December 17, 2002 
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Ajith's winning formula
After 10 years of acting, the Tamil star gets back to what he loves most


Many people ask me what is it about bikes and cars that excite me. I tell them it is like poetry in motion. It is like dancing with your loved one in a softly lit room.

When you drive, you are one with the machine.

I race because I love the sport.

I think everyone aspires to become someone; and you become someone else. Perhaps only one per cent of the population in the world gets to do what they really love doing and even get paid for it.

Everybody knows I used to race motorbikes before I came into films. It has been 10 years since I joined the film industry, but it would disappoint me when I used to watch Formula 1 races on television, or when I red interviews of (racers) Narain Karthikeyan or Karun Chandhok.

I would be disappointed with myself. I was sad I could not fulfil my ambition.

I think I am now in a position to pursue racing. I do not want anyone to interpret it as a lack of love for movies. Racing is what I have always wanted to do.

That is why I have now made a conscious decision to do just two films a year. It would be easy for me to sign four, five films and make lots of money. But I want to concentrate on quality films. That also gives me adequate time to concentrate on what I love.

.Ajith and Shalini I decided to participate in the national car racing event, the JK Tyre National championship. We have five events; each event consists of two races. My first race in Formula Maruti on September 8 was disastrous. I finished 16th.

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I was not nervous -- I had raced before, too. So it was very nostalgic. I was remembering what I did 10 years ago. The only difference was that I raced a bike then.

But I was conscious of the fact that I was being watched by many. You know, there are a lot of similarities between motor racing and the film industry. Both are very competitive. Everybody wants to be number one. In racing, you look for a good car; in movies, you look for a good script. You may have a good car but you may not perform. The same is true for films.

After my disastrous first race, I enrolled at ASP Management and Consultancy, run by former motor racer Akbar Ebrahim. He is a partner with Vicky Chandhok, Karun Chandhok's father. So I decided to train there

Ajith In the second race at the Nationals, I crashed on the very second corner. It resulted in a four-car-piler, but I wasn't disappointed. It is part of racing. I finished 8th in one race and 10th in the second race, which was good. In the third event, I finished 8th in the second race. But I got the fourth fastest lap timing.

I also won the Best Novice Award for that event. I was very excited -- I had to wait 10 years to be on the podium to collect an award. I had not won any podium finishes with my bike before. Now I was standing on the podium with the first three winners.

An unforgettable moment was when my wife Shalini gave away the awards to the winners. After she distributed prizes to the three winners, they called out my name for the Best Novice Award.

I knew I had done well but didn't know I would win an award. My wife didn't, either. So it was very, very emotional.

I had to wait 10 years to win an award. I had to wait till I got married. I had to wait for my wife to give that award to me. Maybe it was destined that I collect my first award from somebody who loves me.

Yes, I am entering a field that is full of teenagers. At 30, I am a little late. I can't talk in the same language as Narain and Karun about Formula 1, which is the pinnacle of motor racing. I know I am at a disadvantage in terms of age.

So I am realistic and honest enough to tell people, "Look, F1 is not what I am aiming for."

Ajith I am trying to get into the sport in a very serious manner, but I do not know what level I can reach. Considering my performances in the last couple of races, I know I have it in me to be a winner. Till I stand with a trophy on the podium during a race, nothing I do will convince people that I am into this sport seriously. So I will just go ahead with the training.

I was to participate in the Macau Grand Prix in China in November but unfortunately I had some problems with my international racing license. That is being sorted out now.

I will now participate in the Formula Asia championship (Karun Chandhok is the reigning champion) next year. It used to be the Formula Asia Ford championship. BMW will replace Ford in 2003. This is the first time these cars are coming to Asia. We have 13 races to be held in Japan, Korea, Thailand and China. The final leg will be in Macau. Nineteen-year-old driver Raj Virudan from Coimbatore will race for India at the Formula BMW Asia Championship.

The season starts in March and will go on till June. The first event will be the supporting race for the F1 Grand Prix which means we are going to be there with the Formula 1 drivers. We are going to be rubbing shoulders with the big boys! We may not even get a chance to meet them but they are going to be watching us because F1 racers look out for new talent. It is exciting to think that Michael Schumacher will be watching us.

Ajith spoke to Shobha Warrier

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Narain not under pressure


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