Karthikeyan hopes to complete 'unfinished business' in Le Mans Series

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Dubai, Feb 11 (PTI) Nearly 12 years after he crashed out following a freak accident, a more determined and experienced Narain Karthikeyan is back to complete an 'unfinished business' in the Le Mans Series endurance racing.

India's first Formula One driver, Karthikeyan, dislocated his shoulder in May 2009, forcing him out of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is considered one of the world's toughest races.

The 44-year-old is now back, forming an all Indian team comprising former F2 and European Le Mans Series racer Arjun Maini and 2020 IMSA Prototype Challenge champion Naveen Rao.

'Yeah, absolutely, I'm here to complete an unfinished business. Le Mans is one of the greatest races in the world and I want to go back and get the job done and not only drive there but be competitive,' Karthikeyan said during a virtual media conference on Thursday.

The trio will represent Racing Team India which will make its debut in the Asian Le Mans Series in Dubai this weekend in a bid to secure an invitation to the coveted 24 Hours of Le Mans, to be held in France on June 12-13.

Racing Team India's Dubai debut will make it the first outfit with an all-Indian driver line-up to compete in international endurance racing.

'It's such a great thing to hold an Indian licence. All three Indian drivers competing for top honours in LMP2 would be awesome.' The trio will compete in the top class LMP2 category over two, four-hour-long races at the Dubai Autodrome.

The two runnings of the 4 Hours of Dubai will take place on Saturday and Sunday respectively before moving to Abu Dhabi's Yas Marina circuit for another round of two, four-hour races on February 19 and 20.

If the team secures an invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, it will become the first squad flying the Indian Tricolour to take part in the iconic twice-around-the-clock endurance classic at the Circuit de la Sarthe in France.

It is the world's oldest sports car race, which is being held every year since 1923.

The distance covered in this one single race is equivalent to 18 Formula 1 races, making it the most extreme test of the man and his machine in the world of motorsport.

'It's like the whole Formula One race, the championship in 24 hours,' Karthikeyan said.

'It's all about endurance, preserving the car, and trying to get a great setup on the car and work as a team.

'The pit stops need to be right, the driver changes, the challenges are so many driving at night and you know nearly, 400 kilometres per hour every lap, lap after lap.

'Going through traffic. It's a very unique challenge and it's that's why it's one of the, it is the toughest race in the world without a doubt. We're all experienced but nothing prepares you for Le Mans.

He said luck could also be a factor in the race.

'Little bit of luck also will will play a role. It's a great challenge and we are up to it. To represent India with the Indian racing licence is a very proud moment for all of us, all the motorsport fraternity,' Karthikeyan concluded.

In the Le Mans-winning ORECA 07, with technical support from reigning Asian Le Mans Series champion team Algarve Pro Racing, Racing Team India has looked promising.

The car has a 4 litre V-8 engine which produces 600 bhp and has a top speed in excess of 320 kmph.

Karthikeyan ended the first day of testing at the top of the timesheets. PTI TAP AH AH