Advait Deodhar drafted to Le Mans driver selection program

By Vinayak Pande | on February 13, 2015

(pic: Siddharth Kishore)

Advait Deodhar won in his debut race weekend in the Toyota Etios Motor Racing series.

Normally people do not see much of motorsport participants except for its most famous figures. People like Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Marc Marquez and the racers who share the grid with them normally do not need to worry about what series they will be racing in for the long term. Their concern is which offer to refuse or accept. At many times, promising racers (well funded or not) coming up through the lower rungs of the motorsport ladder are also courted by those who promise them a platform to shine. However, those are the exceptions. For everyone else, a career as a professional racer is one that requires a lot of phone calls, e-mails, personal visits and racing in a variety of motorsport disciplines. Well, that or a family fortune. Twenty-four-year-old Advait Deodhar has opted for the former after getting his foot in the door in domestic racing series.

The approach has led to Deodhar being the only Indian driver selected among 24 young drivers for a 12 week driver selection process to find one driver to race with Europe-based Team SARD Morand, which has previously competed in the European Le Mans Series (ELMS) in the LMP2 category.

As the name of the series suggests, the races are endurance events held to last for a predetermined duration rather than have participants cover a specific distance as fast as possible like in Formula 1, MotoGP and American-based Indycar.

Morand has decided to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year as well as the events following it on the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) calendar after the world famous French race.

Unlike the ELMS, which features five four hour events, the WEC features seven six hour races to go with the blue riband event at Le Mans. Not to mention many ex-F1 drivers as well as a current participant in Sahara Force India's Nico Hulkenberg who will be racing with the factory Porsche team in the premier LMP1 category.

Deodhar admits that it all happened quite by chance. "I had decided that chasing an F1 dream is out of my reach due to money reasons and that it is better to focus on endurance racing," Deodhar told autoX. "So I started calling up and e-mailing a bunch of LMP2 teams and drivers and one told me about this driver selection process.

"I applied and I was shocked to see that they accepted, especially as I have been told that it is all expenses paid!"

Morand has, among its drivers, ex-F1 driver Christian Klein from Austria who has been competing in endurance racing since 2008 when he finished third overall at Le Mans while driving for Peugeot.

Klein will be one of the judges who will evaluate the field of 24 which includes the likes of former GP3 winner Conor Daly, GP3 podium finisher Dino Zamparelli and Esteban Guerrieri who finished third in the 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 series, just 12 points behind current Red Bull Racing F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo.

Deodhar faces a tough task in beating out these three and the 20 others, but he has committed himself to being as prepared as possible. "I will be looking to get as much seat and simulator time as possible," said Deodhar. "I also need to take my fitness to another level to be able to stand a chance against these guys but there's no harm in trying I guess."

The 12 week 'Race to 24' program starts on March 26.

Having raced in everything from LGB Formula 4 in the JK Tyre Racing Championship, MRF sponsored Formula Ford 1600 in the National Racing Championship and the Toyota Etios Motor Racing Cup, Deodhar even raced in the MRF Formula 2000 Challenge.

At 6'3" and weighing in at just under 80 kg, Deodhar's noticeable improvement in form was encouraging given that his size is atypical of single seat drivers along with making his full racing debut at the age of 22. He finished last year's MRF Formula Ford 1600 championship in second place with 11 podiums but was forced to miss the season finale at the Buddh International Circuit due to ill health.

Tags: 24 Hours of Le Mans

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