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Tijil Rao, from Bangalore, has become the youngest racer to participate in the MRF MMSC FMSCI Indian National Racing Championship 2018. At just 15, Tijil will be racing for Momentum Motorsports under the guidance of four-time National Racing Champion, Deepak Paul Chinnappa.
This year's National Racing Championship has already begun. The first race weekend was held last month between June 22nd to 24th. In the weekend, Tijil managed to secure 10th and 11th positions in the first and third race. While tussling to crack into the top five, an unfortunate racing incident led to a DNF in the second race. However, Tijil managed to set the fastest lap time ‘by a rookie', at 1:09 minutes.
The Formula LGB 1300 is an entry-level single-seater open wheel class in Indian motorsports. The cars are powered by a 1.3-litre unit from Maruti Swift. The engine and all the electronics are stock, though the car rides on 13-inch MRF racing slicks. The LGB1300 class cars can reach a top speed of nearly 175km/h.
About Tijil Rao
At such a young age, Tijil Rao comes across as a vigilant fighter with the right amount of attitude. He was born with a rare condition known as ‘Clubfoot', where his feet rotated inwards. At three-and-a-half months, Tijil underwent his first surgery, followed by a second one, three years later.
Weighing 10 pounds at birth, Tijil's multiple surgeries and stunted growth through the years caused many to believe he may never be able to race.
To help overcome his condition, Tijil began participating in a number of sports activities such as swimming and basketball. Apart from being the youngest racer on the grid, Tijil is also a state-level skater. However, no other sporting activity excited him the way racing did.
Currently, Tijil is studying in the 10th Standard at ‘Mirambika School For New Age' in Bangalore.
At 11, Tijil visited the Race Concepts stand at Bangalore Auto Expo (2014). Through Race Concepts, Tijil landed the opportunity to be trained by India's current Formula GP2 driver, Arjun Maini. Under his guidance, Tijil quickly learned to push the car faster, improve lap times and quickly adapt to the track conditions.
While undergoing training on a 2 stroke kart by Ali YH, he was introduced to the BPC Racing team for participation in the National Go-karting races. During the Go-karting series, Tijil improved race-on-race and secured an overall seventh position. However, his lap times were always amongst the top.
In 2017, Tijil came onboard with Momentum Motorsports. At age 14, he was the youngest racer on the team. However, in his first training session in the Formula LGB 1300 class, Tijil recorded a lap time of 1:15 minutes. This was almost five seconds faster than other racers who are introduced to LGB1300 at the Kari Motor Speedway.
Tijil Rao looks up to racers such as Arjun Maini and Deepak Chinnappa for inspiration. He hopes to move up the racing ladder with Formula Two in his sights in the next couple of years.
Tijil is extremely focussed on racing. His parents excitedly share how he enjoys spending time on his simulator when given a chance.
His parents also explain how his disability has never come in the way of his success. They also spread the message of how people with disabilities can power their way through life much like any other determined individual; the perfect example being their son, Tijil Rao.
At 15-years-old, a boy whose walking abilities were in question at one point in time, is now following his passion of racing in the National Championships.
The Challenges Faced
One of the primary reasons why Motorsports in India hasn't reached international levels are the costs involved. Individual racers or their families spend lakhs of rupees from their own pockets every year, just to be in the racing circuit.
Tijil's parents, Mr. Sumukha Rao and Mrs. Sapna Rao gave us a brief understanding of the costs involved in sponsoring their son for the sport in India.
Mr. Sumukha shared that a whopping Rs. 17 lakh was spent for one season of the Rotex Go-karting series. Once Tijil joined Momentum Motorsports, Sumukha spends roughly Rs. 8 lakh per season. This amount though covers most aspects including training, registration, travelling, food and the track fee.
Racing, however, is just one part of the total expenditure involved in motorsports. Racers also have to build strength outside the season, while following a strict diet regime.
Tijil, as a racer, also needs to have the highest level of fitness to succeed in motorsports. This again comes in as an additional expense for the family. Tijil's personal trainer, Rakshith from WE Fitness, keeps check of his daily diet routine and upper body strength.
Finding sponsorships for such budding racers is a challenge in India. Sponsorships help racers in two ways: first is the financial relief for racers and their families; second is the exposure to better race equipment.
Sponsors also encourage passionate racers to reach their goals. They open up a number of opportunities, further allowing racers like Tijil to move up in his racing career.
About Momentum Motorsports
Momentum Motorsports is a professional racing team from Chennai. Founded by Rasheed Khan, the team made their debut in the MRF MMSC FMSCI National Racing Championship during the 2016 season. The team participates in the Formula LGB 1300 Rookie Class. In 2017, Momentum Motorsports won the Team Championship in all three categories: National Open, National Rookie, and Student Open.
Thoughts On The Youngest Racer In Indian National Racing Championship
Tijil Rao is the youngest racer in this season's National Racing Championships. The young 15-year-old boy from Bangalore has been constantly training under numerous National Champions and is now ready to prove himself on the track.