Malaysia: Young racer Shahan Ali Mohsin has become the first Indian to win the Asian Karting Championship.
The 12-year-old from Agra put up a valiant show during the final weekend after missing two days of track time due to a bout of food poisoning and staved off a strong challenge from his main rival Hayden Haikal to clinch the title here on Sunday.
He will now be hoping for a repeat in the JK Tyre National Rotax Max Karting Championship as well, with the final round scheduled on September 25.
Shahan was not completely fit as he fought the infection which surfaced early on Thursday. He was severely dehydrated and his participation in the event became a major question mark while his rivals pounded the track throughout Thursday and Friday during practice sessions.
He showed immense determination and hit the track on Saturday, even though he was not fully fit. Right from the first practice session, he was in the running for the top three spots albeit missing a few tenths from outright benchmark.
However, he almost magically put it together in qualifying -- taking pole position by over two-tenths of a second (0.2 sec) -- a dominating showing given the drivers from second to fifth positions were separated by just five-hundredth of a second (0.05 sec).
Shahan, who is leading the micro-max category of the JK Tyre National Rotax Max Karting Championship back home, carried his good form, coming into the weekend, with a five point lead in the Micro Max championship table over his title rival Hayden Haikal. Therefore it was critical to have a clean weekend with no risks and no surprises and finish ahead of Hayden in all sessions which included two heat races, a pre-final and the final.
In the two heat races, Shahan kept his composure despite a few brushes with Amer Harris, who was not in championship contention but was fighting aggressively for the win.
Shahan had the bigger picture in mind and did not want to push his luck and risk a 'Did Not Finish'. He drove with composure and finished second in both the heats ahead of Hayden who finished third in both the races.
Starting second in the pre-finals, Shahan once again engaged in a fierce competition with Amer, with both the racers passing each other for the lead multiple times with Shahan eventually settling for second with Haikal finishing four seconds behind.
With Shahan holding a slight advantage over his rivals, the championship battle was now set to go down to the wire. Amer, Hayden and Shahan were engaged in a three-way fight, with places being switched between the two championship contenders while Amer led at the front but not far away.
Eventually Shahan settled for third with Hayden finishing second this time around; with the top three finishing within 0.2 seconds. Numbers were crunched and at the end of it - Shahan emerged four points ahead thanks to his consistent performance over the weekend which handed him the title.
"It is really unbelievable. I was in a seriously bad shape just two days back and could not even think of driving a kart, let alone fight for the Asian Championship title," Shahan said.
"The strength I got from having both my parents alongside me throughout was incredible and I still do not know how I managed to walk, get into the kart and get pole position in qualifying. I surprised even myself a little bit. Everything after that was a blur and thanks to Wai Leong and the entire Top Kart team for a superb setup and excellent strategy which helped us secure the title with the least amount of risk", he added.