The Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) is fast turning out to be a good hunting ground for the Hyderabad race drivers. If a few weeks back Mohammed Riyaz cornered glory in the 851-1050cc section in the first round of the MMSC Fmsci Indian National Motorcycle Drag Racing Championship, last week Jeet Jhabakh took the honours in the Indian National Car Racing Championship. Driving in his Volkswagen Polo, the 28-year-old Jeet, a resident of Jubilee Hills, scorched the Chennai track by winning the second round battle. Jeet means victory and he is appropriately making it happen.
Hailing from a family of the automobile industry, Jeet’s career has revolved around cars. “I was always passionate about cars. My father (Parsva Kumar Jhabakh) and uncle (Yashwant) rallied a little bit. They also understand the concept of racing. In 2016 I got a chance, as a rookie, in the VW Vento cup championship. That year I won 10 out of 10 races to become the rookie champion. VW offered a free drive the next year in the all-new Ameo Cup. I raced all through 2019 and won the national championship again last year. Because of my win in the Ameo cup, I was offered a chance to drive as a VW factory driver in the Indian Touring Car championship in 2020. Now I compete with experienced drivers like Arjun Balu and K D’Souza and Dhruv Mohite.’’
Although it has been a relatively short career, Jeet is happy that he has made steady progress. He has, however, been handicapped by the absence of any racing track in the city. “We used to get the occasional opportunity to go-karting to get a feel of racing but that too has vanished ever since the pandemic came around. Fortunately, I could practice with my simulator at home. As for the race weekend, I had a few practice sessions in Chennai and was able to get back into the groove.’’
The young driver feels the two wins in Chennai last weekend was a big boost to his career. “For instance, Balu has been racing since 1994. He definitely understands the nuances of racing. To compete and beat him is a great feeling for me. I had a great qualifying and that set me up for a strong race. I definitely had to keep my head calm and make a couple of moves to come out victorious. I am now high on confidence and am looking forward to the next race weekend. The real test, however, will come up later for the Constructor and Drivers’ championship in 2021.’’
The drivers’ skill, according to Jeet, is always crucial but goes hand in hand with the performance of the car. “If the car is not tuned up properly, no matter how great you are as a driver, you can’t be competing. The feedback that a driver gives back to his engineering team is very important.’’
Jeet feels that mental and physical fitness are the key factors to a driver’s success also. “There should be a perfect coordination between mind and body. There is always a pressure to excel in tight situations as you have to make quick and correct decisions. That is where the skills of a driver is tested to the full.’’
He touches around 200 km but average speed will be 100 plus throughout. In a longer circuit the car can hit much higher speeds. “ My favourite Formula One driver is Max Verstappen. He is young but an accomplished competitor. I love his aggression on track and am impressed by his performance in a car much slower than the Mercedes Benz. I try to equate with Max as I compete with someone like Arjun Balu who has a superior car at the moment. Of course, Hamilton has been a role model for young drivers for his consistency and driving skills. Hopefully, someday I can combine the skillsets of both and become a successful driver.’’
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