- Sundaram Karivardhan
Sundaram Karivardhan or short Kari (
June 20, 1954 Coimbatore, India– August 24, 1995in the same town) was a legendary figure of Indian motorsports. Apart from being a successful formula car racer, was also a designer and constructor of several formula cars, his most famous design being the Formula Marutiopen wheeled race car. His low cost cars helped other racers, notably Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandok, and Armaan Ebrahim, to their entry into motorsports. A wealthy industrialist, he was later killed in an air crash, aged 41.
Sundaram Karivardhan was born on 20 June 1954 in
Coimbatoreto noted Indian freedom fighter G.K.Sundaram from the Lakshmi Millstextile family. He did his schooling in Coimbatore and after graduating in mechanical engineeringfrom PSG College of Technology, he completed his master of scienceat the UCLA, Los Angeles.
Quiet and shy in nature from a very young age, he showed a keen interest in bikes and cars. In the
United Kingdomhe attended the Jim Russell racing school. Later, when he returned to India in the mid-70's, he started participating in the Chennai's Sholavaramraces and Calcutta's Barrackpore track. His first race was 1973 SholavaramGrand Prix meet, later he appeared every year in newly constructed formula cars from his own garage. He raced until 1995, the year of his demise. Cars he raced ranged from Premier Padmini, Datsun 510, Sipani Dolphin, Formula Atlantic, several cars of his own design and in the final years Formula 3cars. His last race was in a Formula Ford, in McDowell's body shell in Chennai's MMSC track.
Sholavaramhe has also raced in Calcutta'S BarrackporeTrack and in Delhi.
Race Car Constructor
One of his early complete in-house designs was the 300 BHP
Formula Monopostobased on the Formula Atlantic Chevron B40model nicknamed “Black Beauty”. But until the late 80's, motorsports was only for wealthy drivers. In an effort to make racing more affordable in India and improve grassroots level racing he designed and tested a small single seater, dubbed as India's Formula Ford, with a Maruti 800 engine, and adapting easily available parts, sometimes made in-house. His second design was a two seater car named McDowell 1000 using a Maruti Gypsy1.0 literengine.
FISSME(Formula India Single Seater Maruti Engine) widely known as formula Marutiwas launched in 1988 in Chennai's Park Sheraton just before the annual races in MMSC track. Notable drivers taking part in the inaugural race were J. Anand, Akbar Ibhrahimand R. Gopinath, all of them would later become national champions in Formula 3. The inaugural race was won by Akbar Ibhrahim.
Later years saw drivers like
Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandok, Armaan Ebrahimand other future national champions making their debut races in a Formula Maruti series, until the class was discontinued from the mainstream championship in 2006. Still these cars race in junior championship, and are the most affordable open wheeled formula cars in the world costing not more than US$ 300 for a single race.
Kari entered in very few rallies, among them the
Karnataka K-1000in Bangalore. He later launched the JK Rally team in 1992, when JK Tyreswanted to enter into rallying which was previously dominated by MRF Tyres. In the 1990 season he spotted a young Hari Singhfrom Chandigarghtaking part in the Coimbatore Rally and, seeing his talent, offered him to tune his car, enabling him to win the Indian Championship title 5 times. During the early 90's he quickly converted all Maruti Gypsy Rally cars to fuel injection when tuned chips gained popularity.
Kari's racing team was
Super Speeds, and the main sponsor was Lakshmi Mills. The early cars had a white and blue body shell which was later switched to black and gold. The company that built his cars was P&B Engineering. J. Anandand N. Leela Krishnanwere some of the notable drivers from his team before the duo switched to rival Team MRF.
Kari was interested in many areas of mechanics, and that included his interest in
aviationas his family owned a Cessnaairplane. In 1989 he started a small manufacturing plant near Coimbatore to manufacture Power Gilders using a Yezdi250cc motorcycle engine, later a Rotax engine. He would often test his gliders flying to the OotyMountains, Dindigul, Kovilpatti, or Kayattar near Tirunelveli. The small airstrip in Coimbatore later became the Kari Motor Speedway.
In the early 90's he was promoted to be the
Managing Directorof Lakshmi Millsand held this key management position in several of his group companies. Also he ventured into new areas like development of aerators for prawnbreeding. One of his other earliest ventures was to manufacture small farm tractors. During the early 90's he purchased rights from a British based kit car manufacturer to build replica models of the Ford GT40, using a Ford Cosworth), Lotus 7, and AC Cobra. But before commencing production he died in an aircraft crash in Coimbatore.
He died on 24th of August 1995 while flying a Puspak trainers aircraft. The purpose of flying was to log some additional flying time as required to retain his flying license. The accident was widely mourned by the racing scene. He was about to make a full mark in the automobile scenario and his last press interview was with Car and Bike magazine and
BBCMotor Show programme days before his crash.
His demise almost created a vacuum in Indian Motorsports with dwindling crowds in the Chennai track and after the 1997 season made the MMSC scrap the All India Grand Prix Meet altogether. In 2002 his long-time friend and co-racer
B. Vijaykumarstepped in to build and launch Formula LGBand Formula Rolonrace cars and also constructed a race track in his hometown which is a major motorsports hub.
Character and Legacy
Widely known as a gentleman racer, his unselfish ways and dedication to the development of Indian motorsports attracted many new talents into Motorsports. Kari also earned admiration from several quarters more for his character than his racing talents. Though born in one of
Coimbatore's wealthiest families, Kari was easily approachable by several people irrespective of social barriers. Kari was nevertheless considered a unique man with his soft-spoken nature and publicity shy nature. He was good in spotting new talents and training them to become professionals like Akbar Ibhrahim and five time national Rallying Champion Hari Singh.
Kari's Team Super Speeds later became a Limited Company now a part of L. G. Balakrishnan Brothers and today has a motorsports division which constructs the
Formula LGBand Formula Roloncars.
The race track in
Coimbatoreis named after Karivardhan ( Kari Motor Speedway), and in Karamadai in Coimbatore an Industrial Training schoolis named after him. Some of his former employees have their garages named in his honour. His Intended Caterham based car was named Kari 65 in his honour with 65 being his racing number.
FISSME(a.k.a. Formula Maruti)
Kari Motor Speedway
ources and Links
[http://www.mmsc.in Madras Motor Sports Club]
* [http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mag/2005/04/03/stories/2005040300190200.htm Article and his Photo in The Hindu]
* [http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2003/12/01/stories/2003120102260100.htm Race track dedicated to Kari] , The Hindu, Dec 01, 2003
* [http://www.nagpurtrade.com/Motorsport.html Indian Motorsport and Kari]
* [http://www.robbylobby.com/blog/ Kari's Power Glider]
* [http://x-air.in/html/profile.htm Raj Hansa Ultra Lights]
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