Backed by young Indian racers, Aditya Patel and Armaan Ebrahim, India will host world’s first city-based motorsport league in the first quarter of 2019.
Titled as the Xtreme1 Racing League or X1 Racing League, the racing series will be held on a mix of track and street circuits and will have the participation of eight city-based teams, each comprising two cars and four drivers.
The league will be run by Racing Promotions Pvt Ltd and is backed and sanctioned by the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI), the governing body for motorsports in the country.
To talk us through the finer details of the league, CNBC-TV18's Sohini Dutt caught up with Patel and Ebrahim during their visit to Mumbai.
Conception Of The X1 Racing League
Aditya Patel: We have been travelling together for the last three years given our races have been on the same weekends, pretty much stuck with each other on the same flight, same hotel, same rental car and after some time, we pretty much ran out of stuff to talk about.
Obviously, most of our discussions was on racing and that slowly led to us talking about doing a league in India. Since, we also go to the gym together every day, we decided one morning let’s just sit down, put pen to paper and we came up with a format that was pretty good to look at. We floated it by a few people who liked it and the league was born.
USP Of The X1 Racing League
Armaan Ebrahim: We have spoken to people who have run different series, attempted to run various series and leagues, learned what their shortcomings were, learned what their mistakes were, what worked and didn’t work and realised that our agenda was completely different from what they were trying to achieve. So, we took a note of what their shortcomings were and we have come up with something that’s very India centric and we think it will really work here.
Aditya Patel: Now a days, our attention spans are literally nothing. We can’t sit and watch an event for too long, so on that front, we have created a shorter format, three short races a day, then you have a break in the middle, stuff to do around the circuit so that’s one side of it.
To make it as equal as possible and to to bring gender equality, we have women race against men on the same track, on the same day with no separate category. It’s pure head to head racing and also in terms of engineering, we are giving an opportunity to Indian engineers, be it men or women, who have wanted to be racing engineers. We are hoping this can be a launch pad not only for the drivers but for the technical side as well.
X1 League’s Race Weekend Format
Armaan Ebrahim: We are looking at a two day race weekend. On Saturday, the racers would start with one session of practice and qualifying. But both days would have three races, each weekend would have six races and each race would be a different format. We are still customising each race format but we will be mixing the grid up, which will make the races exciting as well.
Second thing, we are definitely going to have street races and this will always make things exciting because it’s all close and compact and it attracts a lot of people. You are taking the race to the people rather than expecting them to come all the way to watch you race. So that’s another exciting aspect of the race.
Race Car Details:
Armaan Ebrahim: We have got options but it’s going to be a prototype which will have like LMP2 car two seats but in the near future, you will be able to tell you which one we have decided upon in terms of the chassis, manufacturer and the engine.
Aditya Patel: It’s going to be a custom chassis. We want something that is unique to us, not something that is being used in multiple championships. In terms of engines, we have approached many manufacturers and there seems to be a lot of interest. So in the first year, it’s going to be a single engine manufacturer to keep a level playing field and we are looking at a car that will produce 250-280 BHP.
Teams And Drivers?
Armaan Ebrahim: We are looking at eight teams, which have 16 cars and 32 drivers. That means, two drivers per car and there will be a pit stop where they will swap the drivers. The four drivers will consist of an international male and an international female driver, an Indian driver racing internationally and one racing in domestic championships. There would also be a fifth driver in the team, who would be the developing driver.
Post the league, for the remainder of the year, you will have a 6-12 round series where the patrons take part. Either the franchisee or he can nominate someone to drive those races, like the Indian domestic driver, they can score bonus points for their overall league table so that has a lot of engagement with the franchisee or the people involved as well. Because, once they get engaged, they are not just team owners but they get to drive and associate with their brand as well.
Driver Selection Process?
Armaan Ebrahim: It’s a draft system, a bit different from Indian Premier League (IPL) at least for the first year. It creates equality, gives everyone a fair opportunity. Also, the budgets are all set, it’s centralised in their fee, so they are just strategising in terms of what will suit their teams best in terms of performance rather than just trying to thrown in more money. So to start it off, at least this will give all team owners a good chance to get their best package.
Aditya Patel: We have got eight city based franchises that we want an IPL style, racing league and the idea is to bring in more sponsors to the sport, to bring in more corporates, enthusiasts, individuals to the sport. We have seen that increase over the last few years and now we just want to give people a platform to do it. We feel we are very competitively priced in terms of the teams (Rs 6.5-7 crore, per year all-inclusive) because when we look at other leagues like volleyball or table tennis, in terms of the franchise, we are pretty competitively priced in the sense that the teams get a lot given the cars, drivers, the cost of the crew is included plus, we have a minimum guarantee in terms of return with our revenue every year. The teams are free to bring in sponsors of their own so that they can recover their costs. So, we do have a format which is very team centric to give them the best possible opportunity where they see enough possibility of return.
Challenges Faced To Secure Street Race Sanction
Aditya Patel: Basically, at the get go, we had to meet a lot of people on the government front, to get permissions to use their roads. We did shortlist a couple of cities and then went and met the municipality and government officials of those locations. We got positive responses from each of them and we have gone ahead and done surveys in few locations and we have sent these final drawings to the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) for approval. So we are going through the entire procedure as per plan. The FIA has been very supportive of our plan and so that’s a good sign. So in the next few months, we can give you some more information.
Broadcasting The Event
Armaan Ebrahim: Since our announcement, we have generated a lot of interest. We have had some discussions, but apart from mainstream broadcasters that would reach a mass audience, we are definitely looking at the future being OTT (Over-the-top media distribution) and we definitely want to look at that platform and through both platforms, we will be able to reach all sectors.
Aditya Patel: It’s interesting because when we did our research on this, obviously you want the best broadcaster, but motorsport in general in terms of Formula 1, MotoGP and Formula E, which is on Indian television, the number of viewers is 25 million in India and that too for motorsport, which is not India-specific. If we do something for the Indian audience, which is India specific, we see ourselves doubling the audience, maybe more. We are juggling between broadcasters at the moment.
Armaan Ebrahim: If you look at kids coming in today, they are not only coming from one part of India, but they are coming from all over India. It’s only because their parents are a lot more accepting towards the fact that motorsport is a career to be taken seriously. It can be like any other career, like cricket or any other sport they allow their kids to take up and then it’s up to them to make it which earlier was never the case, it was either considered a hobby or something you could just take up over weekends. But today, parents are pushing their kids towards motorsport and that’s what’s going to improve the sport in the country.
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