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Saturday March 13, 2010

Kollywood star gets behind the wheel after six-year break

priya@thestar.com.my

NO matter how many times fate took Kollywood star Ajith Kumar away from the race tracks, somehow he always found his way back.

A motorsports enthusiast all his life, Ajith began dabbling in bike racing before he joined the film fraternity. He was racing on and off and had competed in several international competitions including F3, Formula BMW Asia and the British F3 Championships.

The simple coincidences in his life are a mark of his deep rooted connection to the sport. His favourite racer Ayrton Senna — Brazilian driver and winner of three F1 races — died on his birthday, May 1; Ajith’s two-year-old daughter Anoushka was born on Michael Schumacher’s birthday, January 3; and Ajith’s first international race in 2003 was held on Ayrton’s birthday, March 21.

All smiles: Ajith taking a break at the circuit.

Now, the hero dubbed the Ultimate Star is back on the tracks after a six-year break for the F2 2010 that will be held in April in Europe.

Ajith was recently in Malaysia to test out his Formula Renault V6 car and StarMetro caught up with him to find out more about what makes him tick.

“I guess I have some unfinished business with racing. It feels like a homecoming,” he said.

Ajith added that he had come to Sepang as it was one of the best circuits and the logistics support here is amazing.

He had with him Korean racing team E’Rain and the services of Piers Hunnisett, one of the founders of Eurasia Sports Management.

On the road again: Ajith reaching out for his helmet before getting into his race car.

Coming back to the track is not an easy transition and Ajith has done everything to ensure he is fit for the tracks. Besides training vigorously on the circuit, he has lost 11 kgs in two weeks with cardio and weight training.

The F2 race is a feeder series for the F1 races and many F1 bosses come to the races to keep an eye out for drivers. The first three winners from F2 would qualify for the Super licence.

Another feeder for the F1 is the GP2 but the cost is almost double that of the F2.

“The competition is going to be pretty intense. It is a huge exposure for all the drivers,” Ajith said.

Motorsports is definitely an expensive hobby and many companies are unsupportive of the other races except F1.

“They forget that in order for the racers to qualify for F1 they have to go through the other races as well,” said Ajith, who is in negotiations for his sponsorship.

However, for Ajith, F1 is not his ultimate goal, as he believes in competing to the highest level with his own talent and ability.

According to Ajith, motorsports are still a very niche hobby in India and he hoped his celebrity status would help expand the sport to the rural areas.

“Life is very short. Do not let the spark out of your life. Do the things you love to do,” he said.

This same enthusiasm and the support his family has shown him over the years are the reasons behind his repeated success as a racer.

Ajith, who is married to actress Shalini, said it was she who prompted him to get behind the wheel again.

“I was in a race meet last February and Shalini said she had not seen me so happy in a long time. She told me to pursue my dreams of racing,” he added.

His parents have also been behind his decision and Ajith plans to bring both Shalini and his daughter to Europe for the race.

Ajith had some words of wisdom to share with young racing enthusiasts who take to the streets to fulfil their passion.

“For those who enjoy speed, go to your local motorsports centre. There you can rent the venue for a few hours a day and race in a controlled environment,” he said.

As for his next movie venture, Ajith said the film starts shooting in October after the F2 race and the director will be Gautham Menon, famous for hits like Khakaa Khakaa and Vaaranam Aayiraam.

For more details on the Formula 2 race in Europe, visit http://www.formulatwo.com/

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