It started innocently enough. After driving a friend’s go-kart, Pavan bugged dad Logan Ravishankar to get him one. Around Christmas in 2009, the 10-year-old got his wish – a brand new $5,000 kart.
That kart flagged off a dizzying racing journey. Sitting in his home last December with his father, who has spent more than $2 million on him since the speed bug bit, Pavan is animated and upbeat.
Ravishankar eyes his son appreciatively as the 19-year-old recalls his achievements so far in his budding motor racing career. Indeed, from the day a decade ago when Ravishankar, an avowed motor racing fan, saw the passion his son had for the sport, he decided that a new type of investment was in order.
He was fully aware that motor racing required deep pockets from those who wanted to indulge in it. But the 57-year-old entrepreneur had taken calculated risks, not least of which was his founding of private jet firm My Jet Asia. The company began operations in 1995, two years after the Sri Lankan who emigrated to the UK in 1980 moved to Singapore from Malaysia, where he had been based since 1991. Today, My Jet sells and operates aircraft for clients around the world, providing Ravishankar with the perfect opportunity to keep an eye on his other business venture – Pavan’s motor racing career.
PAR FOR THE COURSE
“I see Pavan as a business and have spent time talking to fathers of Formula One drivers,” says Ravishankar, who has been a Singaporean since 2000. “Those who invested in their kids were able to get them into top-level racing. So I believe if Pavan does well on his own talent, and with my support, people will take notice of him.”
Success in the industry, it’s to be noted, does not necessarily mean winning races, but also the ability to promote and sell goods. To which end Pavan has gained the attention of teams such as Red Bull. But his wins certainly help.
Pavan’s maiden victory came during the Asian Formula Renault (AFR) championship in 2017 at Zuhai, China, and he also took third spot in Shanghai.
Then, in his first season in the British Formula 3 Championship last year, he won a race at the storied Silverstone track and came in second at Donington, another famed circuit. This championship is for up-and-coming young drivers and he finished the 23-race season at 15th spot out of 25 competitors. Not bad for a rookie.
Back in Singapore for a break before heading to the nine-round F3 Asian Championship Winter Series in Thailand and Malaysia during the first two months of 2019, Pavan concedes he is privileged. He acknowledges that if not for his father’s financial support, he would not have broken into competitive racing.
“I used to worry about how much money Dad was spending on me and tried to save here and there, but all it did was affect my performance. My goal is to work as hard as I can, use everything I’ve got at every race, so that my father’s investment in me will pay off eventually.”
To be sure, as Pavan advanced in the different levels of kart racing, the investment has only grown. With training, mechanics to tend to his machine, and travelling overseas for competitions, it peaked at $100,000 in 2015. When the teenager made the switch to open-wheel racing in the AFR championship the following year, it ballooned to $250,000 per season. He was placed fourth in 2016 and fifth in 2017. The Asian F3 winter series in January and February this year cost a princely 400,000 euros (S$620,000).
With thousands of young drivers all over the world dreaming to be among the 20 drivers in Formula 1 and, to a lesser extent, the Indycar series in the United States, investing in a young driver with such ambitions can be risky. What makes it even more challenging is that when slots are available, only one or two seats are usually up for grabs in either of the two series.
Ravishankar smiles and says: “When Pavan started racing in the Singapore National Karting Championship in 2011, I knew he could race and I even received comments that he looks promising. So I knew the risks and willingly hedged my bets on him.”
A FAMILY AFFAIR
What started as a passion for one child has also become a family affair, with mother Indra and sister Kaysha also looking forward to his races. Kaysha, 15, helps plan Pavan’s itinerary too and assists her father in planning her brother’s budgets. But, although he can afford the hefty investment, Ravishankar makes it a point to teach his son about making sacrifices and that the family has opted to do this as well.
Laughing, he adds: “As a joke, I always tell friends I used to change cars every year and I’ve stopped that. I used to buy the most expensive bicycles, and I’ve stopped that, too. And I’ve also stopped drinking the most expensive single malt whisky.”
“I’ve told Pavan the money I am investing in his racing is like a university education. I give him a grant and, eventually, he could study motor sports engineering or management.” – Logan Ravishankar
So, how is Pavan going to return his dad’s generosity? The question catches the youth off-guard. “To achieve success,” he answers. “Even if not in racing and I go out and start my own company. Racing has taught me a lot of things about myself and, eventually, I want to show my family I am doing something worthwhile and not wasting my time.”
Kaysha chimes in and points out what he should do: “For the family, success is something we want, for sure, but I think, for my dad, he deserves to get everything back if Pavan has the money when he is successful.”
For Ravishankar, one condition behind his support of his son’s racing ambitions is that he must continue his studies. The former St Joseph’s Institution International School student is now enrolled at Britain’s Oxford Tutorial College studying Btec Business, an alternative to A-Level education.
Emphasising his point, Ravishankar explains: “I’ve told Pavan the money I am investing in his racing is like a university education. I give him a grant and, eventually, he could study motor sports engineering or management.”
“I started as a pilot, and then formed a private jet company. Maybe Pavan can one day own a racing management company.”