Interview with Lee Keshav – On track to Formula One

Kapil Patwardhan

Lee Keshav (Image courtesy: Aditya Bedre/MRF)

A young lad from Delhi had a regular childhood just like everyone else. Lee Keshav grew up watching television, playing sports and going to school. As he got older he became very inspired to do more than just ordinary and decided to pursue his passion. A mix of Formula One and computers changed the course of his life.

Being an entrepreneur at heart, he found his own small web design firm by the tender age of 16 and started working with international clients. Around the same time he began riding superbikes on racetracks to prepare for motorcycle racing.

But things do not always go according to plan. After a few good training sessions in Thailand, Keshav realised bikes were relatively more dangerous and even a small crash could put him out of work and studies for weeks. So after a short break he decided to get back into motorsport professionally. This time on four wheels.

After a breakthrough season in the 2014 MRF Formula F1600 National Championship, Keshav has now made the jump to the 'big league' with the high profile MRF Challenge International winter series. He dreams of one day driving in Formula One and follow the footsteps of Karthikeyan and Chandhok to represent India on one of the biggest sports in the world. 

Keshav, now 21, talks about his racing, balancing his passion with work and goals in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.

Excerpts:

How were you introduced to the sport?

I was fascinated with cars and discovered Formula 1 on the TV at a very young age. It was very high level for me back then but I clearly remember saying to myself that this is what I want to do when I grow up.

Since I don't come from a racing family I had to learn motorsport on my own. I spent months researching on the internet on how to become a racing driver. Then had to wait for years before I was old enough to get started. So even though I've only been racing for two years now it has been a long journey to reach here.

Keshav during the Polo R Cup. Image courtesy: Volkswagen Motorsport
 

How did you get started on the national level?

I started my national racing career with the highly acclaimed JK Tyre VW Polo R Cup. I only have praise for this championship as it is the perfect platform for any young newcomer like me to enter racing professionally.

I had an amazing first year finishing 6th overall out of 22 drivers and bringing home two podiums. Although I believe I could have done even better. I had the speed all year but lacked the race-craft and aggression to fight with the seasoned drivers.

This year I've returned to the Polo R Cup for my second season and now I am one of the strongest drivers on the grid. We still have 60 percent of the season to go and I will be working very hard to win the championship.

What is the biggest challenge you face during races?

Inexperience. I have fortunately been a front runner from the day I started racing. But this brings in a lot of pressure as you're around drivers who have way more experience. But with every race I'm improving and bridging the gap.

How do you currently fund your participation?

I fund all my racing on my own. I work as the Head of Design at a startup called Hike Messenger. It's an amazing company to work at. Everyone's very supportive of my racing and don't mind when I'm away for a few days for the races.

So how do you manage work and racing?

I'll tell you its not easy. End of the day these are two very different directions and I have to be a professional in both. I think the only reason I am still being able to manage is passion. I love racing but I am also very passionate about technology and creating things.

Joining Hike three years back was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Being around a great young CEO has really helped me mature and learn things at a much higher pace. In fact the whole team is really young and driven to push the boundaries. There is never any shortage of inspiration which is exactly what you need at this age.

How important is the support of your parents in your pursuit?

Very. Specifically my mother. She let me pursue my dreams and also funded the initial years. I think mentally it's very helpful when you know your friends and family are behind you as it is a very tough sport.

What is the most exciting aspect of racing?

Where to start! I think every other boy growing up either wants to be a fighter pilot or a racing driver. I managed to do one of them. It has the speed, the travel, the glamor and of course fierce competition. I love all of it.

What has been your best result till now?

I've had a lot of great races but my favorite would be my recent win in the MRF F1600 at BIC in front of a home crowd of 10,000 people. It was a really proud moment and something that will always remain in my memory.

Keshav (front car) during the MRF Formula F1600

What are your realistic short term and long term goals?

Currently I have just started racing in the MRF Challenge. It's a Formula 3 level winter series which runs in the middle east and India. The grid is very competitive with all top international drivers. If this goes well then I'll be setting my sights on Formula 3 in Europe for next year.

What is your ultimate dream in the sport?

I know it's ambitious to say this, but I am still working very hard to reach Formula 1 in the next 3-4 years. As they say, dream big.

How do you spend your time when you're not working or racing?

I am always working or traveling for racing (laughs). I barely get time for myself. But when I do I like to catch up with family and friends. Maybe watch a movie or two. Sometimes we are so busy chasing our dreams we forget to live in the present. It's important to appreciate what you already have.

If you would like to support Keshav in his adventures, or just want to get updates on his journey in motorsports, visit his Facebook or Twitter page. 

Originally published on Sportskeeda.com here