MS Prince is the first person in Indian motorsport in more than 5 years to win a National Championship in motorbikes and then shift to four-wheels and achieve success in his very first event.
Prince is a seasoned privateer rider who has been competing at the highest level of motorsport in the country for more than a decade. He won the 2009 and 2010 National Dirt Track Championship as a privateer in the foreign bike category. And after facing a horrendous life-threatening crash in a Supercross event in 2011, he bounced back to win the SJOBA Rally in 2012, once again in the foreign bike category. Prince had been competing on two-wheels for years until recently when he decided to shift to four wheels. It seems that the transition has been pretty good because in his very first Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) outing this year, he took home the INRC 3 title. We sat down with Prince to talk about his transition and the current state of Indian motorsport.
Why did you decide to make the switch from bikes to cars?
I made the switch because car rallying has become the top form of Indian motorsport. There are sponsors like Yokohama, JK Tyre and MRF who back privateers, which is very important because motorsport is an expensive sport. I’m at a point in my career where I need to look towards the future. Currently, there are no supercross or motocross privateers making it big in the Indian motorsport scene. So, there is a lot more potential in four-wheeler events.
How has the transition been? How did you prepare?
The transition has been good so far. 2019 was my first rally, and I finished 8th overall after having started at 52nd. Even though I didn’t have a navigator with an NRC background, we were still pretty good, and I was helped a lot by Gaurav Gill. Also, JK Tyre supported me a lot. This year, we started with a win in the first round in Arunachal and were third in the second round. I don’t prepare much with cars because I don’t have access to a good track. But we do a lot of testing before at the location. I also had a lot of help at Gaurav Gill Advanced Driving Academy.
What is more competitive, bikes or cars?
Cars are a lot more competitive, for sure. With bikes, there were maybe 8 or 10 riders in the privateer category. It’s more or less the same riders sharing the top 4 or 5 spots. In cars, it’s a lot more competitive because, in the INRC 3 category, there are 15 to 25 entries, and the stages are very technical. Rallying is a lot more competitive because unlike racing you are not going together at the same time. Everyone is going after 2 minutes, and you have to make sure you give your best at each stage. I am having a lot of fun here and learning a lot as well.
Many international sponsors were ready to back you in the bike category? Will you stick to cars or do you plan to get back to bikes again?
I have sponsors who have given me gear and parts, but you need to travel a lot. You have transportation costs, accommodation charges, and diet. I am getting a lot more support now from JK Tyres and have signed a contract as well. It’s a lot more professional. I have been around for more than a decade, and the scene is definitely improving. As a driver, I am also evolving. But, to be honest, the rush you get on bikes is a lot greater. The fun factor for me is more on bikes, and even your fitness level needs to be a lot higher for bikes. So, the training in that respect is different. As I mentioned earlier, I need to think about my future.
You have been around for a long time. What does the future hold for Indian motorsport?
I’ve been here for a long time, for sure, and the future is definitely looking good in every sense for motorsport. A lot more sponsors and a lot more competitive stages have made Indian rallying one of the best in Asia. You now have as many as 65 entries in one rally. For supercross and motocross, there needs to be more involvement from sponsors. The sport needs to be marketised more. Obviously, CS Santosh and Arvind KP have opened the doors, and Harith is the first Indian to finish in the top 20 in Dakar. The future is certainly bright. It's just that our officials at the top need to marketise the sport just like other sports are being marketed in India.