Hyderabad is on the fast track as the city gears up for the first Formula E race in India. As the electric car revolution gains momentum around the world, India is set to host the firstABB FIA Formula E World Championship race scheduled on February 11 in Hyderabad.
Ahead of the race, Mahindra Racing Formula E Team’s reserve driver Jehan Daruvala chats with The Hindu at Prasad’s Imax. One of India’s most successful single-seat motor racers, he is currently the reserve driver for the Mahindra Racing Formula E Team. The 24-year-old says it feels great to be able to see motorsport of this format (electric cars) being held in India.
London-based Jehan is also happy that he will be able to meet his parents who have come from Mumbai — where he was born and brought up — to Hyderabad to meet him. He shares, “I was in Hyderabad a decade ago to drive at the Go Kart arena at the RGIA airport. I have not visited Hyderabad after that.”
Ever since Jehan started karting as a nine-year-old, he never stopped. Jehan recalls, “I was always fascinated by fast cars and races. As a kid, I’d sit and watch races on TV with my family, without the slightest thought that I would be doing the same thing someday. Once, while flying on a business trip out of Mumbai, my dad saw a newspaper article on Go kart training by Rayomand Banajee, the veteran champion of motorsports.”
Rayomand Banajee is an eight-time formula, go-karting champion and owner of Rayo Racing. Seeing the newspaper ad Jehan’s father took him to the track and just like that Jehan found himself unleashing his love for speed with skill. “We went to the karting arena, I drove and the rest is history. I was just turning nine that year,” adds Jehan. Noticing his style and dedication, Rayomand approached Jehan’s dad to know if Jehan would be interested in motor racing. “Without giving a second thought my father replied in affirmation and I started training with Rayomand.”
The same year in 2010 Jehan won the Indian National Karting Championship and became one of the three winners of Sahara Force India’s “One in a Billion Hunt” conducted by the Sahara Force India Formula 1 team. Jehan is also the first Indian to win a Grand Prix at the New Zealand Grand Prix in 2017, then progressed to the FIA Formula 2 Championship in 2020. In 2020, Jehan also became the first Indian to win a Formula 2 race at the sprint race in Bahrain.
When Jehan came to know about Formula E races in India through a tweet, he was overjoyed at the future prospects for young aspiring racers. “Since Formula E races happen within the city, it makes for a great opportunity because all our cities have great infrastructure. The track is short, but the speed is almost the same. All the drivers are looking forward to driving here,” he says.
Jehan says he always looked up to his idol, Spanish driver Fernando Alonso. “He is 41 years, even now he is the best. Such is his talent,” he gushes.
Speaking of food and fitness, the youngster does miss Indian food and he cannot cook a lot of Indian food. “I am on a meal plan now, so my food is designed to my body’s needs and then my trainer makes sure I am the exact size I need to be in the racing circuit,” he said.
Does he get frustrated when he is stuck in traffic in India? Jehan laughs, “Not really, I am a patient person and I can switch from the track to everyday roads pretty fast. So yes, even though being stuck in traffic is not fun, I don’t lose my cool. Patience and responsible driving is a must for all.”
What does he enjoy when not on the tracks, practising or training? Jehan is quick to reply: “Cricket. I love watching cricket on TV. When in London, I can watch test matches five days a week and still want to watch more.”