The Motorsport Monk
Sanjay Sharma is the head of JK Tyres Motorsport and the organiser of one of the most prestigious races on the Indian calendar. What impresses us about the man is not just his storied background but his paternal feelings about his drivers. Who, he refers to as ‘My Boys!’
There was a time when Motorsport was a game for the rich, Sanjay Sharma was a Rally Driver and J.K. Tyre was a tyre manufacturer which was more interested in sponsoring cricket matches. In 1980, J.K. Tyre felt that its product was more important than just a branding name on a cricket bat. It became the first sponsor of Himalayan Rally. However, in 1993 J.K. Tyre needed somebody who could give its motorsport wing some direction. That is when it approached Sanjay Sharma.
Sanjay quickly breaks down that stage in motorsport, “They (J.K. Tyre) needed to overhaul their approach. They needed to do motorsport the way the rest of the world does. And, since then we have put our 100 per cent of our resources on one property. Now, we don’t sail in many boats.”
But, things haven’t been that simple and that easy. Recently it had to start from the scratch again, and Sanjay is very candid when he says, “What we started doing in our programme 5 – 7 years back, we should have done 20 years ago. And when I am talking about the programme, I am not just talking about J.K. Tyre, I am talking about M.R.F. 2 litre cars and other series of racing. We are all together at a certain level because we only have one Formula One circuit in this country. And even if we want to proceed to the next level, through the other two circuits in the country, that is Chennai and Coimbatore, the max we can go up to is Formula 3 racing.”
However, with the J.K. Tyre push, things are changing for better. Earlier, when drivers like Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok went abroad, to proceed to the next level of racing, it took them a long time to find their groove and reach the podium. But, with the technology, J.K. Tyre is putting on its cars, which are BMW engines combined with the best engineers and world class tyres, specifically engineered for F4 or Truck Racing. New and upcoming racers like Jeehan Daruwala and Arjun Maini are taking over the sport and snatching races from their peers.
When talking about future, Sanjay expands on the future of J.K. Tyre motorsports events, “After my lease finishes with the Formula BMW cars, I must look at next level of technologies. And next year bring them to India so that the same setup (the world uses), in apple to apple situation, helps us reach to the next level. Then, when my boys get unleashed to the next level, they can easily transition to Formula 2 or Formula 1.”
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