A brilliant start

Tauhid Anwar Avik and Affan Sadat Safwan are representing Bangladesh for the first time during the ongoing Volkswagen Ameo Cup Championship in Coimbatore, Madras and Delhi in India. Out of a total of 10 races, the two Bangladeshis have fared really well during the first four races against 18 other racers. Syed Tashfin Chowdhury found out from both, about their individual journeys to the international tournament and their achievements

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Bangladesh has dabbled into many different sports, besides the mainstream ones like cricket, football, volleyball, basketball and others over the past four decades. Some of these, like golf recently, have brought unpredictable success for the country. However, in the cases of most of these ‘other’ sports, the Bangladeshi athletes are usually on their own; any success they receive is through their own skills, dedication and passion.

In such a manner, Bangladeshi athletes can be deemed as more passionate despite all the odds against them.

Motor racing is a similar sport which is loved and followed by plenty of people in Bangladesh. Some of them stick to watching the racing tournaments on television, others play video games related to it while few affluent ones who have their own cars go on long drives to practice their skills.

Only few are courageous enough to take the few extra steps of actually taking part in actual motor racing. Two such brave Bangladeshis are Tauhid Anwar Avik (30) and Affan Sadat Safwan (20) who are participating in the touring tournament called the ‘Volkswagen Ameo Cup’ in India. Already four races out of 10 have been completed. After the completion of the next six, to be held at Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore, Madras Motor Race Track in Chennai and Budh International Circuit near Delhi of India, the winners will be announced.

Undoubtedly, the participation of not one, but two Bangladeshis in an international touring car championship event of such stature is the first of its kind and should be a moment to remember for the nation. They are facing tough competition from veteran racers from India and South Africa for now. But the difficult path began for these two few years earlier.

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Carrying a dream

Tauhid Anwar Avik shares with New Age Xtra, ‘When I went to study in Canada, I wanted to study in Automotive Engineering. But my family did not allow me to venture into that stream. However, during my stay there, I often went to drive on the racing tracks there. I learnt a lot from the other drivers there, watched Formula One on television and also play racing simulation games like Gran Tourismo on the Playstation.’

Avik has finished his studies and is currently running his own business and hosts his own TV show regarding automotive review called i-drive. ‘But I still love cars and love to drive,’ he says.

His passion for cars and racing drove him to take part in the first ever ‘Nitol-Tata Rallycross Championship’ in 2014.

‘I learnt quite a lot from those events,’ says Avik. ‘The first tournament was a big challenge for me as I was the underdog. I had little experience and no sponsors. Fortunately, I won in the Group A category and the overall champion with the fastest time by a fraction of a second,’ he says.

‘The next year, I took part in the same tournament. This time I had sponsors. But I accidentally broke my left leg which is very important for race car driving. My sponsors were disappointed. But I stuck to the commitments and won a second time,’ says Avik.

The third Rallycross had occurred in 2016. ‘This time, I won by a huge margin which made me realise that I should try my luck out in the international tournaments,’ he says.

Sadat’s trip also began around the same time after completing his HSC examinations in 2015. He had also taken part in the Dhaka Rallycross Championship 2016, winning in the ‘novice group’ with an Isuzu Vehicross. However, Sadat was still lagging seven seconds behind Avik’s time in the same tournament.

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Blood, sweat and money

Sadat says, ‘As there are no racing tracks in Bangladesh, to train, initially I had to fly to London. I had to acquire the racing license from Motor Sports Association (MSA) UK with my father. I gained it after going through gruelling theoretical, oral and practical exams at the BrandsHatch International Circuit UK.’

In order to get the license, Sadat had to learn the racing basics. ‘Fortunately, I became the first ever Bangladeshi to achieve a racing license from the MSA UK,’ he says.

After winning the Rallycross on the home ground for the third time, Aviktried to join the racing tournaments in India. ‘The authorities there asked me to gain an international racing license in order to take part in these tournaments. I had an expired race license from the FédérationInternationale de l’Automobile (FIA), which needed to be renewed,’ he says.

Founded in 1904, with headquarters in Paris, the FIA is a non-profit making association that brings together 245 national motoring and sporting organisations from 143 countries on five continents.

Avik had to fly to Canada to have his license renewed. ‘This process is more difficult than the race in India that I faced. In the tournament, you can make mistakes. Before going for the race, I had to train for eight months. But in order to get the racing license renewed, the racer cannot make one mistake while racing 80 laps or 350 kilometres of focused driving in a Formula 3 car,’ he says.

Avik got his license and then he returned to Dhaka. Later he went to India and he had to pay a fee of BDT 25 lakhs to register into the Volkswagen Ameo Cup 2017. ‘Fortunately, I had sponsorship from J.A.N. Associates Canon, Globatt, Mr. Cookie, Car House Limited and Haida,’ he says.

Sadat did not have any sponsors for the tournament. He says, ‘My father gave me the greatest gift that anyone can give to another person.He believed in me and supported me in Motorsports.’

The two Bangladeshi racers, along with the 18 other racers, underwent fitness camps and qualifying races that prepared them for the main tournament.

Avik says, ‘The temperature is really high. So, with the racing suit on inside the car, we were sweating profusely. I had to drink a lot of water to keep myself hydrated.’

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Songs of glory

During Race 1, Avik finished at fourth position. ‘I would have possibly been third if the racer who came in at the third position had not bumped my car,’ he says.

During Race 2, Avik came in at eighth. ‘In Race 3, my car stalled at the starting grid. I had to let everyone go. And then after my car started, I chased everyone down and managed to become 13th in the end.’

During Race 4, ‘I started from the 13th position and ended up at sixth’, says Avik.

Avik shares that the overall experience was rather tough for him. ‘I was facing cars which were evenly matched. Also, the other racers had mostly been training since their childhood. I was finding it difficult to level up with all of them. But it has been a great learning experience till now,’ he says.

Sadat could not finish the first race due to a collision that occurred following a fault by him. In Race 2, he came in at 14th. In Race 3, he was ninth.

‘In the fourth round, I came in at 5th,’ says Sadat.

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The road ahead

‘The fifth, sixth and seventh rounds of the race will be occurring from August 18 till 20,’ says Avik. ‘I have a lot of work to do before then. I aim to shed five kilogrammes. I am also trying to a different driving technique. My ambition is to gain at least the fourth position in this tournament. If this happens, it will be a huge accomplishment for me,’ he adds.

Avik is currently in the fifth position overall and he is 10 points behind the fourth racer.

Sadat says, ‘As I came seventh in the only race I had participated of the Volkswagen Vento Cup 2016,this year I hope to achieve the Junior Championship.’

Both racers wished that there were racing tracks in Bangladesh to nurture more talents like them. ‘Young adults and teenagers are bringing their aggression out on the roads causing accidents. This can be curbed if there are racing tracks,’ says Avik.

Sadat says, ‘I would like to request the concerned authorities to build a track for athletes who are interested in Motorsports in our country.’