A National Champion’s Rise To International Racing

Ten-time Motorbike National Champion Rajini Krishnan talks about racing and sponsorship.
Rajini Krishnan at QSBK (Image Credit: Rajini Krishnana / QSBK)
Ten-time National Champion in two-wheeler category Rajini Krishnan is arguably India’s best rider by statistics. His International achievements include winning the MSS (Malaysian Super Series), Podium in the FIM ARRC (Asia Road Racing Championship), being selected for the World Endurance Championship & winning the LARRS (Losail Asia Road Racing Series). He has bagged a full sponsorship from from QMMF to run at the Qatar-based 2014 QSBK championship. We caught up with the 30-year-old champion to know more about the person underneath that racing helmet of his.
When did you first start racing?


In 2002. I was 21 at that time. Before that, I used to do amateur racing, which isn’t too safe either. One day, a friend of mine took me to the track. The moment I went there, I instantly I fell in love with racing. And then after two years of riding as a privateer, I finally got sponsors and started racing with the TVS team in 2004.
When did you realize that you can be a pro-racer?


During my stint with TVS between 2004 and 2008, I gained confidence and maturity. As I started getting more and more involved, I realized that there’s a realistic possibility that maybe I too could become a professional racer.
Which classes do you race in?


During my time with TVS (2004 – 20008), I was racing in the 165cc category. After that, I graduated to racing in the 600cc. Since the past few months, I’ve been racing in the 1000cc class.
Which is your favourite class?


My favourite is the 600cc class in Petronas Asian Championship.
Your favourite bike to race?


I love the Yamaha R6 – the bike with which I raced in the 600cc class.
What would we find in your dream garage?


1. BMW S 1000 RR 2. Kawasaki ZX-10 R 3. Aprilia RSV4
What plans for 2014?


I’m currently riding in the 2014 QSBK (Qatar Superbike Championship). Two rounds are already over and I’m currently ranked 7th out of 28 riders. We have six more races to go; I’d love to finish the championship in top 3.
How are you practicing for the QSBK?


I don’t have any sponsors except for the QMMF (Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation); hence, it’s difficult to practice regularly. Just to give you an idea, each set of tyres cost Rs. 40,000. I practice twice a month at MMSC (Madras Motorsports Club). In comparison, the international riders practices twice a week.
As a result, without proper sponsorship, it’s very difficult to succeed in racing.
What kind of support are the Indian riders getting from Indian manufacturers and sponsors?
It is very difficult to get sponsorship in India. Most manufacturers are unwilling to help. Neither are we able to get any sponsors. We live in a country where all the brands and sponsors are going crazy behind cricket but hardly anything is being done for any other sport. Even the smallest of cricket matches are shown over and over again on the television but the national racing championship is never broadcasted.
To showcase a new bike, the manufacturers sign cricketers and Bollywood stars as brand ambassadors. For example, in Malaysia, they feature their national racing champion for promotion of motorbikes.
I’m a ten-time national champion and I can’t manage to find a single sponsor locally, I had to reach out to the Qatar Motor & Motorcycle Federation for sponsorship who agreed to give a full sponsorship for QSBK. And yet, I’m unable to get enough funding to practice as frequently as other international riders.
What should Indian manufacturers do to help the local scene?


The problem is with the mindset. When most of us go to buy a vehicle, first thing we ask is ‘kitna deti hai.’ Of course, there are many reasons behind it starting from infrastructure to standard of living; but that needs to change. Abroad, generally, people are more bothered about power, engine reliability and other factors; before asking how thirsty the vehicle is. Hence, our manufacturers make vehicles that are less thirsty and majorly-underpowered. Manufacturers are mostly interested in single-make races only, to promote their products. When a professional racer approached them for open championship, most of them shy away. This needs to change. Manufacturers should be more open to support the scene and the racers in open championships also – national as well as international.
Certain manufacturers have started their racing teams but I’d want to ask them, have they started for profit’s sake or to improve the scene in India? Only the top-level management in their team is Indian, apart from that, all the racers and mechanics are foreigners. If they actually want to help grow the racing playground in India, they should try to look for talent in India as well.
If given equal opportunity, Indian mechanics, engineers and racers are as talented as their foreign counterparts.
Do you think Indian racers are not getting enough support in our country or you think they’re not capable enough to race at the highest level? Do let us know your thoughts in the comments below.