Narain Karthikeyan is confident that the newly-launched Indian MRF Formula 2000 series will boost the chances of a new generation of Formula 1 drivers emerging from the country.
The new category uses cars based on the previous-generation Dallara F308 chassis, powered by a two-liter, 210hp Renault engine, and will kick off in support of the Indian Grand Prix at Buddh on Oct. 26-28.
Karthikeyan was the first Indian to race in F1, for Jordan in 2005, with Karun Chandhok becoming the second in 2010, but the HRT driver, who is involved with the series as an MRF Tires brand ambassador. believes that having a domestic series with cars of comparable speed to F3 will lead to more Indian drivers emerging in the future.
"When I first came to Europe there was nothing at home of this sort of speed," Karthikeyan said. "It will mean that Indian drivers can be much better-prepared as they make their way to F1. The lap time should be very close to F3 because of the car, engine and MRF is developing very good tires as well. So it will be a very good training ground.
"For the first time in our part of the world, we will have quite a high-level championship which I didn't have the chance to do. That's part of the reason that it took me a long time to get to F1."
"For the region, this is a very good series. It's a lot cheaper than equivalent series in Europe and it's going to produce some very good racing."
Championship organizers are hoping to attract international drivers to race against rising local talent. The cars will be centrally run, with a 21-driver grid planned.
"It should be a pretty full grid," said Karthikeyan. "It's very similar to F3 race format, with half-hour races so as well as offering a good chance for Indian drivers to learn, it should be very attractive to international drivers as well."