Motorsport Writing

Isn’t it wonderful how life has a way of coming a full circle? It’s rather like a racetrack – in some ways you finish exactly where you start.


This was a line from a column I'd written for OVERDRIVE magazine in January 2015. As Motorsport Editor for the magazine, easily the best job I could have asked for, I have had opportunity aplenty to contemplate life, the Universe and everything while watching cars and motorcycles tackle corner after corner at racetrack and rally stage alike. But more than anything else, I've had a chance to witness the emotions that racing brings out. And I've also had the opportunity to learn many a life lesson from the racetrack.


While nearly all my stories for OVERDRIVE can be read here , I have also compiled a few stories that I enjoyed writing immensely below:



More than any other driver in recent times, Robert Kubica demonstrates resilience and courage in the face of adversity. This feeling welled up inside me at Rally Poland in 2014, when I took this photograph of Kubica airborne, just a couple of years after his near career-ending accident. I wrote a column about it when he was about to make his WEC debut, which didn't happen. Now that he's testing an F1 car in the hopes of making a comeback, here's another piece for OVERDRIVE's August 2017 issue



It's been an uphill battle for Mahindra Racing in the Formula E championship. The team's had to learn a lot, adapt from season to season, and really fight it out to get to where they wanted to be within the sport. Perhaps it was the Berlin ePrix that highlighted the highs and lows of motorsport in equal measure. Not only did the team score their first ever win in the series, they faced tough times and had to overcome it with their chins firmly up, led ably by Dilbagh Gill. This is the story of just how they managed to do just that, written for OVERDRIVE's July 2017 issue.  



Life isn't easy. No one said it was going to be. Standing by the side of a hill in Merzouga, Morocco, watching riders bravely pin the throttle and manage to make their way up that rocky incline was a metaphor for life itself. A metaphor that reinforced that we all choose different methods to tackle the same obstacle, and that we all, sooner or later come upon obstacles that we simply must tackle. My column from OVERDRIVE's June 2017 issue



Getting to talk to Sebastien Loeb at the 2017 Hockenheim RX was interesting and surprising all at once. Loeb wasn't really the poker-faced stoic person that I thought he'd be. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find that he was engaging, sharp, keeping in mind questions, and coming back to them later, if he felt he needed to clarify something. He spoke of talent, hardwork, laziness and what the most important things in life are. It was an interview that I enjoyed rather a lot, written for the June 2017 issue of OVERDRIVE. Also found online here. 



Good things come to those who wait. But also to those who work very, very hard. Which is exactly what CS Santosh did on his way to becoming the country's most prominent rally-raid rider. We watched Santosh, who now rides for the Hero MotoSports Team Rally outfit, as he progressed through the 2017 Merzouga Rally, and tried to trace his evolution as an athlete over the years. Written for OVERDRIVE magazine's June 2017 issue. 



How many times does a body get offered the opportunity to drive a proper rally car? Well, in my case that happened just once. And so, with great trepidation, I accepted. I spent rather a lot of time stalling the Skoda Fabia R5 that seven-time German National Rally Champion, Matthias Kahle, allowed me to get behind the wheel of. But I did drive it a little, emphasis on the little, and manage to learn a thing or too. No, this isn't a road test, but it's an honest account of a frightened motorsport scribe being put on the spot, that appeared in the February 2017 issue of OVERDRIVE



Now that we've leapt right into 2017 (although I've used a photo of Ogier I shot back in 2014), there are a few things that I'd like to wish every single one of you. After all, this is the time for do-overs. It's a brand new year! So for 2017 I wish you the strength to learn, the courage to decide decide, the determination to grow, and.... Read my column from the January 2017 issue of OVERDRIVE right here.


Gaurav Gill is India's big rally hope. He's the one man we all hope will actually make it to the World Rally Championship. Because, with two APRC titles under his belt, and a constant desire to improve himself, Gill's made some big strides. Here's his take on how he survives in the competive world of rallying, and his never-ending pursuit for perfection in a rally car. Read it in the January 2017 issue of OVERDRIVE, or click right here!


Every now and again, I am guilty of feeling jaded. And every single time that happens, I look back to a cold, dark night at the 24 Hours of Le Mans back in 2012, when a fellow motorsport scribe said something very wise to me that has since stuck. I learned similar lessons while speaking with Mattias Ekström and Walter Röhrl. So, here it is. On the art of finding happiness and never letting it go. From the December 2016 issue of OVERDRIVE. Of simply click here to read it online!



Meet the 2016 World Rallycross Champion. Mattias Ekström is a philosophical racer, if there  ever was one. He sat down and spoke to us about how honesty and self-reflection have taken him far in his career, telling us he doesn't believe he is naturally talented, but instead he chooses to work hard to beat people who are. All that and many more candid observations from him can be read in the December 2016 issue of OVERDRIVE, or click right here.


So you like racing? It's a question that I'm often asked. And sometimes I find that words fail me. How do I explain to people that like doesn't even begin to describe it?! There's more to it than like! Which is why I decided to sit and express as best as I can, what it is about motorsport that interests me, inspires me, drives me and fulfils me. And the ripple effect that it has on various aspects of my life. The column is available in the November 2016 issue of OVERDRIVE, or you could click here to read it.


Another story of people who refuse to give up, because they promised each other that they wouldn't. It's this promise that drives Sarath Kumar and his mentor Ramji Govindrajan, and that's why, broken bones, failed contracts, absconding sponsors, haven't daunted them. They just soldier right on. It takes a lot of courage, but these two have courage in good measure. Here's their story on the OVERDRIVE website. 



Motorsport is full of tales of perseverance, courage and hardwork. For me, if there's one tale that really stands out, it's that of Rayomand Banajee. Rayo, as he's popularly called in the Indian motorsport fraternity is one of those rare individuals who got to where he is today, racking up national titles along the way, on his own steam. He's played smart with the cards he was dealt. And he doesn't believe in excuses. Here's his story on  OVERDRIVE 



When I went to the Berlin Round of the Formula E Championship, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Then, an interview with Nick Heidfeld cropped up, which turned out to be far more interesting than I could have imagined. Heidfeld's years of experience in motorsport, especially Formula 1, have made him something of an Obi-Wan Kenobi, and the interview was full of little pearls of wisdom. You can read it on the OVERDRIVE website by following this link right here. 



To say that Petter Solberg is one quick driver, is to state the obvious. There's so much more to the 2003 World Rally Champion. One of which is an incredible resilience of spirit that ensures he simply doesn't give up, no matter what the circumstances. The other is that he's an incredibly straight forward person to speak with. You can read his very candid interview in OVERDRIVE's June 2016 issue or click here!




Stefan Bellof. It was hard not to be impressed by him and his rapid progress in the world of motorsport. It was as hard to accept his death at Spa during a World Endurance Championship race in 1984. I'd always wanted to make a pilgrimage to Giessen and talk to someone who'd known him. Fortunately for me his very wise brother Georg agreed to just that. Our conversation inspired this letter to Stefan.


Managed to get my hands on the keys to this sharp-looking machine some time in October 2015. Had a field day piloting it around the Lausitzring. I'd like to say that I tamed the beast, but grandiose claims of such a nature would be entirely untrue. What happened was that the KTM X-Bow taught me a thing or two about driving at a racetrack. You can read all about it in the December issue of OVERDRIVE. Or right here. 


I'd never have believed that it was possible to phone Walter Röhrl, tell him that I wanted to meet him for an interview in his house, and have him agree to it so readily. But that's really what happened in March 2015. So we drove up to the house of the greatest rally driver in the world, and sat down and had a good old chat. You can read it here. And here is the story behind the story.


Back in 2012, I caught sight of Niki Lauda bobbing along through the F1 paddock at the Buddh International Circuit and cornered him into an interview. The story, peppered with many an anecdote from the Seventies, was published in Business Standard Motoring and can be read here. A year later Niki was refusing interviews at the BIC having been badgered incessantly. But when I walked up to him to say hello, he remembered me and said "Come, let's walk and talk." So we did. It was a short, but satisfying conversation.


At the 2013 Macau GP I met John McGuinness and asked him all about the Isle of Man TT and what it felt like to be fast approaching Joey Dunlop's record. But the most significant part of our interview was when he answered my questions about fear. It made me go and jump off the Macau Tower. And later spawned two other stories about fear and the motorcycle racer and fear and the racecar driver


Growing up, Michael Schumacher was my hero. And managing to persuade Sabine Kehm into allowing me a one-on-one interview with him at the 2011 Indian GP is what I count as one of the most significant achievements of my career. But in that interview for Business Standard Motoring there was only a part of the story. A few years later when Schumi had that dreadful accident, there was more writing that poured forth, which can be read here.


I first read about the Qmarri in 2008. It was the stuff that every good motorsport story is made of. A car arrives at the home of a family in Calcutta. The children are fascinated and they grow up to race that very car, taking it to Sholavaram and ensuring it makes it to the podium. Tracking it down and convincing Ravi Kumar to let me feature it became an obsession. Finally, in 2014, my quest was successful



Seven-time German Rally Champion Matthias Kahle decided he had best teach me a think or two about how to drive a clean and fast lap. And so on a frozen lake in Arvidsjaur, behind the wheel of a Volkswagen Golf R, on a 7km long ice track I was put through my paces. I drove, I failed, I learned, I wrote






Not really a piece of motorsport writing, but the Classic Remise in Berlin was a place steeped in automotive history. It gave me goosebumps to see so many machines in mint condition, and warmed the cockles to find people tinkering away on the machines to make sure they were as perfect as they were the day the rolled out of the factory gates. It also took me on a flight of fancy, allowing me to meet Herr Schmidt.


Now to the life lessons that motorsport has taught me. The indomitable Max and Hanspeter who I met in Sweden, racing about the track, taught me that it all lies in the mind. Somender Singh who tinkers away on motorcycles and cars in Mysore taught me that we have no excuses and there's no time like now. And watching CS Santosh finish the Dakar Rally in 2015 was a demonstration of the triumph of the human spirit. There's more opinion pieces and columns from the good folk at OVERDRIVE right here


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© Vaishali Dinakaran - Writer & Journalist