Rally ace Naren Kumar retires

By Anand Philar,IANS,

Chennai : Just a week shy of his 37th birthday, one of India iconic rally drivers, Velappan Rajendran Naren Kumar, has announced his retirement from motorsports after an 18-year career.

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In a telephonic chat with IANS Friday, the Coimbatore-based Naren Kumar said that he wanted to retire when on top rather than delay the inevitable.

“I won my seventh national title last year, driving for Red Rooster Racing. They have since pulled out of motorsports and I was left without a drive this season. So, I thought it was best that I quit when I am on top.”

“It has been a good run, but it is time for me to focus on my business and move on. I will definitely attend rallies, but not behind the wheels of a rally car,” he said.

Naren Kumar said: “This has been a tough decision to make, but I have decided to retire from rallying! It has been a great journey since my first event in 1993 to winning seven national titles (1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010), an Asia Zone title (2001), and representing India in the World Rally Championship in 2008.”

“There has been tremendous encouragement and support from many quarters and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you in the press for the fantastic support extended to me during this memorable journey.”

“All of this was possible only with the untiring support from Sponsors and friends. I would like to thank my sponsors MRF Tyres, JK Tyre, SIDVIN Core Tech, Red Rooster Racing and VR Foundries for their all important role in this long road of success.”

His long-time co-driver and also first cousin D.Ramkumar admitted that age was a factor in the decision to retire and that he too was following suit.

“I am 45 and Naren will be 37 next week. So, age is catching up with both of us and we have our business commitments. We have achieved quite a lot and I am fully satisfied that we did our best under the circumstances.

“No, I don’t think I can co-drive for anyone else. Naren was a cool-headed driver who took only calculated risks; never hesitated to step the pace or ease off when required. A very clean driver and among the best I have seen,” Ramkumar told IANS.

Statistics do no justice to Naren Kumar’s talent that first surfaced when he finished overall third in the 1994 South India Rally, driving a modified (Group A) Gypsy, a feat that earned him a berth in Team MRF and which he represented close to a decade.

Known for his clean lines through the corners, a skill he honed on the racing tracks, Naren Kumar enjoyed an iconic status in Indian Rallying circuit for his special ability to be blindingly quick and yet safe even on a treacherous surface.

Ramkumar rated the 2005 K-1000 win as among their best drive. “We were trailing the leaders by over a minute after the first Leg. But on Day Two, Naren drove really hard. We made up the deficit and won,” he said.

His forays on the international stage were marked by the 2001 Asia aone title, but his move to the next level, the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in 2002 and subsequently the P-WRC six years later, only resulted in frustration, mostly due to insufficient practice in the four-wheel drive cars.