Chennai schoolboy Dillon Zachariah started running with a wheel on his PlayStation three years ago. This weekend he finished third on the Madras Motor circuit
As the black race car crossed the finish line this Sunday at 180 km / h, the driver found it hard to believe what he had just done.
18-year-old Dillon Zachariah finished third in his first race in the prestigious MRF National Championship, held at the Madras Motor Circuit. An esports driver, this was only Dillon’s second race weekend in a race car.
Explaining why this finish was unusual, Aditya Patel, who drives for Audi India Motorsports, said: “Dillon has come a long way in a very short period of time. From his first win in the X1 eSports series to his first Formula 1600 podium in just two years, it’s a big achievement. His passion and dedication to motorsport will take him far. “
Usually a racing driver goes from gaming to go-karting and only then to full-fledged single-seater racing cars.
Dillon’s journey began three years ago, when his brother bought a steering wheel for their PlayStation 4 – to play Formula 1 2018. He fell in love with motor racing, playing for hours. In 2019, he saw a post on social media about the XI Racing eSports League. He competed and was one of the youngest and fastest riders, winning the Delhi stage.
Real world challenges
Here it was introduced to two of India’s best-known racers: Aditya Patel and Armaan Ebrahim, founders of the X1 Racing League. The two met Dillon for a few weekends and watched him drive on a simulator. They were impressed with his talent, but also told him that he needed to lose weight and get a lot fitter, pointing out that driving a real race car was a lot more physically demanding than a simulator.
The duo, however, quickly began to explore eSports as well. When the real races stopped in 2020 and the pandemic got worse and worse, Aditya and Armaan started an eSports charity event called Ultimate E, with famous guest pilots like Arjun Maini, Kush Maini and Narain Karthikeyan. Dillon helped Armaan and Aditya with streaming, commentary, and even lobbies hosting (a lobby is where participants meet to run. The host sets the rules).
Back on track
Towards the end of 2020, the real race slowly started to make a comeback. “It became clear that it was time for me to get in the car and show what I’m capable of,” says Dillon. In January 2021, he started training four hours a day, playing badminton and spending hours at the gym. He also did an intermittent fast and only ate from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. By March 2021, he had dropped his weight from 100 to 76 kilograms.
Its first real car race was at Meco Motorsports FJRS 2021, held at Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore, in August. Despite no previous experience, Dillon was quick enough to be among the top runners, finishing fourth in three of the five races. He finished fifth overall in the championship, in an area that included internationally experienced riders.
Dillon says, “None of this would be possible without Aditya Patel, who guided and mentored me: showed me the nuances of tire pressure, brake pressure, track temperatures, etc. Motorsport is also an expensive sport and I would not have been able to participate in these races without the confidence shown in my abilities by my Tagros sponsors. They are one of a handful of people who believed my performance in eSports would translate into the race track.
After the Meco Motorsports FJRS 2021 event, Dillon discovered the MRF Formula 1600 class at the MRF MMSC FMSCI National Motor Racing Championships, held in Chennai on September 25-26. At the championships, Dillon finished third in his first race, scoring his first podium against a field made up of many pros.
Armaan said: “This past weekend we stuck to a plan for gradual improvement with each practice session, with the goal that he doesn’t make mistakes and that he accumulates so much experience. as possible, as the track time was limited. With a little luck and a mature approach, he finished his very first race on the podium.
Dillon adds with a smile, “The MRF National Motor Racing Championships continue with three more stops at MMRT in December 2021, January 2022 and February 2022. I hope to bring more wins back to my hometown, Chennai. “