Former F1 racer Karun Chandhok on designing Pune’s Nanoli racetrack

The 2.92-kilometre Nanoli track, he says, will be India’s fourth major racing venue

Even during a raging pandemic, former Formula One (F1) racer Karun Chandhok travels frequently. His television commentary work for F1 requires him to do so. Week after week, the Chennai-based sportsperson moves from one bio-bubble to the other. “I am somewhat of an expert in COVID-19 tests by now,” he jokes about undergoing 29 tests.

Apart from talking motorsport on television and writing about it, Karun is also involved in designing new racetracks and modifying old ones. Last year, he helped Driven International, a UK-based motorsport venue architect company, to design the Nanoli Speedway track in Pune. He also helped the firm in modifying the design of Coimbatore’s Kari Motor Speedway, which is being upgraded.

The 2.92-kilometre Nanoli track, he says, will be India’s fourth major racing venue after Madras Motor Race Track in Chennai, Kari Motor Speedway, Coimbatore and the Buddh International Circuit, Noida. The location, Karun says, is ideal for racing enthusiasts, supercar owners and automobile companies from both cities.

“There are a lot of supercar owners and racers in Mumbai, who don’t have the space to drive. It is difficult and sometimes dangerous to drive those cars within the city. To drive fast, they have to take it to the racing tracks in Chennai or the tracks in the North. But once the Nanoli track launches, it will just be a 90-minute drive for them,” he explains.

“Also, one more track is good for Indian racing,” adds Karun, “It helps develop a racing culture in a region. For instance, Narain [Karthikeyan] and I got into racing because our fathers used to race. So, a track can create a racing hub. But we also need more go-karting tracks in the country.”

The Nanoli track design, approved by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) and Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI), features two long straights and 12 turns. It can host races up to Formula 3 level. “We visited the site last year and came up with a few design options. I ran these options on my simulator last year and came up with the final design,” says Karun.

The track will also feature a pit building, paddock, garage, museum and other amenities like a golf course, tennis court, and an equestrian course among others. “It was supposed to be ready this year. COVID delayed the work. So, hopefully, it should be ready next year,” says Karun.

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