Ebrahim: "Lucky to make racing my full-time profession"
Indian ace GT driver Armaan Ebrahim reflects on his joining Lamborghini's Driver Programme and making a career in racing despite all odds.
The 27-year-old made his international single-seater debut in 2005 in Formula BMW Asia and after stints in the A1 Grand Prix, Formula Renault and GP2 Asia, Ebrahim moved to Formula 2.
After three seasons in F2, the Indian moved to America, racing in IndyLights for three races before lack of budget forced him to switch to sportscar racing in 2013.
Having raced then in FIA GT series and Blancpain Sprint series, the Chennai-based driver moved to Lamborghini Super Trofeo Aisa in 2015, where he is competing still in the Pro-Am class.
Along with the driving role, Ebrahim is also mentoring young racers in India as well as drivers in the Formula 4 South East Asia championship.
The Indian having amassed 29 podiums including nine wins in his career, spoke exclusively to Motorsport.com about his Lamborghini stint and career till now.
Q) You recently joined Lamborghini’s driver programme and the first stage is completed. What does that mean to you and where can it lead you to?
"In the Lamborghini's Squadra Corse young driver programme they got 12 of us from different markets. The first stage was for three days which consisted of a factory visit, fitness tests at techno gym and a day's test doing some development work on the Super Trofeo GT3 car.
The stage was also to get my official license [and] Lamborghini instructor certificate and start doing Asia-Pacific events for the customers. I can only put on my results and hopefully Lambo in India gets stronger and bigger.
And if we can get more customers here, that helps the brand. So, India will get more involved in terms of motorsport. Once your marker goes, you have more liability to get involved in motorsport and support your drivers and push them to the manufacturer level.
It all has to work hand in hand. On my part I need to make sure I’m in a seat and I deliver the result."
Q) So can Lamborghini provide you with any assistance to go back to you Europe or they see you as a guy for the Asian market?
"Asia is also a strong market. There are some new Asian championships and the current GT Asia is strong. Then you’ve got Japan, which is also good and China has a new emerging GT series.
So, it doesn’t have to be Europe. It could be in Asia or anywhere else, as long as I can race competitively, I’m happy.
There are lots of great events all around the world. [I am] just lucky enough to be in the car and make this my full-time profession."
Q) So, your second season in Super Trofeo Asia series. But how did this deal came about and why did you decide to return to Asia after spending a few years in Europe?
"[Basically] I was in Europe for F2 after that we decided with sportscar. When you are low on budget, you aren’t driving for the best team, it’s never the best package and you are competing against manufacturer-backed teams, it is always difficult.
So the logical step was take a step back as getting budget was difficult. But [then] we looked at Asia, which is an emerging market and I came across Dilantha [Malagamuwa of Dilango Racing].
We came in touch and he was very keen to put this deal in place and it worked up perfectly. It was a good opportunity because Lamborghini was introducing the Huracan for the first time.
I read a lot about it and the development of the car and Lambo put a lot of hard work on it. The competition was really good last year, we did well to end runners-up.
For this season, am quite happy. My own performance for last three rounds, the races I have started, I’ve come into the pits [for change of driver] in the lead.
And Dilantha has done a flawless job [as well]. Overall, a win eludes us but we are hoping to finish the season with an overall win."
Q) We have the World Finals in Valencia coming up, what are you expectations?
"I’ve have found memories of Valencia with a podium finish in F2, but in a GT car, it will be different. Nonetheless, the World Finals is huge because there are lot of strong Pro-Am pairings for the overall podium [and so] we need to push each other.
Hopefully Dilantha is on pace with the other Amateur drivers. I need to do my job as I’m the top Pro driver. We just need to make sure that we look after our own departments.
And hopefully we will have a strong result. Going by our pace this year, we should be really strong and be amongst the top half."
Q) You had also announced an entire Asian GT/GT Asia season, but you ended up doing just one round, what happened there?
"That was the plan to do the whole season of GT Asia, but unfortunately we had some issues with the car. It was the old Gallardo and we had some issues in Korea. That was a bit disappointing.
It’s good in a way because we can focus all our efforts on Super Trofeo and it is shown in the results. Obviously it’s good to do more races but it will happen in time [hopefully]."
Q) So, what's looking like for next year then?
"You never know. It all depends upon budgets and all the other aspects as well. Let me finish this year first and then start looking at next year.
There are always opportunities. I have no clue. Hopefully, I will be racing in a Lamborghini somewhere."
Q) All depends on sponsorship, isn't it?
"In India, JK Tyre has been sponsoring me since start of my career. It’s only because of them that I’m still here. It is very difficult. Our other partners have come and gone over the years due to different circumstances.
I think the only way to break this is to have other international events in India. Once we get a round of a Super Trofeo, Audi R8 LMS Cup or even World Endurance Championship, when there is more viewership to the naked eye, it is attractive to our business partners since it is happening in our backyard.
"I think that is going to be a game changer. If we can get done it will be a lot more easier. When it is happening in some other country and it is not televised, it is difficult."
Q) And finally, you have been quite active in the newly-launched F4 SEA series. What's your role there?
"My association with Meritus who run/own the F4 SEA championship goes back a couple of years where I was coaching their Asia cup series. This is a continuation of that.
The FIA created the F4 so that there could be an entry level series that runs the same spec in every region. It's a good first step to take when a driver decides to start their international racing career.
The series is very transparent where all the cars are setup the same and all information are open for all to see, basically it comes down to the driver, which is what we want. In a way the concept of transparency is similar to how we run the Euro JK series as well.
Another good thing is that all the kids coming in are between 15 to 20 years and it's great to work with just raw talent that's come straight from karting or just starting their racing careers here.
Apart from being one of the series' driver coaches, we have two Indians Akash Gowda and Mohammed Nalwalla, who I've been coaching for a while [now]. And the amount they have improved is immense.
The first round saw them struggling quite a bit. But thanks to the continuous seat time between the F4 SEA and Euro JK series, they've become serious front end contenders.
Interview by Rachit Thukral
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