A graduation from karting to single-seaters is crucial for any racer in his young career. Motorsport.com looks at the options available for drivers in India.
Karting forms a foundational step in a racer's life in his quest towards becoming a professional driver.
It provides the ideal situation to learn and hone the required racecraft. But there comes a time when one has to make the decision to move to single-seaters.
Many a time, drivers underestimate the challenge and need of karting, ending up paying a hefty price.
When a driver switches to a single-seater racing, not only does he has to get used to a faster machinery, but also new race tracks which are significantly longer in length.
Further, the demands posed by cars with added front and rear end along with larger G-Force, it tests the physical strength of a driver to the extreme.
“Formula cars are bigger, scarier, wider and more powerful,’’ Kush Maini, who graduates to Formula 4 this year, told Motorsport.com.
“There is a change in visual perception and the damage costs are higher.”
“In karting, we generally race at tracks that were around 1.2 km in length. Now that I will move to cars, the length of the tracks will increase substantially to well over 5kms.”
“I will be racing around 14 circuits, so I have a lot more tracks to learn,’’ he added.
The budgets in top-trim karting and junior single-seater championships in India are very similar.
However, as one moves up the order, the cost of competing escalates quickly, requiring drivers to raise bigger budgets to continue racing.
In India’s National Karting Championship, a karter requires a budget of at least Rs 5 lakh to have a competitive season.
However, the figure may vary drastically depending upon various factors, such as spare tyres. A set of slick rubber alone costs Rs 15,000.
Correct time to switch
How does a driver decide whether he is matured enough for cars or not? This is the questions which looms for the majority of young drivers.
Some do it after two years of karting, some do after three years and some maybe even after a year - a lot depends on how quick the driver is able to adjust to the rigours of racing and how quick he/she actually is.
According to Rayo Racing boss and renowned karting coach Rayomand Banajee, age and experience in karts are two of the most important parameters while considering make the switch.
“There is no single decider," Banajee said. "However, a good yardstick is that if a racer is able to consistently get top results in karting, he/she can make the move."
“It is also age dependent," continues Banajee, who also coaches the drivers competing in the Volkswagen Vento Cup.
"Older racers (17-20 years) could switch slightly earlier whereas younger racers (14-16 years) should focus more on getting a good foundation in karting instead of succumbing to the craze of jumping to cars too early.”
But when sometimes drivers do end up jumping to cars too soon. The result?
“Move too soon and a racer might find it difficult to adapt to all the different situations,’’ Banajee said.
"Errors are usually magnified. Consistency is difficult. Crashes are spins are more likely are also much more expensive,” he adds.
Maini echoed Banajee’s opinion, saying an early graduation to cars leads to silly errors - mistakes that one could potentially eradicate by spending an additional year in karting.
In India, a karter, once completed with his karting season may decide to join the LGB championship which provides the feel of cars, having no front or rear end.
Another option for the driver is to go international and test his skills against some of the best budding racers - a season in Europe is handy to examine the progress made.
Drivers who are tied up with budget and have little to spare to travel abroad can choose to stay back in India to compete in LGB - which both JK Tyres and MRF field in their respective championships.
This is before making a switch to either the JK Tyre series, which runs Formula BMW cars, or the MRF championship, which uses Formula Ford 1600 machinery.
Both the championship also provides subsidised entry fees for drivers moving into the top single-seater racing.