January: For most racing drivers season normally finishes in October/November, be it F1 or WEC or Indycar. This is the time where we drivers get some time off to recover from the past season and plan ahead for the next year of racing as well as fulfill our commitments to the media and the sponsors. However for the first time in many years I found myself racing in one of the intriguing events that I have ever participated in. The Race of Champions is a unique concept that pits some of the best drivers in the world against each other in different cars. This was the first time that India has been invited for the year ending event and was fantastic experience for both Narain and me. Winning the ROC Asia was harder work than we thought to be honest but that made it more satisfying. It came to a point where every race was a decider and crucial to the final outcome. The biggest challenge in the ROC was jumping out of one car and straight into another. It required us to be able to quickly reset their brain and re-focus into a new driving style.
One of the best things about the ROC is that it is such a relaxed event and a chance to catch up with plenty of motorsport personalities from across the globe. There were plenty of faces I knew from the various racing championships and events. Guys like Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Andy Priaulx, Tom Kristensen, Romain Grosjean, and Ho Pin Tung were some of them. But it was also nice to meet and spend some time with people like Indycar Champion Ryan Hunter Ray, V8 Supercar ace Jamie Whincup and MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo.
However for me the highlight was definitely meeting one of my childhood idols, Motorcycle legend Mick Doohan. The guy is an all time great in sport but is so down to earth it was amazing. I remember seeing him crash in Assen in 1992 when he broke both his legs so badly that it was touch and go whether they would have to amputate it. He came back to win 5 World Championships in a row and go down as one of the greatest come backs in all of sport, not just motorsport.
Overall It felt really good to be on the top step of the podium with the Indian flag by my side. I have always said it and will say it again, there is nothing better than hearing our national anthem playing at a motorsport event.
As I touched upon earlier, winter break is an important time for me as most of my time concentrating on my fitness while working with sponsors and teams to secure deals for 2013. While drivers get a break from driving, we almost never get a break from keeping up our fitness regime. I’ve been back on my cycle since the last week of December and by the time you read this at the end of January my program would have taken me through 1500 km which is a good start to the year. Cycling is a sport I really love and what’s been fantastic this winter is for me to see how many new cycling clubs and groups have sprouted up.
The roads and traffic in our country are a real detriment to cycling – I’ll bet in fact 90% of people in India who have thought about riding their bikes but don’t end up doing so opt out because of the traffic / road situation. Riding with the clubs and groups is a great way to get out there although I have to say I’m not really enjoying the 4am wake up calls !
As I write this, things aren’t really settled for my 2013 program. There are various options ahead and various deals to consider. I’ll be back in the commentary studio on occasion as well as in the car obviously – just which weekend I’ll be doing what, I’m not entirely sure at the moment ! Watch this space….