Two Hyderabadi youth are taking drag racing, a less heard of sport in India, to new heights. For the first time ever, the world finals of one of the fastest motorsports in the world, drag racing, will have two Indians participating. Sonu Sundeep Singh Sokhi and Amit Sharma, both Hyderabadi lads, will be participating in the drag racing world finals, to be held in November at Valdosta, Georgia in the US.
Sonu and Amit, who are all set to make it as the first few in the final event, talk to TNM about their journey so far and about the sport that is yet to pick pace in the Indian scenario.
It was in 2007 that Sonu sat among the viewers and had his first brush with drag racing. Sonuâ€™s father, who has an extraordinary collection of vintage motorcycles, wouldnâ€™t let him on the track until 2010 when Sonu made his debut in racing in Hyderabad.
â€śI lost my first race. The second time I competed with my father and finished second, and in my third race, I emerged as the winner. It has been a long journey since then,â€ť Sonu recounts.
Sonuâ€™s passion for the race is clearly visible in his words that demonstrate his know-how about the sport. For the uninitiated, drag racing is one of the fastest motorsports, where participants race against time to win the competition. In simple words, Sonu says itâ€™s similar to the IPL, where two racers compete at a time and the participants who take the least time to reach the mark make it to the finals. Each participant is supposed to cover 410 m, which is approximately one-fourth a mile.
For Amit, who has been into the sport for the past 10 years, titles are no longer a fixation.
â€śIt is in fact an honour to represent a sport, which is yet to kick off in the Indian sports scene, at the international level. India provides hardly any support to any motorsport event considering the negligible revenue it generates. So, this should be a push for the many youngsters who are passionate about riding but havenâ€™t found a track yet,â€ť Amit says.
â€śAt the world finals, apart from winning a title, my aim is also to participate in the five international racing events happening across the US,â€ť he adds.
The beginnings of the duoâ€™s journey to the world finals started last year when their performance at the countryâ€™s premier drag racing event at Aamby Valley in Maharashtra caught the eyes of 11-time drag racing champion Ricky Gadson of the US.
This was followed by a training session by Gadson where the duo were selected from India to represent the country at the world finals. The event is the ultimate showdown for racers from across the world where the drag racing world champion will be selected by the Man Cup Motorcycle Drag Racing, North Americaâ€™s largest motorcycle racing sanctioning body.
Talking about the sport in India, Sonu says that owing to its unpopularity, India does not even have properly laid tracks for drag racers to practise on. â€śI initially began practising at the stretches near the Hyderabad airport, which eventually the state government took over once the construction of the airport began. We often practise on secluded roads and highways for lack of tracks. Also, we ride super bikes, which are built at a huge expense, and Indian roads are not ideal for these motorcycles, which results in frequent wear and tear.â€ť
Sonu and Amit have regularly come up with exemplary performances with the former topping the charts for the fastest bike in the 2018 Valley Run, while Amit won the ISW (India Speed Week) title in May this year. They will be racing on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX 14R, a turbocharged version of which they have here. As the duo gear up for the final event, they say that practising on roads in India is not very helpful.
â€śWe have been following strict diets and maintaining our health but practising on Indian roads really doesnâ€™t add up to the effort. The difference between drag racing in India boils down to the tarmac, or the racing track, with tracks here having no traction or grip. In other countries, tracks are glued on tarmacs which provides better traction and is also high on safety,â€ť Amit says.
Apart from the expensive superbikes, drag racing in itself is a pricey affair.
â€śTo make the sport a sustainable one, finding sponsors is the most difficult task. This single event alone would cost around USD 25,000 and unless one can find a suitable sponsor, one cannot really imagine participating in these events that burn a hole in your pocket,â€ť Amit opines.
With no godfathers or mentors to look up to, the duo hopes the sport picks up pace in the Indian sports scene soon.
â€śMost of the sports events in India are undervalued except for cricket, considering the huge revenue it generates. Due to the lack of tracks and the huge expense involved, many young passionate riders shelve their dreams of participating in motorcycle sports, with most events having no backing from the state,â€ť Sonu says.
â€śWe only hope more youngsters are encouraged into taking up the sport and at least tracks be laid, where one can practise and enjoy the sport,â€ť the duo adds.