The racing fraternity was in shock after news emerged of former national champion Ashwin Sundar passing away in a car crash here on Saturday.
Ashwin had been a familiar figure in the pit-lanes for more than a decade, shooting to fame in the karting circuit at the turn of the millennium. He was national karting champion in 2002 and enjoyed success after switching to single-seater racing. His peak came in the early 2010s when he won the 2012 JK Tyre National Racing Championships and the 2013 MRF F1600 series. Ashwin also enjoyed success in two-wheeler racing, winning national titles in the 115cc 4-stroke class and the 150cc 4-stroke class in 2006 and notching podiums in the 2007 FIM Asia Road Racing Championship. He had last raced in the 2016 JK Tyre LGB F4 series.
Both his fellow racers and officials remember Ashwin as polite and soft-spoken off the track and an aggressive racer on it. "He was always so polite and respectful," said Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) vice-president J Prithviraj. "I had the opportunity to interact with him many times as a race official and he carried himself so well. It was really shocking to hear about his demise today."
Fellow Chennai racer Aditya Patel, who achieved much success in the Audi R8 LMS Cup this year, has known Ashwin since they were kids. "We go back a long way, right from when we started karting together," Aditya said. "I was was there, as was Ashwin and former national champion Vishnu (Prasad). He was my teammate for many years and we've raced together in Germany. It was really shocking to wake up today and hear this news."
While Ashwin was less of a presence on the motorsport scene in recent years, he was still able to make an impression on the younger racers. Former national champion Kartik Tharani is one of them. "I've never raced against him, but we've raced on the same weekends," Tharani said. "We've spoken a bit on the track. As a racer, he was arguably one of the best in India. Ever so spectacular and always on it. I've learned a lot from him. In the pits, we chatted a lot, especially since we were both from Chennai. He would always congratulate me whenever I did something good."