Shock and sorrow engulfed the Motorsports fraternity in the country over the weekend as the news of the tragic accident that killed the ace racing driver Ashwin Sundar and his wife in the wee hours of Saturday spread like wildfire. There was disbelief and immense sorrow felt and shared among the racing community and fans. Ashwin Sundar, a champion racer who excelled in various formats of the sport, was driving with his wife Niveditha when the BMW Z4 he was driving hit a tree after a crash and went up in flames killing both of them as they got locked up in the car.
Akbar Ebrahim, President of Federation of Motor Sports Clubs in India (FMSCI) said, “It is a tragic news and it’s very hard to digest. Ashwin was a fine young man who excelled in all formats of motorsport. He was very competitive and it was always a pleasure to watch him perform. It’s really sad. Rest in peace, Ashwin and Niveditha.’’ Former president of the federation and the man who brought Formula 1 to India, Vicky Chandhok, said, “It’s always sad to hear when anyone passes on but when you hear of a young couple losing their lives the sadness for their family is felt immensely. Rest in Peace, little man.’’
Ashwin (31; born 27th July 1985), began his sporting career at the turn of the millennium and took to racing like a duck to water. Though he entered the domestic circuit a bit late at the age of 15, he showed immense talent and won his first big event, the karting championship, the very next year signaling his arrival at the racing scene that he dominated for years since. He won the MRF Formula Mondial National Karting Championship in 2003 and 2004 and made his debut in the FISSME, the single seater Formula Maruti racing series, and 1300cc Formula LGB in 2004.
“Ashwin burst into the scene like a child prodigy and straightaway made his mark. He had speed in his blood and impressed everybody with his aggressive racing skills,’’ said Sujith Kumar, the current Chairman of the two-wheeler Racing Commission and Ashwin’s manager at Yamaha when he secured third in his first Bike Nationals.
In 2005, he moved on to bike racing and made an immediate mark. After taking the third place in his first year in the 150cc four stroke Nationals, he went on to win the championship in 2006 after switching to Team TVS Racing and also won the 115cc class. He was also adjudged second in the Champion of Champions in India. “He was very hardworking and had the discipline required to come up in motorsports,’’ added Sujith.
“Though he was very aggressive on the track, he had good riding skills. Even when racing in later years, he showed that he was a fine sportsman. Those days there used to exist a small group of very talented drivers who were very fierce competitors and he was youngest in the group but his skills and aggression helped him race on equal footing with his senior mates. He sportsmanship qualities were of high standard,’’ felt Subhash Chandra Bose, a veteran motorsport expert, who was popular as ‘Bullet Bose’ during his Sholavaram days.
Ashwin also finished second in the Asian Road Racing Championship Underbone (under-21) class and had dreams of taking part in MotoGP but despite all the success, he failed to convince his mother, who was aware of the inherent dangers in motorsports and insisted that he leave riding motorcycles. Ashwin then moved on to the serious car racing and in 2006 he won the third place in both the Formula LGB Hyundai and Formula LGB and went on to win the National championship (Hyundai and Swift) the next year.
Representing Speed NK Racing, the team started by Narain Karthikeyan, he won the 1600cc Rolon Championship in 2009. He won the MRF Formula 1600 International Challenge in 2010 and 2011 and went on to become the F4 National Champion in 2012 and 2013. “It’s extremely sad and unfortunate that he died in the accident. He was one of the best in a group of about 30 drivers we selected and after racing for two years with us, he went on to with the Rolon Championship,” said Narain, the first Indian Formula 1 driver.
In between, he had a brief stint abroad racing in the ADAC Volkswagen Racing series in Germany in 2008 but had to return home after a few rounds due to the huge costs involved in competing abroad.
International racing driver, Armaan Ebrahim, who had raced with Ashwin in the initial years before leaving the domestic circuit to hone his skills abroad, said, “We grew up together and entered Formula racing at the same time in 2004. It was very sad to hear the news as he was exceptionally good in both two-wheeler and four wheeler racing.”
Ashwin last took part in the JK Tyre National Racing Championship last year at Coimbatore representing Dark Don Racing team. “When I entered racing in 2012, Ashwin taught me the basics,” said Raghul Rangasamy, who finished third in MRF 1600 races last year. “He is a very good driver and was always in control,’’ he added.
“Ashwin was very jovial with his teammates and mingled well with mechanics and team personnel. He was looked up to by the youngsters and he never refused to help those who turned up to him giving way racing suits and other parts. May his soul rest in peace.” concluded Sujit Kumar.