Friday June 15th, 2001
The first Indian ever to drive a Formula One car said on Friday he was optimistic about getting a chance to compete in an actual race.
Narain Karthikeyan, 24, who test drove for the Jaguar team at the Silverstone circuit in England as part of a contractual entitlement described the experience as "unbelievable" and said he was confident he would do well as a Formula One driver.
"There were lots of team managers, everyone was impressed," he told Reuters by phone a day after a test drive on Thursday that a Jaguar team spokesman said was a promising debut. "Other teams are also watching, I'm confident they can also give me an opportunity."
The test drive by Karthikeyan, who hails from the southern industrial city of Coimbatore, was splashed on the front pages of Indian newspapers on Friday. The Indian driver said his best lap time was about a second faster than that turned in last year by South African Tomas Scheckter as Jaguar's official test driver.
"I was only 1.8 seconds off the speed of Pedro de la Rosa in this year's car - even I was pleasantly shocked," said Karthikeyan.
Karthikeyan said he hoped to get another test drive with Jaguar. "They (Jaguar) are also considering giving me another run before end of the year."
After Thursday's outing, Karthikeyan said he was confident he would make it to the Formula One circuit.
"It is achievable. I will be among the front-runners (to get a chance), it's not impossible even to win the world championship. It was a different experience. But I can handle it."
Karthikeyan had completed 15 timed laps and a total of 24 on a day of interruptions at Silverstone.
"It was a pretty solid job given that he's never been in a Formula One car," said Jaguar spokesman Nav Sidhu.
Karthikeyan was first promised a test with Jaguar when he was with the Jaguar-owned Stewart Formula Three team last year before moving to Japan to race in Formula Nippon. The test, first set for December last year, was put off many times, most recently due to Karthikeyan's Japanese commitments.