New Delhi: Having broken new ground by becoming the first Indian to participate in the Thailand Superbike Championship, Sandesh Prasannakumar is now focussed on finishing on the podium in the remaining two phases of the competition. The Bengaluru racer made it a memorable debut by finishing second in the first phase of the competition.
"It was one of the toughest race of my career. In fact, I was badly dehydrated in the few last minutes and it was really difficult to stay strong and fight for the title. But trust me, to be on that podium was the best feeling I have ever experienced. It was worth the effort and had something very positive about it," Sandesh told IANS.
"This was a long-awaited podium and the journey to reach here has demanded a lot from me. I had to struggle hard to start from the scratch and get back in the form. As of now, I need to focus on winning the next two rounds."
Sandesh, who had made elaborate preparations before flying off to Thailand, said the tournament offers a lot of lessons for Indian racers.
"I have been doing a lot of supermoto practice before I head to race in Thailand. Keeping myself fit in the gym as well.
Thailand track luckily suits my riding style as well and I have got a really good bike and setup to ride there. So everything is syncing in well," the 27-year-old said.
"Lot of learning to be done in Thailand. The way the country works for motorcycle racing and how riders are fast and how they give their 100 percent. This championship is a big learning curve for anyone from India.
"I'm the first Indian to participate in Thailand Superbike Championship. It wasn't an added pressure I would say, but I was nervous so was my team because it was all new from both the sides. But once on the bike it all turns off and I focus only on my riding and following faster riders to learn more. I wish to get more practice there and win more races," he added.
The achievement is all the more laudable since Sandesh is making a comeback from a long injury lay-off. He had broken his collar bone in January last year and was only able to return to competitive racing earlier this year.
"I crashed in January 2017 which broke my collar bone in two pieces and I have a rod and nine screws fit in to my Clavicle. I thought it would be easy to get back in to form after this as I have seen all Moto GP riders coming back from injuries very easily and stronger. But that was not the same for me," he said.
"I was mentally not strong to go 100 percent on the bike as even my bike had damaged in the crash and superbike racing required utmost precision for a rider to go 1000 percent and be confident on the bike which also depends on rider to rider. It took me a good one and a half year to gain that confidence back and get back my form. Hopefully this stays for a long time and I'll work hard for it."
Apart from his formidable battles with form and injury, Sandesh also had to overcome personal tragedy as one of his friends had committed suicide a few days before the tournament.
In his friend's honour, Sandesh had participated in the race with a sticker on his helmet which read 'say no to suicide'.
"I was disheartened to know about a very good friend named Varna, who committed suicide two weeks before the race. All I wanted to do was to raise awareness about the same. I dedicate this victory and the podium to her," he said.