Mumbai: Four decades after Niki Lauda and James Hunt tussled in Formula 1, a rivalry immortalised in the Hollywood biopic ‘Rush’, their sons — Mathias Lauda and Freddie Hunt — will go wheel to wheel in India at the newly-launched X1 Racing League.
“This will be like Rush 2.0,” joked Indian driver Armaan Ebrahim, who, along with driver Aditya Patel, has conceptualised this league.
The racing league will be held across two weekends (30 November-1 December at New Delhi’s Buddh International Circuit and 7-8 December at Chennai’s Madras Motor Race Track) and comprise of six franchises each containing one international driver, one Indian international driver, one female driver and one Indian national driver. Each franchise will have two cars, with the management getting the option to select the team composition. The organisers have mandated that the international driver cannot be paired with the Indian international driver.
Besides Lauda and Hunt, the other international drivers are Italian ex-F1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi, Malaysia’s Alex Yoong, China’s Frankie Cheng and England’s Oliver James Webb. The international female drivers are Pippa Mann, Alice Powell, Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting, Christina Neilsen and Gosia Rdest.
Tag-team car racing
While most motorsport events have single drivers racing through the race, the X1 Racing League has sought to make the league interesting with a format which appears to be inspired by relay races in athletics.
Each race weekend will have six races, with the inaugural season slotted to have 12 races. Each day, there will be one practice and a qualifying session. Since each car has two drivers, both will do a timed lap in qualifying with their times being aggregated to decide the starting grid for Race 1 of each race day.
In the first two races of the day, there will be a window for pit-stops between the 12th and 17th minute, which is the only time a car can stop in Race 1 and 2. Teams will have to swap drivers during this window, meaning the driver racing the car will have to get off while his teammate will continue in the same car. Each race will be 30 minutes long with the second driver taking the car across the finish line.
“The teams won’t change tyres or anything during pit-stops. Instead, they will change drivers! You score more points to win Race 1 than for winning Race 2 of any race day.”
In the third race of each race day, only six cars will compete instead of 12, with all four racers in one team competing together almost like a tag team. When the driver of the first car of a team comes in to pit between Lap 3 and 5, the second car will shoot off on to the race track. In this time, the first car will have its driver getting out of the cockpit so that the third driver can take his/her place. The first car will then join the race when the second car comes in to the pits so that the drivers of the second car can swap.
“I don’t think the format of Race 3 has been done anywhere in the world. It’s a relay for cars. The format will have the drivers on their toes. One driver is sitting in the pits trying to remove his belt and get out of the car while the other climbs in… it’s easy when you’re talking about it. But when you’re doing this in race situation with the tension all around, everything can go wrong,” said Ebrahim.
Patel admitted that the while there might be some confusion at the start, the format will produce excitement as well.
To appeal to family audiences, the organisers will also be hosting an X1 eSports event, which will be a digital simulator-based racing competition held between 10 October and 17 November. The competition will be held in malls and colleges across six cities. The winner of the competition will also be awarded a contract to learn motorsports under the tutelage of Patel and Ebrahim.