“The Fastest Indian in The World” Narain Karthikeyan opened a new chapter in his distinguished International Motorsports career last weekend, by finishing 6th in his first Le Mans Series race for the Kolles Audi Team, driving the Audi R10 TDi LMP1 Sportscar. The 5.5 liter V12, turbo-diesel powered car is one of the most successful sportscars in the history of the championship, winning the Le Mans 24-hour classic for the past three years.
Narain added another couple of ‘firsts’ to the innumerable ‘firsts’ in his career CV, becoming the first Indian driver to enter the Le Mans Series, and the first to score championship points, that too in his debut race.
The 1,000 km Endurance race held at the Spa-Francorchamps Circuit in Belgium was the venue of the second round of the 2009 Le Mans Series (LMS), where Narain started his summer season of racing in 2009. With its mixture of long straights, fast corners and varying gradients, the circuit ranks as one of the most technically challenging circuits in the world, and is a firm favourite with teams and drivers alike. Narain has good memories of this track, as it was the venue of a great battle between himself & Jacques Villeneuve during his 2005 Formula 1 campaign.
Due to the 1,000 km long endurance nature of the races (a Formula 1 race is only 305 km long), Narain shared driving duties with two other drivers, Briton Andrew Meyrick & Dutchman Charles Zwolsman. Narain undertook the driving duties during qualifying on Saturday and qualified the car 9th on the grid, ahead of the teams’ second car driven by Christian Albers.
As per championship regulations, the qualifying driver can either start the race, or finish the race, and Narain chose the latter, thus doing the 3rd & final stint during Sunday’s race. He took over the car at 5:15 pm local time, approximately 4 hours 25 minutes after the race had started, and drove the last 1 hour 25 minutes of the race. He crossed the finish line in 6th position, 2 laps ahead of the teams sister car which finished in 7th position.