COVER STORY FEBRUARY 2019

 

AKASH NEIL NANDY & NABIL JEFFRI

 

SOARING PAST THE BRAKING POINT

 

Akash Nandy and Nabil Jeffri were not only born with good looks, but also born to race. They were propelled into the racing scene at a very young age, initiating with go-karting and the rest as you know, is history. These handsome lads have achieved outstanding feats by being the youngest Formula One test driver while the other, the youngest to partake in a single-seat race in Europe. Their paths crossed as teenagers, instantaneously sharing a bond and passion for racing. While they are both racers, they compete in different championships altogether. Nabil participates in the FIA World Endurance Championship while Akash competes in single-seater racing. We spill the deets on these accomplished young men including how they prepare for a race. Happy reading!

 

 

AKASH NEIL NANDY

Tell us how did you get into this field. Was it passion-driven?

Cars have always been a passion of mine since I was a toddler. I loved everything about going fast. It never failed to excite me. When I was four years old, my father took me to a go-kart track in Extreme Park behind Sunway which was where I had my firstgo at driving a go-kart. Since then, I could never get enough of it. Until I was a little older, my dad bought me a used 85cc go kart and we would use it every weekend. It just grew from there till  one day I asked him to let me race. Racing is a sport that my father and I share, and I’m so grateful that I have been able to do it with his support.

 

How has the experience been thus far?

So far, the experience has been amazing. Not all of it good but a lot of it have made me who I am today. A lot life lessons learned but I will always be raring to get in the car and be one with the race track.

 

You participated in big-time racing series at the age of 16, subsequently focusing on single-seater race, starting in Europe. How did it feel racing in the big leagues with the big boys?

Racing in Europe was a big game changer for me. Coming from Asia where the competition is already getting tougher every season, it was a big surprise to how much closer everyone was during the races. At times we would have all 25 drivers on the grid within a second of the fastest. If you found a tenth or two, it would gain you so many positions. However, having spent a few years racing in Europe and coming back to Asia, the competition is equally competitive now.

 

Who is your favourite race car driver? Maybe someone who inspired you to want to be a driver too?

When I started watching Formula 1 properly, at the time Lewis Hamilton was the one I looked up to. He just started his Formula 1 career and was already world champion by his second year in F1. Till this day I still look up to and support him for the driver that he has become. On another note, my father is my biggest inspiration for me wanting to be a racing driver. He is the most daring driver I know and still is and that drive and fire he has, runs in me too.

 

What’s your dream car and why?

My dream car is the Porsche GT3RS, especially the 997.2 4.0 litres. Why? It’s a proper driver’s car, you feel literally everything in your hands. How you can feel the rawness of the chassis, the weight transfers in the corners and so on. A feeling that is hard to find in modern sports cars/track cars. Also, it still has a H-pattern gearbox which is always fun.

 

What preparations do you undergo before a race?

My preparations always begin with time spent in the gym. For the last two years I have used functional fitness to aid me with this and without a doubt, at least 5-6 times I train for two hours to be physically prepared. On the other side of things, I always keep contact with the team I’m racing for to keep me updated with race preparation in terms of track notes, data and on board videos. This is to help me with my visualisation process, to learn and understand what kind of driving style I should have. The next process would be time in the simulator where I try to simulate what/how I would drive on track.

 

 

If you could relive any race over again, which race would you choose and why?

I would go back to the 60th Macau Grand Prix where I became the youngest to win a Grand Prix there. It was my first time on this circuit which is a street track, so you can imagine how close we are to the barriers. We had all weekend dry but at the race ,it rained, so again everyone was starting back from zero and to win here is a dream for of many drivers.

 

Akash, you were the youngest driver to win in a Macau Grand Prix event. What ran through your mind then and what did it feel like?

At the time it didn’t really hit when I was 16. I took it as another race win. Although I was very happy with the performance and overall result, it took me a year to achieve it. That was when I was most proud of my achievement and the journey it took me to get there.

 

Walk us through your process before or during a race?

Right before a race, I make sure I am relaxed and in a place where I can zone out before getting into the car. A lot race driver today spends a lot of time warming up and practising their reaction time to get the mind and body primed before a race. For me, that’s a different case. Being around positive energy is always key, and this is where the team helps me the most. Put on some good music and getting in the right mood is my main aim.

 

Akash, when running at a new track, how many laps does it take before you find the limits on your braking points?

As racing drivers, we are always finding the limits to our driving at every session we get on track. Even during the last race of the weekend, we are still finding ways to drive better. It doesn’t take more than two practice sessions to learn and have an idea how that circuit will be driven but we are always striving to improve lap time. For instance, we may have found the limit to a braking point at a certain corner but releasing the brakes a fraction earlier can help gain entry speed into the corner because the goal is to always find the fastest way around the track.

 

How does fitness affect your overall performance on the track and which is more important in racing – a strong upper body, lower body, or core?

A lot of people think that racing is just peddling to metal and turning a steering but it’s a lot more than that. Fitness does play a big role in your overall performance on track. I believe that muscle endurance is very important, as well as overall body conditioning. That is why I use Crossfit/function training to help me with this. I focus a lot on conditioning such as aerobic training and gymnastics for core strength. I do include strengthbased work to just keep the body strong, to help with driving the weight of the car as we have no power steering.

 

What are your aspirations?

My aspirations have always been to be a professional racing driver and to drive for a big manufacturing company such as Porsche or Mercedes, whether it be in Formula 1 or Sport cars racing. At one point, I even wanted to be an automobile engineer which is related to motorsports too. So you could say I really do love cars.

 

Could you share your best time or performance in a race?

I would like to take you back to when I was racing in go karts in 2010 where I fought hard to win the Rotax Max Malaysia Championship in the junior category which earned me a ticket to competing for Malaysia in the Rotax Max World Finals in Italy that year. To represent your country is always amazing but the amount of effort and time went into making that happen was a highlight. I was only 13 then.

 

What is the most daring thing you have done outside racing?

There have been times where I almost attempted bungee jumping but because it was too close to a race I didn’t want to risk anything. But maybe I could say surfing. I have only been surfing twice in my life, in New Zealand and Bali, and it was definitely a fun experience.

 

What’s your next race and where is it going to be?

My next race will be the Asian F3 Winter Series to be held at our own Sepang International Circuit from Feb 24 to 26.

 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years I hope to already have my degree and still competing in high-level racing but things can always go a different direction and at times, that excites. Living in the moment is what I like to do most of the time, and I firmly believe in what is meant to happen will happen.

 

Finally, what do you do for leisure?

For leisure, I always like to go on bike rides with my dad or even Sunday morning car drive up to Genting for breakfast with a bunch of car enthusiasts. I am big petrol head, so I love to be around vehicles. Now and again I go back to my roots which is driving a go kart, so always got one ready just to get the adrenaline pumped during the weekend. Besides all that, spending time with family and friends is very important to me.

 

 

NABIL JEFFRI

 

Tell us how did you get into this field. Was it passiondriven?

Yes, it definitely was. I started as young as eight years of age with karting.

 

How has the experience been thus far?

It has been an incredible journey for me. Travelling across the globe for every round of race for many years since I was eight has made me the man I am today. Without me realising, my racing career has helped me to be very focused and precise with everything that I do.

 

Who is your favourite race car driver? Maybe someone who inspired you to want to be a driver too?

Fernando Alonso is my favourite driver. Apart from him being a professional driver, his character and personality are also admirable. He’s very charismatic and disciplined. I look up to him very much.

 

What’s your dream car and why?

My dream car is the Mercedes C63. This is because it’s a very high-performance car, yet I can use it daily and conveniently.

 

You are the youngest ever Formula One test driver. Did you envision making history?

Not at all. It was a once-in-a-lifetime chance given to me by Tan Sri Tony Fernandes. It will forever be something special that I cherish.

 

If you could relive any race over again, which race would you choose and why?

I would relive the race in Monaco when I was doing Formula 2. It was one of the best races I’ve competed in throughout my whole career, plus racing in between houses and yachts was undeniably precious.

 

What preparations do you undergo before a race?

I work on my fitness and stamina twice a day to prepare for a race. I take care of my food intake very seriously and I get enough sleep every night. Apart from that, I do track studying and laps on the simulator.

 

Nabil, you’re participating in the prestigious Le Mans 24. What is your goal for this race?

I aim to finish top 3 and that’s my most important goal.

 

Walk us through your process before or during a race?

I would arrive for team briefings a week before to discuss about the race event where I also meet my race engineers to deliberate on the strategies and what not.

 

Nabil, when running at a new track, how many laps does it take before you find the limits on your braking points?

It depends really. But it usually takes about three to five laps to achieve my braking point.

 

Who would be your two dream co-drivers at Le Mans, and which car would you want to drive?

I would love to do it with Alonso and Jenson Button in the LMP 1 class.

 

How does fitness affect your performance on the track and which is more important in racing – a strong upper body, lower body, or core?

If you’re unfit, it will definitely have a negative effect on the body as the speed going at 300kms would be unbearable for you. Secondly, it is harmful for yourself as you might lose focus. Thirdly, with good stamina, it helps to avoid unnecessary mistakes when it comes to the last or third quarter of the race. In addition, core, neck and cardio are all the combination needed and are equally important in a race.

 

What are your aspirations?

My aspiration is to drive in a LMP1 class alongside professional drivers.

 

If you had to name the highlight of your career thus far, what would it be?

The highlight of my career has to be finishing in the top 10 for Formula 2 where I competed against the top 20 best drivers in the world.

 

Could you share your best time or performance in a race?

My best performance was in the German Formula 3 back in 2013 where I finished 2nd in the German Championship.

 

What is your take away from racing and being on the race tracks?

I personally feel that it broadens my mind, makes me a mature person plus handling so many things at 300km/h makes it easier to handle things at normal human speed.

 

What is the most daring thing you have done outside racing?

Nothing crazy. Racing is so daring that anything outside racing is considered normal.

 

What’s your next race and where is it going to be?

My next race is at the Circuit de Spa Franchorchamps, 2019 Belgian Grand Prix in May.

 

Finally, what do you do for leisure?

I actually love to train during my leisure time. For instance, I took part in a half Ironman last year and finished first in my age category.

 

 

WORDS BY HIRANMAYII AWLI MOHANAN

PHOTOGRAPHER : BARATHAN AMUTHAN

HAIR STYLIST : DEREK @ ANAGEN

VENUE : KLAS @ JALAN UTARA

 

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