CHENNAI: Nirmal Uma Shankar Babu, at 16, first got behind the wheels of a car when he was nine years old. It is an age, most kids like to play with Hot Wheels and remote control cars with glee all over the face. Imagine choosing to take a seat behind the wheels in the fast lane and taking it as career option even before you write your Class XII exams!
That is what Nirmal has been doing ever since he took to professional karting in the JK Tyre Rotax Max Karting Championships in 2013. “Driving is a passion for me. For me, the dream is to drive in Formula 1, and that is what I’m pursuing. It’s not just about the events here. One needs to dream big and that is what excites me each time I take to the race track,” Nirmal says.
But ask him what it is like to pursue his passion as a day-to-day affair with grueling practice sessions and fitness routines and he agrees it does strike him ever now and then. “I’m in the 12th standard now, and you know how big it is, you cannot afford to miss out on your studies. That is the toughest part, but I’m trying to handle both without missing out on each other,” he adds.
What started out as a pastime changed when Akbar Ebrahim noticed Nirmal’s potential and asked him to pursue racing as a profession.
Just two years into his professional career, he had a maiden podium finish in the 2015 JK Tyre Rookie Cup and Kart Open Championship and won his first race in November the same year at JK Tyre National Rotax Max Championships.
Though his first priority is to be an F1 driver, he is already thinking of alternatives. He has a back-up plan in place and it isn’t far away from the race track. He wants to pursue motorsports engineering so that it can at least open up an opportunity to be part of a racing team as an engineer.
At 16 years of age, he already seems to have a lot of clarity over what lies ahead and as he prepares for the JK Tyre-FMSCI National Racing Championship to be held in Coimbatore on July 9, there seems to be no nerves whatsoever.
“Ahead of the race I don’t really feel any pressure because I know how to keep myself calm. Because when you put too much pressure on yourself, it will take away the joy of racing and I’m conscious about it. Once you sit in the cockpit, the adrenaline rush always comes in, so being calm is what helps,” Nirmal says.