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HomeLifestyleMotorsportsRacing Against the Odds: Navigating a Turbulent Path to a Motorsports Dream

Racing Against the Odds: Navigating a Turbulent Path to a Motorsports Dream

In October of 2017, I attended my first motor race. A competitive swimmer with dreams of the Olympics of nearly a decade at this point, my mother and I crossed through the gates of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas out of curiosity. We had seen the annual billboards advertising the Formula 1 Grand Prix over the past two years we lived in the city but, despite my lifelong interest in and love of cars, never went. We got tickets to Saturday qualifying having been told it was the only session worth seeing in person (pro-tip: the very idea is psychotic, always get tickets for the race). We sat at the top of the turn 15 grandstands.

The image of the first real race car I had ever seen in person is still burned into my head. Jolyon Palmer in his yellow and black Renault R.S.17. It was like watching a panther stalk through the T12-16 switchbacks, its 1000hp twin-turbo hybrid V6 quietly seething in preparation for the upcoming hot lap. Every movement of the wheel held the potential for neck breaking G-forces through corners at triple digit speeds. Such a machine is almost incomprehensible and yet as the hammer dropped and 10,000rpms of ferocious French horsepower came careening off the back straight, it made perfect sense. I was hooked.

Since 2017 I have missed a grand total of 5 grand prix. Motorsports consumed me in a way that nothing ever has, not even the sport I had dedicated nine years of my life to. I watched every session of every race from Friday to Sunday, I spent hours studying the history of the sport, falling even further in love with the incredible stories of legends like Prost, Senna, and Schumacher.  It was sunk-cost fallacy more than anything that shackled me to swimming for three more years. The idea that all the time and money I invested in the pool hurt more than the suffocating emptiness of dedicating four hours a day six days per week into something I no longer even enjoyed.

Ironically, it was a Frenchman that showed me the light. Charles Leclerc’s 2019 win at Monza – and Ferrari’s first at home in Italy since 2010 – was one of the most stunning defensive performances I’ve ever seen. Leclerc took his Ferrari SF19 to battle against both Mercedes at the height of their 8-year run of total domination from 2014 to 2021, and without any support from his teammate. He held off a then 5-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton and his teammate Valtteri Bottas over 51 grueling laps –  driving so close to the cliff of what was possible you could physically see the car dance on the precipice. I knew then, without a shadow of a doubt, I wanted that.

I am now in my third year of trying to fulfill that dream. At 18, F1 is likely far beyond what is possible for me to achieve. Most F1 drivers start driving at the age of four and even still with the backing of generational wealth or racing heritage. I have neither. Even in what I do – Karting, the lowest entry level of motorsport – that is a massive disadvantage. Especially when budgets approach north of the upper 5-figures when running a national program.

To be a professional racing driver without a winning ticket to the socioeconomic lottery is to overcome an increasingly insurmountable series of cartoonishly difficult hurdles. Prohibitive cost, intense competition, all-consuming dedication, and a heaping of plain old luck are pre-requisites just to get into a low-end touring car, let alone a seat in a series like F1, IndyCar, or even NASCAR. There are incredible drivers, better than the likes of Earnhardt or Schumacher ever were, that will never leave their local kart track.

It’s a frustrating reality, especially in the face of the sons of billionaires being able to buy their way into a seat someone else has sacrificed almost everything for. Motor Racing, at least on the level of an individual athlete, is the worst sport in the world.

And yet still so many, including myself, try. Statistically, I have a laughable chance at doing anything of note. If I see the inside of a race car I will have defied lottery-winning odds which is to say nothing of going any further than that. Logically, this is the worst career decision one could make. And I hold no regrets for choosing it.

It is a constant barrage of anxiety, fear, and doubt over the future. One bad move, one hard crash, and the whole project comes tumbling down in a twisted mess of repair costs. Once you leave the pits, however, and it’s just you strapped into a metal frame with unrestrained power beneath your right foot and an open track ahead, everything fades. It’s the ultimate rebellion against physics, against rationality, against the very concept of what is conventional. It’s there in the margins, when you’re in utter defiance of normal, that things begin to feel right. 

A Special Thanks to Fat Matt’s BBQ for sponsoring Taran and his Motorsports Dream. Follow Taran on Instagram or Facebook.

Watch Taran Race at East Lansing Kart Track.

Taran Damalcheruvu
Taran Damalcheruvu
The checkered flag symbolizes our unique pursuits, driving us forward and pushing our limits. "Anyone Can Cook" embodies this pursuit, offering a path to surpass others regardless of sport, profession, or lifestyle. Dedication and sacrifice are key. At 18, Taran is a multifaceted individual with impressive accomplishments. He excels as a podcaster, writer, designer, go-kart racer, and more. With a passion for history and sociology, he fearlessly pursues his dream of becoming a professional race car driver. Taran contributes to LIVE. LOVE. LOCAL. MICHIGAN™ in various roles in both the backend and as a writer. Follow his racing journey on his social media channels.
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