QNET caught up with Brand Ambassador Chetan Korada for a quick Q ‘n’ A session to know about his recent racing activities, his progression as a racing professional, evolution of motorsport in India, how he is coping up with life during the pandemic and much more. Excerpts from the interview.
Congratulations on being invited to race in the FIA Formula 4 South East Asia Championship. Surely, the competition to get a spot is immense and the pressure to perform is always high. How will you soak up all that?
Thank you. Well, the way I see it, there’s no pressure really as I have always enjoyed what I am doing. Formula 4, or even Formula 3, in which I have raced, is about finishing all the races. As a team, we are focussed on incremental improvements that add up in the long run. Personally, as a driver, I want to stay competitive and look forward to giving other drivers a run for their money.
Looking at your progress and challenges in competing in the MRF FMSCI National Racing Championship, how do you feel?
Oh, it always feels great to look back at MRF National Racing Championships, and the JK Tyre racing series before that. As a driver, I am constantly evolving and those races certainly helped me a lot in being where I am today. The National Racing Championship has definitely made motorsports more popular in India. I feel I need to race a lot more in these championships to do my bit and encourage more drivers to take up the sport. There is a lack of awareness about motor racing as a sport and that’s something I can help by racing more in India. Given the current pandemic and restrictions on travel, you will certainly see me racing more often in India than in the past.
That brings me to my next question. Your life as a race car driver is motivating and truly inspiring. What keeps you going and what would you like to convey to young Indians who aspire to venture into the sport?
The short answer to that question is hard work and loads of effort in the right direction. I’ve always believed that you can realise any dream if you work hard enough with absolute belief in your abilities. In motor racing, every millisecond matters and we are constantly working to shave that one thousandth of a second off the lap times. So, to be successful as a race driver, one needs to constantly learn. Everyday is a learning opportunity actually. And I think that’s what keeps me going, to improve every day and to be a better driver today than I was yesterday. My message to aspiring race drivers is to start early and find the right guidance. Your talent combined with hard work can help you become whatever you aspire.
As a motorsport enthusiast, how important is it to be associated with a brand like QNET and what’s your take on the impact of sponsorships in motorsports?
Going back to the days preceding my signing the contract with QNET, I remember reading about QNET and the values with which the company strives to conduct its business. It was really amazing to know we have so much in common. The focus on performance with a never-give-up attitude, values such as hard work, dedication, and passion, a winning mentality that’s firmly based on achieving goals through fair means … these are the attributes that I swear by and there was an instant connection. Having the support of a strong brand like QNET that’s recognised worldwide is a huge boost to any sportsperson. Especially in an expensive sport such as motor racing, sponsorships are immensely important and I am grateful to be associated with the brand. QNET’s sponsorship has definitely been one of the most significant factors in my success so far.
Looking at the wide range of products that QNET has promoted over the years, which one would Chetan Korada recommend to young upcoming racers?
To answer that question, I must tell you that motor racing is one of the most demanding sports and we, the drivers, need to be at the peak of our fitness levels. With only a few milliseconds separating the winners from the also-rans, we have to remain totally focussed and cannot afford to take our eyes off even for a jiffy. Being in a race car can be physically taxing too. Each driver loses a few pounds over the course of a race due to severe dehydration. Impeccable hand-eye coordination, sharp reflexes, and great concentration over extended periods are some of the attributes that come only with the fittest of the bodies. That’s where QNET’s Nutriplus EDG3 helps me a lot and that’s something I consume regularly. EDG3 is a part and parcel of my fitness regime.
Compared to European and South American nations, motorsports in India has not picked up pace compared to track events and of course, cricket. What do you feel the future has in store?
India definitely has immense potential in motor sports both as a talent pool of drivers and a market of audience. I see a lot of interest in Formula 1 and Moto GP among youngsters and that’s soaring with each passing season. Of course, the level of passion for motorsport is yet to catch up with the European and South American countries. But then, those countries started off with racing several decades ago whereas we got in to it much later. It’s only a matter of time before the interest will be comparable. That said, there are several motorsport events that happen regularly in the country and after the recent F2000 event that was held in Chennai, I received several enquiries on how to pursue motor racing as a career. That’s very promising. Also, the onus is on us, drivers and teams, to regularly interact with the crowd. Whether it’s on social media or attending various events, we need to do our bit to connect with them and as I said earlier, create an awareness about the sport.
Motorsports is all about breaking barriers and conquering obstacles. Did having prosthetic limbs ever present a challenge and how has that helped you focus on your passion?
This is one question that people ask me a lot (laughs). You know I never thought having prosthetic limbs as a challenge or an obstacle that I had to overcome. On the contrary, it was a huge motivating factor during my initial days. It was something that made me work that much harder. I learnt to pay extra attention to various aspects of the sport such as protecting the tyres with optimal braking to have one fewer pitstop or driving under wet conditions. I saw my disability as an opportunity to perform better. Right from a very young age, I was never the one to sulk in self-pity or to expect sympathy from others. I treated myself on par with others and expected the same from others. I saw this sport as a means to put my dedication, hard work, and passion to great use and to rewrite my story in a way I can.
What was your lowest point in life in your racer journey and how have you transformed your lowest points into something that pushed you to do better?
In a way, I have been lucky in this aspect. I am not saying there were no disappointments or few minor setbacks. In fact, as a race driver in India where the sport gets very low recognition, the journey is anything but rosy. I was prepared for all that and took it on my chin. If I have to point at one stage in my career and say that was my lowest, I’d say it was after I had achieved my initial success and I was expecting people to appreciate my efforts despite my challenges. But I quickly overcame that and continued with my racing. Things changed a lot after I was associated with QNET and we have been reaching out and interacting with my fans a lot more. I believe there is a greater value to my sportsmanship where support would be great from other organizations too to grow in this sport. Nevertheless, I am immensely grateful for all the resources I have.
How are you coping with the COVID-19 pandemic? How has it affected your routine?
COVID -19 has made me realize the importance of little joys of life and the gratitude for being healthy and alive. In the absence of real racing on the tracks, we have shifted over to intense race car simulations. With all the cutting-edge technology at our disposal, the racing fraternity are making the most of it. In a way, it has opened up many avenues for us racing enthusiasts, you know different cars, different tracks, driving conditions. It’s fun and I am enjoying it. I regularly race on these platforms with other professional drivers where we compete with the same spirit and rigour. On the personal front, I am spending a lot of quality time with my friends and family, enjoying home food, and generally having a good time. Then there is my 9-month old daughter, Sriyaa, who loves to be around me. Thanks to the gym I have set up at home and my personal trainer, my fitness regime hasn’t been affected a bit. But yes, I am counting the days when I can feel the rush again being in my second home – my race car.
And lastly, what does Chetan Korada have in store in 2020-2021?
With the current pandemic, nothing is certain with international racing series. Although some of the big races like Formula 1 have their schedule for 2020 ready, it’s going to be some time before other races come up with a plan for the restart. For now, I am going to go ahead with what I have in hand and race in the National Racing Championships and establish a bigger presence in India.
Chetan Korada is an Indian racing driver who holds the distinction of being the first ever driver in the world to win a race using synthetic feet. He is the first, in Asia and second in the Entire world, to participate and even to win in racing using prosthesis leg (after Alex Zanardi, former Formula One driver).