Karthikeyan leads all-Indian Asian Le Mans team, eyes LM24

Former Formula 1 driver Karthikeyan will lead an all-Indian line-up in the Asian Le Mans series in 2021 with a view to gaining an invite for the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Karthikeyan will team up with ex-Formula 2 driver Arjun Maini and bronze-rated Naveen Rao at the newly-formed Racing Team India, which will receive technical assistance from reigning LMP2 champion squad Algarve Pro Racing.

This will mark the 43-year-old’s first competitive outing since his 2019 SUPER GT campaign with Nakajima Honda, which culminated in him winning the second leg of the non-championship SUPER GT X DTM Dream Race at Fuji.

Karthikeyan was a part of Kolles’s LMP1 line-up in the 2009 Le Mans, but couldn’t take the start after he fell off the pitwall and dislocated his shoulder – although he was still classified seventh with teammates Andre Lotterer Charles Zwolsman Jr.

Both of Karthikeyan’s 2021 teammates have previous experience of prototype racing. Maini made his Le Mans debut with RLR MSport in 2019 and was due to contest a full campaign in European Le Mans Series with Algarve Pro this year, only for his programme to be cut short to two rounds due to the pandemic. 45-year-old Rao, meanwhile, won this year’s IMSA Prototype Challenge in the US with Matthew Bell.

“Racing Team India is probably the most exciting project I’ve ever undertaken in my career as a racing driver,” Karthikeyan said. “Going back to Le Mans is something I’ve been dreaming about for quite a few years now. 

“The Asian Le Mans Series is going to be a massive test for our young and fledgling team, and I hope the amazing Indian sports fans support us big time in our new adventure.”

The entire 2021 Asian Le Mans season will take place at the Yas Marina Circuit in February, with a total of four four-hour races planned across two consecutive weekends. Two different layouts will be used, with a mix of daytime, twilight and night-time races.

Karthikeyan’s team will compete in the flagship LMP2 category, the winner of which will gain an automatic entry into June’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

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