One of the main forces in Indian motorsport are the Mumbai Falcons. Their CEO Moid Tungekar and team principal Armaan Ebrahim spoke to F1 Feeder Series in an exclusive interview about their formation and what the future looks like for the Indian outfit and Indian motorsport as a whole.
By Tyler Foster
Despite this only being their second year as a feeder series team, Mumbai Falcons have a decisive twelve months ahead of them. They have arguably the strongest line-up in the upcoming Formula Regional Asian Championship (FRAC) and are looking to win the teams’ championship, while they’re also a major part of the possible breakthrough year in Indian domestic racing with the Formula Regional Indian Championship (FRIC) and Indian F4 debuting later in 2022. Aside form those championships they will also debut in F4 UAE with Yash Aradhya and Sohil Shah; a completely Indian line-up.
This relatively new team made their competitive debut in the 2020 F3 Asian Championship (now renamed Formula Regional Asian Championship) with two Indian drivers: Jehan Deruvala and Kush Maini. Supported by Prema, they managed a strong series with three victories and finished third in the standings.
“René and I started chatting and we quickly saw that we had the same objectives that we wanted to achieve,” said Mumbai Falcons CEO Moid Tungekar, when F1 Feeder Series asked him how his discussions with Prema chief René Rosin started. “Of course, our objectives are more South-East Asia-focused and their objectives are more Europe-focused. Since they are the best in the business, we thought it’s best for us to also learn and adapt by working with some of the motorsport pioneers.”
“Prema has been leading our efforts with the Ferrari Driver Academy. We have been loving how motorsport is so competitive on track, but in the pits everyone is best buddies.”
For 2022, Mumbai Falcons could be considered favourites to win the teams’ championship in the FRAC Winter Series. Their driver line-up consists of four Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) members, sharing three seats over the five rounds. Formula 3 race-winner Arthur Leclerc and Swedish Prema FRECA driver Dino Beganovic are in for the whole run, while second-generation racer Sebastián Montoya and 16-year-old British phenom Oliver Bearman will be sharing the third seat.
“Our goal is obviously to win,” said team principal Armaan Ebrahim about the squad’s targets in FRAC. “We have such a strong line-up so we want to be on the podium every race. Consistency is what is going to help us in the end. If our drivers are close to each other in terms of track position, they’re going to always try and gain an advantage themselves.”
However, Ebrahim made it clear that while he respects his drivers fighting it out for the championship, if the team needs the points for the constructors’ title he expects them to respect their team calls.
One of the more interesting storylines for Mumbai Falcons is that 16-year-old Arianna Gadhoke will be assistant team principal. She’s the first woman to be involved in the leadership of an Indian racing team.
“She’s interning over there and will be Armaan’s assistant,” said Tungekar. “You’ve got to encourage the younger kids to come out and participate. This is one of the initiatives we have undertaken. We want more younger talent to look at other roles rather than just specifically at that of a driver. Her participation could raise more eyebrows in India.”
With such a quick rise as a team, it seems only a matter of time until the Mumbai Falcons make the jump to a bigger series. For Tungekar, hopes of competing in Europe are just around the corner.
“Sooner rather than later,” he said. “Yes, we’ll be in Europe pretty soon. We’re looking at further expanding into other areas, such as endurance championships and GTs. We’ll have a relationship with Prema but we’ll also have some other associates. We just want to help the industry grow, that is the key focus for us.”
“We initially started our journey at the back end of 2019 and then obviously with what happened in 2020 that was a bit of a loss, but that did give us opportunity and time to utilise where we could really start working on our 10-year business plan. That’s to have Formula 4 and Formula 3 championships [now Formula Regional] come to India and build from there.”
The Mumbai Falcons have been a large part of the attempt to create a new motorsport industry domestically within India. As Ebrahim says: “This has been the third year of working towards building a complete structure in India where we have an increased domestic front, up to a Formula Regional Indian Championship.”
With the support of both Prema and the FIA, this “conceptual idea” has now become reality. The formation of FRIC and the Indian F4 championship are both a result of years of planning involving the Mumbai Falcons. The aim is to promote motorsport within India while offering a more accessible and professional series to compete in for young domestic talent.
Ebrahim pointed out that they needed to be careful with forming this new series. “Starting from fresh, the first year is very important from all aspects because that’s when you’re going to be rated as an organisation, the championship itself. That’s what’s going to set the tone for the drivers and interest to keep coming in.”
Ebrahim added that while the level of talent in India is obvious, there’s a need to nurture this raw ability into something more.
“The main thing is to show everyone in India that we’re here for the long term, we’re not just a flash in the pan. We want to build something that will last for generations to come.”
Falcons CEO Tungekar said he hopes to “secure international broadcasting outlets” for the domestic championships. “We don’t want to make it only specifically for India, we want to be able to share everything with the world,” he said.
“Our objective is to be able to have sustainable racing in our country. We have a lot more eyeballs towards the sport. People are now actually saying that there’s something India-centric that is going out into the international market. We’re there as a competitive force. Our last year has yielded good results and has helped propel developmental activities within India.”
Due to COVID the two new championships have been pushed back to November this year. The two championships are packaged together as part of the same events and will therefore most likely follow the same schedule.
For the Mumbai Falcons, this year will be very decisive for the future of Indian motorsport. As Tungekar said: “I think this is a breakthrough year. We want to prove internationally what we’re capable of, then we want to come home and prove to our fans what can be accomplished with racing.”
The Formula Regional Asian Championship will start on 22nd January at the Yas Marina Circuit in the UAE.
Header photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool