Shahaan EngineerMumbai-born Shahaan Engineer has underlined his position as India’s best young hope for a future career in the FIA Formula One World Championship after making a major impression on the Formula Renault UK Championship’s six race ‘Finals Series’.

Undertaking his car racing debut in what has widely been regarded as the most competitive Finals Series (formerly the Winter Series) in the category’s history, the 16-year-old karting graduate was the only single-seater rookie and the youngest driver on the near-capacity 29-car grid at Snetterton (5/6 November) and Rockingham (12 November) but shone with a series of excellent performances.

Joining Formula Renault UK’s top team Fortec Motorsports for his maiden campaign, Shahaan picked up his pace throughout testing ahead of the first four rounds of the Finals Series at Snetterton 300 Circuit and stunned the paddock in his maiden qualifying session with the eighth fastest time.

In spite of an unfortunate grid penalty for rounds one and two, due to yellow flags being shown at the time he set his best lap, Shahaan raced through the order brilliantly and outperformed drivers with experience of Formula Renault UK, Eurocup Formula Renault, Formula BMW and Formula Ford.

Serving up tremendous overtaking moves in horrendous wet conditions, far belying his inexperience, the talented Indian newcomer finished 13th in his first race – out of 29 competitors – and then took 14th place in race two.

During rounds three and four on the second day at Snetterton, he secured a pair of top 12 finishes to cap a superb first ever weekend in cars. More than that, both results were achieved despite starting way down the order in an uncharacteristic 26th position in each instance due to missing the entirety of the second qualifying session because of a faulty wiring loom.

Moving on to the incredibly challenging Rockingham International Super Sports Car Circuit this past weekend for rounds five and six, Shahaan quickly got up to speed once more with qualifying again taking place in tough, damp conditions along with the added complication of early fog.

Racing through to 14th position in the first race to post his fifth points-scoring finish from five starts, Shahaan eclipsed all of his previous outings in the last round of the championship by climbing his way into ninth place and on course for a truly memorable conclusion to the Finals Series.

India’s freshest motor racing star on fast track to success…
Matching podium finishing pace, the teenager lapped with a best time of 1m17.955 seconds as he reeled in the cars ahead but on lap 14 – with only three further laps remaining in the race – Shahaan was unfortunately punished heavily for the smallest of errors with a disappointing retirement.

Building in confidence all the time and eager to push for an even better result than ninth, at the exit of the fifth corner he just caught one of the remaining damp patches on the track and was powerless to prevent his car spinning off onto the infield.

“I just pushed a bit too hard trying to catch the cars in front”, he said after round six, “I wanted a bit more than ninth place as the pace was really good and I felt really comfortable with the car. The adrenaline rush was tremendous as I realised I had just a few laps left with a top 10 in hand.

“I was confident of catching the three cars in front but I just caught the damp patch and spun. It’s a real shame but it’s still been a very strong and positive weekend. Overall I’m really happy with what we’ve achieved in such a short space of time over the last two weekends, it’s been fantastic.”

So impressive has the young Indian’s debut car racing campaign been, Fortec Motorsports has declared its desire to sign Shahaan to a contract for the main 2012 season which is expected to get underway in Britain at the beginning of April.

Team owner Richard Dutton commented: “Shahaan did an amazing job and showed true race spirit in his first few races in a race car, we look forward to learning more of what Shahaan can show us and are happy to continue into 2012 with him.”

Perhaps most impressive of all though is the fact in 12 days of testing and racing in challenging, wet weather Shahaan incurred no damage whatsoever to his car – proving his terrific natural car control and tremendous awareness on circuit.

The chief aim over the past two weekends has been to achieve maximum track time and to learn about starts and racecraft. In doing all of that with a commitment and maturity of a driver of far senior years, India’s freshest star of the track has made a significant first impression…

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.