A chat with Vishnu Rajendra Prasad
Polo R Cup champion 2011 gets candid about his humble beginnings and the Indian racing scene...
“It was a family affair,” says Vishnu Prasad (as he is known in motorsport circles), with a smile and the gleam in his eyes. We were sitting at his house with his parents and sister, with his battalion of dogs, two little Beagles, a Labrador, and a majestic Great Dane, in attendance.
It all started with my dad taking me to the Danny’s Karting track when I was 6 years old. I was only in first standard at school and here I was at a Go - Karting centre with no restrictions whatsoever on the time that I could spend. What more could I ask for… it was all acceleration and braking the whole day!”
Vishnu’s father, Prasad, who is an ex-rally driver says, “It was a pre-planned move. I wanted to see whether he would take to the sport like ‘fish to water’ and yes, he reacted exactly as I had thought. Vishnu was into karting at the right age and Sheriff Dyan (veteran bike racer and owner of Danny’s Karting track), supported Vishnu with minimal charges to drive at the track. Every day after school, Vishnu was there, practising in the four-stroke Mondial karts from 4pm to 9pm.”
This was the best thing that could happen to any budding racing driver. Vishnu’s mother, Vathsala, would drive him to Danny’s and watch him practise. “I was always thrilled to see his dedication and never considered the drive to Danny’s and back a waste.” Even today, Vathsala drives her son to the SRM Engineering college, once in a while, where Vishnu studies engineering in the first year.
“In 2001, when I was seven years old, I drove my first race and won it. 2004 was the perfect year for me. I won the JK Tyre National Karting Championship and the MRF National Championship in the Cadet Class. Then Akbar Ebrahim brought in the Komer Championship with the Rotax Karts and I won the six-round championship. From 2005 and 2006, I was the JK Minimax Champion. In 2007, I was close to the Rotax Junior Class win. In the final race, I tried passing Chittesh in the final lap of the race, braked late, went off, and lost the Championship.”
“I got the chance to race at the Rotax world finals at Egypt. In 2009, again leading the Championship, I broke my leg in a nasty racing incident mid-season, and could not win the Championship. In the Formula Swift Class, I came in fourth in the championship. 2010 was a tough year for us. We even sold jewellery to get an engine for Vishnu,” says Prasad.
“All said and done, Vishnu is where he is today because of Akbar, who found the talent in Vishnu, and JK Tyres who supported us. Off the track, we cannot forget Capt. Ravishankar (whose son was also racing karts), who sponsored him for two races in the karting series in 2004, and more than that, bought him a Minimax kart. He was a great support.”
“In 2010, I got into the Polo Cup series and was doing very well. In the penultimate round, my Polo car suddenly stopped on the track and I lost valuable time. I finished third in the Volkswagen Polo Cup series 2010, where I should have won the championship. The year was bad with problems to the Formula Rolon Cars also. 2011 was good. I finished second in the Rotax Senior Class, won the Polo R cup championship and went to China on the VW Polo R Cup driver exchange programme.
With all these achievements, Prasad feels Vishnu is still in the beginning of things. “The VW series has got perfectly matched cars, good national-level media exposure and the chance to move on to Europe where the sport is big. With my love and passion for the sport and speed, and my dream to make my son achieve what I did not achieve, I have spent all that I can for him. This sport demands money. It is a shame that I or more sponsors cannot give him the kind of support that he needs. Money has always been a block, but he has made it this far with his talent and support from various quarters. India does not lack good drivers. We need more karting tracks and committed sponsors from the automobile sector to keep these drivers going.”
The family has suffered much to see Vishnu where he is today. But when you ask Vishnu what his plans and dreams are, he says, “To make a career out of motorsports if possible.”
(Words: George Francis/ Scorp News, Photos: Scorp News/ Chennai)
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