Meet Varun Anekar, the tall, handsome, 24-year-old who is unlike any other millennial in India. He is probably India's "First Generation" Racing Driver! A millennial who found his "Purpose" early on in Life.
I thought it will be wonderful to share his story that will inspire many millennials across the world. Here are some of the highlights from the conversation I had with Varun on racing and beyond:
I love all sport. I'm an adrenaline junkie -- need to get my blood pumping. It comes from my dad. I used to swim, played basketball, football and tennis. Being athletic, I was good, but not great at any of these.
I knew the moment I sat in a race car that I was made for it. Racing for me is the thrill of exploring your mental and physical limits, and to see how far beyond you can go. It takes you away from the comfort zone to explore the unknown.
How did you develop the passion for racing?
When I was a kid racing meant Formula I and used to watch Schumi, Kimi and Alonso battle it out every year. I was fascinated. F1 drivers almost always start their careers as kids in karting. I became a regular at the local karting track in Bangalore. I hung around with the kids who used to race in the national championship. I participated in local competitions and found myself on the podium regularly. It was here that I caught the bug and got addicted. I'd never had so much fun in my life!
What was the one thing that led you to pursuing racing as a career and reaching success till date?
I heard in 2012 that Toyota was in the process of picking up a team in India. As luck would have it, Mr. Leelakrishnan, our mentor and a racing veteran, mentioned that Toyota saw the potential in me. I was signed by Toyota in 2013 as a race driver for their inaugural Toyota Etios Motor Racing Championship!
How did your family accept and support your profession?
It took a little while for my parents and sister to accept because I had chosen racing as my career. But they have always been supportive. They come watch most of my races and it is a part of us now. It's an amazing feeling to know that they are proud of you.
What are the learnings from your racing career?
Sports teach you a lot about yourself, about how far you are willing to go to get what you want. I learnt to win and more importantly, I learnt how to lose. Self-Confidence is important. You have to believe you are the better than the rest before you become the best. At the same time it's a team effort that makes you win. Working with and having fun with the team is the best part of racing and if the feeling is mutual, amazing things happen!
In my first international race representing Toyota India, I ended up finishing second in a grid full of international drivers in an absolutely crazy night race on the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand. The organizers never expected me to win, and had to go searching for an Indian flag to put up on the podium! I learnt never to underestimate myself!
I've had to let go of wins that I was sure of having, and I have won races that I was least likely to win.
Where do you want to go from here?
I want to win the Indian Touring Car Championship in 2016. The ITC is the top flight of Indian racing and I want to be the best in India.
Future plan is to race on the world stage -- at the World Touring Car Championship. I want to do the Dakar Rally at some point in my life -- the toughest race in the world! I plan to move to rallying someday, rallying has been close to my heart since the beginning.
Along with my racing, I want to play a part in developing motorsport in India. I see a lot of potential here, India's next F1 driver or WRC champion is out there somewhere! We want to provide a platform for high potentials and train them to compete with the best in the world. We [with my team mates] are working on launching the platform soon.
How do you stay fit and healthy?
Racing makes you fit, but it's not enough. You can forget about serious racing if you don't train. It's quite violent inside the car -- the G-forces that act on the body are quite extreme and your heart rate stays about 180 BPM for most of the race. You need to train your core muscles, neck, lungs and limbs to be able to give it your all. You need to be physically fit, have razor sharp reflexes and a quick mind.
I start training in the winter, before a season -- running, rowing and doing functional training using mostly body weight. It is a high intensity work out which works out multiple muscles in one variation and also increases my aerobic capacity. The workouts are quite intense and usually last for an hour. I also play football, go karting and practice on a simulator at home to keep me agile.
What do you like other than racing?
I'm a big foodie. Indian, Thai and Italian are my favorites and I go out of my way searching for food -- I always try the local delicacies. I cannot imagine life without music! I listen to prog rock, metal, ambient. I love going to shows and exploring different music. I'm the most restless person I know -- I just cannot stay put. I like to travel, go on road trips with friends and am a fan of Manchester United!
Resources on Racing, Rallying and Touring: