When the corporates or promoters don’t want to get involved in developing the sport, it is the task of race drivers to step in and do it themselves. This is what prompted India’s two premier GT drivers Aditya Patel and Armaan Ebrahim to start up with the ‘X1 Racing League’.

The inspiration no doubt comes from the successful running of Indian Premier League (IPL), which has prompted many other sports federations in the country to form its own franchise-style tournament. In the racing world across the globe, the concept is fairly new as well.

Most of the motor racing championships take place in a format based on the manufacturers or teams – not in the franchisee style. In the larger championships, the manufacturers involved take the learning onto their road cars/bikes whereas the junior-level series’ develop and hone talents of the future.

The X1 Racing League will be on a city-based format where industrialists, celebrities, sportspersons and more will own the various teams who will go up against the other teams just like in the IPL. However, as it is racing, it will not be ‘one city vs the other city’ but all eight will fight out at the same time to win the respective event.

The races will take place on designated circuits with the combination of few street circuits – India’s only Formula 1 track, the Buddh International Circuit and the Madras Motor Race Track are the two permanent venues being looked upon.

In addition, street layouts in Hyderabad, Bangalore, Mumbai and Chandigarh are being discussed with a possible design already sent to the FIA for its approval. For now, the idea is to have four straight weekends in early 2019 with three races per day on a Saturday and Sunday.

Keeping in mind the attention span, the races is scheduled to be 30 minutes long with a mandatory driver change as seen in endurance races in a two cars per team and two drivers per car format. One female driver per team has also been made compulsory to break the gender barrier.

Besides the 24 races in the month-long tenure, the league aims to have 12 more races in a year-long championship where the drivers will be able to score points for their respective teams – the team owners could also race under ‘patron’s seat’ scheme like a gentleman racer or select someone to race on their behalf.

Speaking exclusively on the idea coming into fruition, Patel said: “We had a list of basics that we needed to tick off before we could plan our next step. Obviously, we needed to put a concept together before approaching investors, vendors etc.

“We have been doing fundraising all our lives, being racers and pitching to sponsors, so this was only slightly different. Of course meeting people in different cities and presenting the concept to them was challenging but it was interesting at the same time since we had a very positive response.

“At the crux of it, we needed to make them believe in us and our vision, and we're here today since that went well. We are in the process at the moment [to select teams]. A few teams and drivers have been approached and are onboard [already].

“The franchise owners are a mix of industrialist and celebrities. We are looking at eight teams to start with in the initial edition and continue with that for a few years - that seems to be the mantra that works for Indian audiences, TV and advertisers.”

The eight cities will be an interesting choice. Obviously, the one’s staging the races will be given the priority which for now means that only four cities will have the home advantage per say. The driver selection is key as well with the aim of having a balanced side for the team’s success.

To give equal chance to all the teams, they want to have one international driver along with one Indian international and one Indian domestic driver apart from the one international female racer. While the discussion goes on behind the scenes to secure talented drivers, the press release carried two international names who may be a part of the series.

One of them, a former Force India F1 driver Vitantonio Liuzzi was all in for such leagues. “X1 Racing League is a very innovative league format and will surely be great for Indian motorsports,” he said. “The league has several unique propositions and I am looking forward to it.

“It will be exciting to drive as a team where not just speed, but strategy becomes supremely important.” Leading the female contingent, it is IndyCar racer Pippa Mann who said: “I’m always interested in opportunities that help promote equality in motorsport, so I was impressed with the idea and vision behind the X1 Racing League.

“In a moment in time where most people with funding seem to want to segregate female racers, it was refreshing to be approached by a championship that wants to help not only nurture up and coming Indian talent, but also be at the forefront of trying to create more opportunities for female racers in an equal environment.”

One of the Indian international drivers who could feature in the league is multiple national title holder Anindith Reddy who is thrilled with the prospect of being a part of a franchisee team and also the concept as a whole.

“I am very excited about the X1 Racing League, not just because of the concept and format but also because I've known Armaan and Aditya since the time I got into racing,” he said. “The league provides a platform for upcoming drivers and many aspiring race drivers to compete with the best in the world and learn from them.

“Many of us who started racing as enthusiasts can now consider a professional career in motorsports that is not dependent on individual sponsorships.” Meanwhile, keeping a female driver in the team was a though-out plan for both Patel and Ebrahim, the number will increase over the years.

“For now, it is compulsory for each team to field at least one women,” they said. “Over the years, this may increase as the interest increases, and also, given that the two Indian driver categories are gender neutral, we will always be open to further inclusion.

“Frankly, there are many extremely fast women worldwide, unfortunately however, there is a misconception that they're not on par with men. We would like to change that as we believe there are some very-very talented women out there.”

The biggest to-be known is the two-seater car which will be used for the championship. It is said to produce 280bhp, weighing just over 500 kilos – more importantly, they say it a custom-made car with a manufacturer involvement, adding ‘you won’t be disappointed’ when further details are revealed.

The championship has been sanctioned by the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India. Its president Akbar Ebrahim said: “The launch of the X1 Racing League promoted by the Racing Promotions Group based in India is indeed good news for Indian Motorsport.

“The city/club-based franchise league for 4W is an exciting concept and is sure to attract a large following across the board. The league will surely generate a lot of interest not just for the National and International drivers, but also for the Franchisees, Brand Ambassadors, Media, and Spectators.

“The league promises to give opportunities to young Indian drivers to rub shoulders with famous International drivers and compete with them on an even platform. And with a solid media plan in place, the talented young drivers from India will find that this like the IPL will become an ideal platform for the world to recognize their talents.

“Another import aspect is the promotion of women in Motorsport. Each team will have one Woman driver of International experience, who will be paired with an Indian International driver. The performances of these drivers will surely give a huge boost to the interest levels of our Indian women drivers who can start to aspire to get selected in the future to represent one of the teams.

“And finally, the most exciting aspect of the league is that it proposes to run 2 of the 4 rounds in 2019 on street circuits. This will be a big breakthrough, as a street circuit takes the sport to the masses and thus automatically helps build the interest and following in the sport.”

Elsewhere, it is also a big move for Patel and Ebrahim to take-up an entrepreneurial role while dovetailing actively racing in their respective championships abroad. “It's an interesting [step] since we're juggling between racing and X1RL,” they said.

“But we have some great heads on our team and this has helped us get to terms with making entrepreneurial adjustment. As athletes we've built the discipline and endurance required to be an entrepreneur without ever having prepared specifically for it, and hence the shift has been smooth.”

Now with the step, it is important for them to live up to the expectation and deliver a good return for the franchisees and those involved. A similar to X1 RL, named i1 Super Series was a done deal few years back with the circuits, drivers and owners all set, but the series never got going.

“The most crucial aspect of the success of a sporting league, and very specifically in a franchise-based model, is the financial sustainability of the teams,” they explained. “As long as the team owners are able to bear the losses for the initial years with a clear road to profitability ascertained, it will always be them who will be driving the valuation of the league.

“We've learnt a lot from both, motorsports events that have been successful and the ones that have not taken the same road, and there are enough findings to understand what works and what doesn't. Our aim is to ensure we have eight cooperative and reputed team owners who will partner with us in help building this out.”