Home May/June 2017 Issue Chewang Lama’s Race to the Top

Chewang Lama’s Race to the Top

Ever since Chewang Lama, was a kid he was fond of cars, always looking for a chance to get behind the wheel, be it on the lap of his driver as he couldn’t reach the pedals. He started driving at the age of 12 and since then he has been in love with it, driving is his passion

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He is a resident of Pani house in the capital. Growing up in place like Sikkim where there are no race tracks or go kart tracks or any platform for racing, made it really difficult for him to even think of becoming a race car driver. There was no one around to motivate or guide him so all he could do was play racing video games.

‘Motorsport is an expensive sport so coming from a middle class family makes it more difficult to get into it’, he says.

It was in 2014, when he finally got a chance to get into a real race spec car at the Buddh International Circuit (F1 Circuit Noida). Even though it was his first time driving a race car without any prior training, he performed well and hit good lap times. The driver coach there suggested him to participate in the driver selection program for the Volkswagen Vento R Cup 2015 which was held at ‘Indy Karting’ Pune. ‘I didn’t have any experience in karts so I took basic and intermediate course at Rayo Racing Academy under the supervision of Rayomand Bannerjee’ he adds. Rayomand is eight times national Rotax champion and the driver coach of Volkswagen Motorsports India.

From more than 60 participants, 12 were selected and he was one among the top six drivers. So as one of the new drivers in the Vento R Cup 2015, he was really excited and nervous. ‘My first race was held at Kari Motor Speedway Coimbatore which is a tight circuit measuring 2.1km. Nervous and sweating under the helmet, I managed to finish 14th out of 22 drivers, even after having an incident in the first lap which happened to damage my car badly,’ he remarks.

During the second round and onwards, his qualifying times were good but during the race, he faced many racing incidents and technical failures which were unavoidable, and so after the third round in Buddh International Circuit, his sponsor could not bear any more damage expenses. So, he couldn’t compete in the fourth round and complete the championship.

In 2016, he was one of national racing drivers hired to drive and test the new Tata cars like the Bolt, Tiago, and Zest to hit the nonstop 50000 km world record at the vehicle research and development establishment in Ahmednagar, Maharashtra.

Currently, he has not been able to enter any racing series due to lack of sponsor, but still hopes to be back on the track in the near future. ‘I am also starting a racing simulation centre back here in Gangtok where the interested can enjoy the thrill of wheel-to-wheel racing with other drivers in a safe environment, and even learn the basics of racing as well as driving,’ he informed.

Since motorsport comes with the tag of high expenses, many think it would be impossible to achieve their racing dreams. It is a challenge. But there is a trick, once you prove yourself in the circuit and win a championship in any racing series, your entire expenses for the next championship will be funded by the organisers. ‘We do not have any platform for racing in Sikkim and providing a race track in the State seems impossible but what we can do for a start is set up a go-cart track. Drivers can get some track time in it. We could also host racing championships and invite drivers from all over India to participate,’ he further adds.

The courage to pursue your passion can have a price, financial and otherwise, but that doesn’t stop Chewang from exploring new avenues and making a mark in a unique way.

Achievements

2014

Trained at Buddh International Circuit by Anmol Rampal (experienced race car driver Safety car driver at BIC F1 Circuit) Completed karting basic and intermediated courses at Rayo Racing Academy

2015

Selected as one of the top 12 drivers in the Volkswagen Vento R Cup Driver Selection Program from more than 50 professional drivers hailing from all over India Awarded the fittest driver of Volkswagen Vento R Cup 2015

2016

One of the drivers for ‘Tata Geared Great Challenge’ (50000 km nonstop world record)

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