CHENNAI: Valentino Rossi, it is for most. Some of the younger racers will say Dani Pedrosa or Casey Stoner. But ask Arunagiri Prabhu who among the giants of motor racing inspired him to get on a bike and all you will get is a sheepish smile in reply. “I never had a television at home, so never saw any of these guys race,” he says.
His father is a plumber, while his mother sells flowers. Perhaps the only thing that ties Prabhu to a paddock, dominated by designer sunglasses and energy drinks more expensive than what it would take to feed his family for a day, is that he is exceedingly fast on two wheels.
“I started out doing stunts on bicycles. We had the occasional bicycle race as well. It was during one such race that I saw a motorbike race with (ten-time national champion) Rajini Krishnan and others,” says the Triplicane native. It was love at first sight.
After dropping out of school, Prabhu was working as a mechanic at his uncle’s workshop. Learning of his nephew’s love for racing, he fixed Prabhu up with his first bike in 2007. Within two years, he left behind even pros. “I finished third in the National Championships in 2009 and first in the Honda One-make championships,” he says.
The very next year, he joined Team MotoRev where his idol Rajini Krishnan raced. But a bigger boost was to come when he was picked up by Honda to race in the Asia Dream Cup — a racing series featuring 18 racers under the age of 23 from across the continent — in 2013 and 2014. He was one of the three Indians who were selected for the event.
But now, Arunagiri Prabhu finds himself at a crossroads. At 24, he is too old to race in the Dream Cup and despite regularly winning races in the national championships, sponsorship to take part in other international races remains a distant dream.
“It is not like I can pay from my own pocket and race abroad. My sole source of income was what I got from working as a mechanic. But I have quit that too to focus on my racing career,” he says.
It’s not possible to do both at the same time. “I have to go through a rigorous training regimen everyday if I am to improve as a racer. I cannot do that while still being a mechanic,” he adds.
There could perhaps be no better summation of his career than his performance in the National Racing Championships last weekend.
After dominating his first race and cruising to victory, he took a tumble in the next and sprained his leg.
“But that is life, isn’t it? You have to pick yourself up and race again,” signs off the racer.