Rajiv, Anish chasing India dream with Honda Racing team

Ambitious racers Rajiv Sethu and Anish Shetty are chasing their dreams as part of the Indian team for Idemitsu Honda Racing India by T Pro Ten10 at the 23rd season of the Asian Road Racing Championship (ARRC).

While Sethu will be competing in the ARRC's Asia Production 250cc class for the second year, for Anish it is his rookie season.

From racing on his bicycle in the streets of Chennai to riding for Honda India at the ARRC, it has been quite a journey for the 20-year-old Rajiv.

His career took wings when in 2014 he joined the Honda Ten10 racing academy. Soon Rajiv represented India in an international race for the first time at the 2015 Honda Asia Dream Cup.

"When I was young, I would take my bicycle on the road and race with my brother. In 2014, I joined the Ten10 racing academy. My first race was in 2014 with CBR 150R. I finished overall at fourth position after making seven podiums. But in 2015, I graduated to 250cc after getting the opportunity to ride for Honda in the Asia Dream cup series, a Rajiv told PTI today.

In 2015, a 17-year-old Rajiv had crashed out at Malaysia's Sepang Circuit. The experience only made him wiser. Two years later, he became the national champion in the Pro Stock 165cc category of the Indian National Racing Championship and followed it up with a first runner-up finish in the Honda CBR 250R Cup.

During the last round at the Bend Motorsports Park in Australia, Rajiv suffered another crash that left him with a broken wrist but the Indian recovered quickly to compete at the Suzuka circuit.

"The first round was good but in the second round I crashed and broke my wrist. It takes three months but I recovered quickly and now I hope to gather some points here," said Rajiv.

Asked about his dream, he says: My dream is to ride in Moto GP and win it in future but I have to work a lot harder. Right now, I am only thinking about winning a podium in ARRC, if I can do that I will be the first Indian to do so."

For 24-year-old Anish, it took two years to convince his parents that he wants to pursue racing as a career but once he started doing well, his father became his biggest cheerleader.

As a young kid, it was athletics he was pursuing but it all changed once he joined the IIT academy. After completing school, he developed a passion for racing and would race with an LML vespa which his brother owned.

"I started with freestyling when I was 16, then for two years I did off-roading. There was no particular instinct when I started off but I liked speed and winning. At school, I ran 100m and 200m and I also played as a goalkeeper but later I fell for racing," the Mangalore-born racer said.

In his debut season, Anish logged the first points for India at the Asia Road Racing Championship after snapping two points at Australia after finishing in top 15, clocking his best lap time of 2:11:953.

For Anish too, it all started at the Ten10 academy.

In 2015, I attended the Ten10 academy. For first two years, I was racing at the National championship for a private team called United tech torque racing. But since 2017, I started racing with Honda, says Anish, who is also an engineer and works for Accenture, besides working as a fitness instructor.

I was riding at the nationals last year for Honda Ten10 racing team. I was second runners-up at Prostock category. Since then it has been a big learning experience. Now I just want to gather as many points as possible in ARRC.

So what are his expectations for Suzuka track?

"It is a quite difficult circuit. I'm riding first time here. It would take some time to adept to it and also there are a lot of wildcards, so it will be tough task to make it inside 15."

Honda's focus is now to develop iconic Indian riders for international level.

Unlike other ASEAN countries, racing doesn't start young in India, which is a big challenge. This month, we are starting a new Talent Hunt' in cities across India to identify young talented riders and give national championship exposure to the most promising ones, said Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd. Vice President, Brand & Communication Prabhu Nagaraj.

Our priority is to nurture riders' skill to international level. Honda has identified another promising rider to join Rajiv in the Thai Talent Cup this year. As first Indian team, we are learning the ropes of race management at international level. Honda has a clear roadmap for Indian riders. Our dream is to take an Indian rider to the MotoGP.