New Delhi: India's ace drivers Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok will come together for the first time since 2004 to represent India at the season-ending Motorsport festival -- Race of Champions -- in Bangkok next month.
India have been invited to participate in the December 14-16 event for the first time since its introduction in 1988 and it's a clear indication that motorsport world now looks at India differently with the high-profile F1 coming to the country.
Karun and Narain will compete with the likes of two-time and current F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel and legendary Michael Schumacher, who will represent defending champions Team Germany. The drivers will compete in identical cars unlike F1.
"This is a great occasion. The format is pretty different to what we have done before. With cars, we are not fully sure what to expect, there are a lot unknowns. It's nice to see India is recognised as bigger power and has a bigger influence in motorsport. We have an F1 team, two F1 drivers, and now a race here. India's reach is going wider. I am excited," Chandhok said at a press conference.
Drivers from Formula One, World Rally Championship, NASCAR, sportscars and touring cars compete against each other in the event.
"It's a great opportunity to represent India. The good thing is that you are competing with equal machinery. It's a fully tarmac event, inside a stadium, different drivers competing. There are rally drivers as well. It's a serious sport, but we will have fun," said Karthikeyan.
There are two categories in the event -- individual category, where winning driver is crowned champion of champions and the Nations' Cup, where a team is declared winner.
Asked as drivers what gains they see from this event, Chandhok said," It's always good to compete in different formats. Alongside, a great variety of drivers has been highlighted. That's something unique about this event.
"On career part, it does not have much relevance to what happens in F1, endurance races. It's a standalone event. And with both of us competing at the same platform, it draws attention to India and two of us."
"Racing is always serious, we will be not on a Sunday picnic drive. ROC is pretty tight, we have to be on it. We have to try and push 100 percent," added Karthikeyan.Karthikeyan did not take questions on F1 but said that his joining Sahara Force India may never happen in future.
"We never gelled well and I don't think it will ever happen. That's the truth."
Karthikeyan had escaped unhurt out of a massive accident with Mercedes' Nico Rosberg during the last weekend's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Asked if more changes are required in safety regulation for the drivers, he said,"It was pretty safe, if you see the magnitude of the accident."
Responding to a question whether India will see both Karhtikeyan and Chandhok racing for an Indian F1 team, the latter said, "It's a nice dream. But at the moment, it's unrealistic." Karthikeyan, who is supported by Tata Motors and MRF Tyres, said he is looking for neutral sponsors for the Bangkok event.