(December 16, 2023) Racing is not just a sport, it’s a way of life for Lee Keshav whose love for the sport began at 16,when he watched a Formula 1 race on television for the first time. Unlike many his age, however, Lee wasn’t content with dreaming. He worked towards it and made it happen. What started as a passion for super bikes soon transitioned to racing cars.
“Once I discovered my love for racing, I wanted to be the best in the books,” says Indian racer Lee Keshav, in an exclusive with Global Indian. That’s not all he does. Highly versatile, Keshav was a bright student and had launched his own app design company as a teenager. He has also worked as an advisor with the government think tank Niti Aayog and has played a pivotal role in the success of various startups and organisations including Hike Messenger, Airtel Wynk Music and OYO Rooms among others.
The transition from cycles to bikes came naturally for Keshav. And the superbike craze caught him very early. “Thankfully, I got to explore most of my riding on a racetrack and that helped me channel my eagerness of going fast into more safe and mindful experiences,” he recalls. Keshav has ridden some of the best in the world too – “My favourite bike would be the Ducati 996 which was featured in Matrix Reloaded. I was truly fascinated and I aim to buy it one day,” he says.
Within no time, Keshav transitioned to racing cars. His first national-level debut was in the JK tyre Volkswagen Motorsport Polo Cup championship, where he finished 6th overall out of 20 drivers and second in the junior category. “It was a great learning experience. They made the process of entering motorsport a lot easier than I had imagined,” says the 30-year-old, who returned for the second year in VW polo championship, scoring multiple wins and podiums, in 2014.
He is all praise for the organisers, saying they helped the participants with coaching and skill development. “Beyond that, it’s all about your own drive and talent that takes you further.”
Good mentors and a strong debut
In his early years of racing, Keshav sought guidance from well-known ex-Indian F3 champion, Akbar Ebrahim. It eventually led him to win the title of the ‘Fastest and Fittest Young Driver’ in the fiercely competitive JK Tyre Volkswagen Motorsport Polo championship.
After a year of racing at the national level, Keshav entered the MRF Formula Ford 1600 championship. “My ultimate dream has always been to race Formula cars. And this was my first time ever. I took really well to the driving style and adapted my mindset and skills to match the level of the best drivers,” says the racing driver, who describes it as a fulfilling and challenging experience. “I’m glad I got to race in the championship,” smiles Keshav, who managed a podium finish at third place, which was a great sign of his growth in the motor sport.
He made his first international debut with the MRF Challenge Championship, taking his motorsport passion to the next level. “It was a huge step up from my racing in India. I got to race with some of the best drivers on some amazing tracks. The car I drove was also much faster and allowed me to learn how to drive high speed corners,” Keshav explains.
The international circuits
Simultaneously, he started receiving professional training in Thailand. A great opportunity came his way when he received an invitation to the esteemed Red Bull Moto GP Rookies Cup selection in Spain in 2021.
“Getting to drive in Europe is a huge step for every racer as some of the most iconic teams and tracks are based there,” informs Keshav. Recently, he drove a Formula 2 car in France, a “truly life-changing experience” for him. “It is the highest level I’ve driven at so far and it was truly a life changing experience. The power, grip and downforce are truly beyond anything you could experience in a race car,” he says.
Only a Formula 1 or prototype car is faster and that gives us some perspective on how fast the F2 car is, he says. “I am excited to do more testing and racing next year,” informs Keshav, who is also the advisor to BMW, India.
View this post on Instagram
A versatile childhood
Born in New Delhi in December 1992, Keshav was a smart kid in school, often topping the class. Growing up in the 90s, Keshav, like most of his friends and peers, loved cricket and video games. Unconventionally, he chose to skip university, focussing instead on building a sought-after skill set, like digital design, programming and business courses. By the age of 16, he had established his own app design company, and soon made it to OYO as Chief Design Officer. He presently works as the creative head at Rush Gaming Universe.
By the time he turned 19, he was a senior product designer at BSB (Bharti SoftBank). Notably, he also provided valuable guidance as an industry leader on the women entrepreneurship programme at Niti Aayog. “I never stop dreaming,” Keshav smiles. He believes firmly that if people can find the resilience and courage to break through challenges, they can achieve things they would have never imagined.
Like everyone else, Keshav has had to get past hardships along the way. He recalls one instance when he received a shockingly huge damage bill after a racing event. “I had to give up all my salary to pay for it. It was an important lesson which taught me a lot,” he says.
There were difficult races when he was still learning, too and the international championship helped him raise the bar for himself. “We need more such championships in India to take our drivers abroad and give them the full international experience,” he feels.
Being a race car driver requires an intense fitness regime and great discipline. Keshav usually begins his training around three months prior to an event. “It involves everything from cardio to weights. I train for 2-3 hours every day and focus on specific muscle groups like the neck and core which are essential for racing,” he informs.
That apart, Keshav also meditates, practices yoga and follows a very strict diet to stay at the top of his game. “It’s definitely not easy and many times I struggle to keep my schedule as I also have a day job. But the desire to race and be competitive is enough to keep me focused.”
Keshav loves to travel and experience new places. “I am also learning to play the guitar and some music mixing and production.”
- Follow Lee Keshav on Instagram