESPN. It is not easy for an Indian motorsport event to
feature on TV in India.
And as he pointed out, the challenge was
also to rope in team owners from India and abroad. One of the overseas owner
was the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. The oraganisers managed to get some reputed
brands as the sponsors for the first season.
In fact, Patel describes the situation as where
‘they did whatever they could with what they had’.
There was also an ESports competition which
was organized by the side of the league. The Esports too had its own sets of challenges
but it turned out to be slightly more successful.
After the organizers had done reflecting on
the past they looked ahead. The biggest challenge which Patel quickly reacted
to was that of the race cars. After much disappointment with the cars used in
the season -– they didn’t bode well with anyone-- it is a welcome call.
It will be interesting to see as to which
direction they go. The radicals could be an option along with the open LMP cars
or if they change course and bring in the touring cars, which will get some
manufacturers in the game as well.
Patel, though, seems optimistic and also
positive about the future.
“Cars – that will change without any
doubt,” he said.
“We have a handful of other changes that
you will see coming in Season 2. We have to keep in mind that we did bring down
the teams cost to accommodate them, from what was originally planned.” Patel
Patel believes that if the cars can be made
affordable more people could dip their fingers into the sport. Patel is aware
that the first season of the league promised something and delivered something
else but not everyone is aware of the reasons behind it. The main idea is to
grow the sport in the country.
“We're not here to make a quick buck and
run, “ cautioned Patel.
Criticisms aside, both Patel and Ebrahim
tried to change the face of the sport in India and they almost succeeded. Managing
every aspect of a league as big as this is quite the task. As Patel admitted,
there were some shortcomings but it was a lesson learnt.
We also cannot forget that both are racers
and they had to keep aside their racing shoes to go ahead with the
championship. When quizzed on his racing ambitions, Patel’s answer was interesting
as he said that he had ‘things in mind’. But the two await to see if they get back into
their racing cars.