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'Hope to boost motorsports accessibility with XI Racing League'
New Delhi, Nov 19 - The rise of leagues for a variety of sports in India over the past decade has been part of the ripples created by the Indian Premier League (IPL). In the years since the first IPL season was played, leagues have emerged for football, kabaddi, badminton, volleyball, table tennis, among others, all with varying degrees of success.
The latest entrant into this game of leagues represents motorsports, a field that has often found difficulty in the past to get acceptance as a legitimate sport in the country. This notion has changed considerably and the most prominent example of that shift in perception was seen with ace rally car driver Gaurav Gill winning the Aruna Award earlier this year.
Gill would be one of 30 drivers who will be part of the inaugural season of the X1 Racing League.
The league is promoted by Indian racers Armaan Ebrahim and Aditya Patel and will be held from November 30-December 1 in New Delhi at the Buddh International Circuit and December 7-8 in Chennai at the Madras Motor Race Track.
Ebrahim says that one of the biggest challenges they had to tackle while putting the competition together was to control the costs. "Most areas of motorsports are all technologically driven -- the cost for research and development and budgets get really high," Ebrahim told IANS.
"So what we have done is we made sure that we control that by centrally running the whole league. So that means that the league provides the engineers, the cars, it takes care of the running costs of the vehicles and everyone gets equal machinery. So ultimately it's about the driver in each car and getting the best out of them. It really depends upon who performs the best on the day of the race and not on the car."
Apart from Gill, the league also features Narain Karthikeyan, the first driver from India to have competed in Formula 1 and Arjun Maini among the Indian drivers, and international drivers, including Mathias Lauda, son of F1 legend Niki Lauda.
Ebrahim said that there was hardly any effort involved in getting the drivers on board. "Especially the international drivers, they were really intrigued to see what's in store for them. Obviously for domestic Indian drivers they are really pumped," he said.
"Our vision is simple -- making motorsports friendly and accessible to the Indian market; breaking this myth that motorsports is only for people involved in it," he said.
He hopes the response that the first season of X1 Racing eSports got is an indicator for the kind of crowds that can come for the racing league. The eSports competition is a digital simulator-based racing competition and the organisers stated that it attracted over 5,000 participants in its Delhi edition.
"If the numbers are anything like this in the racing league, I think we are off to a great start. What the eSports competition has taught is that there is a lot of interest for motorsports in India.
"The Buddh International Circuit has always managed to draw good crowds, so I am looking forward to finding out myself. I have a few realistic expectations and I hope they are matched. We are trying whatever we can to attract an audience. Apart from just the race, we want to create a carnival vibe to the weekend. We hope families take it up," he said.
(Rohit Mundayur can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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