Yuven Sundaramoorthy is a 17-year-old professional driver currently racing in the USF2000 Championship sanctioned by the INDYCAR series. Yuven began his racing career when he was 10, starting in go-karts and graduating to Formula cars in 2017. He is now considered one of the best up-and-comers in the Road-to-Indy ladder program. During the 2019-2020 off-season, Yuven participated in India’s MRF Challenge Series, bringing home 2 wins and 4 podiums in the F2000 class.
How did you first become interested in racing and how does your start in racing differ from your fellow competitors?
I got interested in racing because we lived in Shanghai, just 30 minutes from the Formula 1 track. We went to the Formula 1 Grand Prix in 2011 and immediately I was hooked! So, we decided to try the go-kart track at the Shanghai International Circuit. And from then on, I began racing karts. I was around 11 when I started, and I moved up to race cars when I was 13. Many of my teammates and competitors were racing go-karts when they were even younger, but that’s typically where most young drivers get their start.
When did you realize you wanted to compete professionally?
It happened pretty quickly once I got back to the U.S. and started racing here. Obviously it felt really good every time I’d win a race…because that’s what drives a racer. But it’s also rewarding to work with car data in order to learn and improve. Many sports don’t offer that, and thus most athletes don’t get to experience what it’s like to apply math and physics to improve their craft. Technology is a cool part of racing that I really love and enjoy, and probably the main reason I chose computer science as my major in college.
What are some of the things you love most about what you do?
The main thing I enjoy is being able to constantly improve. There’s always a little bit more you can get out of the car and it’s never a done deal. It’s never a “you’re gonna win for sure”- type thing and there are so many ways to find hundredths of seconds on the race track. As I mentioned before, I love learning about the technology, the physics, and how different set-ups work to make a car go faster. The other thing I like is working with my teammates and I’ve been lucky to have really good teammates throughout my whole career. Learning from them has been really fun and educational.
What are the biggest drawbacks, or the least desirable aspects of what you do?
At the level I’m at now (USF2000), the biggest challenge is getting the money needed to keep things rolling. The technology, even at the mid-levels of racing, is very high and sophisticated.
Is it rare for someone of Indian origin to be pursuing motorsports?
Yes, both in and outside India, motorsports is not something that is well known, perhaps due to the inherent risks involved. In recent years, there’ve been a couple of Indian drivers who have raced in F1 events and been competitive in other international series. In addition, there’s an open-wheel development program out of India called MRF Challenge. It’s open to drivers from any country, but the intent is to also support the development of Indian racers. I competed in the Series last winter where I had two wins and four podiums. It was great to feel the support of the country and a wonderful experience overall.
How has COVID-19 impacted your race season?
COVID-19 made a big impact…especially at the beginning of the season. It was March 13, and we were literally at our first race in St. Petersburg, Florida. USF2000 was the first on track for the weekend, but we were aware the organizers were having conversations with the city. After about 15 minutes of practice, there was a red flag (which means all cars come to pit lane and stop). Before you knew it, the whole weekend was cancelled and we are on airplanes heading home. Races were rescheduled starting in June and most of our events don’t have fans. In motorsports, you kind of live in a little bubble with just your teammates and crew guys, so we all feel safe at the race track. With the compressed season, we have a lot of tripleheaders and I really enjoy that format. It gives you a chance to redeem yourself if things don’t go well in the first race or two, and you can still feel good about the weekend. On the flip side…tripleheaders are vigorous. There’s not much practice, we go straight into qualifying, and then we have really intense races.
What are the differences of traveling/practicing for races during high school versus now in college?
This year, all of my University of Wisconsin courses are online and it’s made things pretty easy. When I’m done at the race tack, I just get out my computer at the hotel and start working. It was a little more difficult in high school because I would miss a week or more of in-person classes. But I would get the homework in advance, do lessons in real-time, and I never really fell back. So, I’m fairly practiced in keeping up with studies while on the road.
Your dad is your manager – how easy or difficult was it to find support from your family as you found yourself wanting to keep racing and move up the racing ladder?
My family is very supportive of me and they really want to see me succeed. So I always give it everything to help move my career forward. Ultimately, it’s really an ambition and goal for all of us. My dad left his big corporate job to support me and keep me racing. It’s definitely been a blessing and I’m incredibly grateful.
What are your racing goals/dreams and why?
I want to reach one of the elite levels of professional racing, and the ideal spot would be the IndyCar Series. But going pro and racing full-time is really the goal and has been since we started this together as a family. It would be amazing to be on the big stage and win an Indy 500. And honestly, I really think we can make that dream a reality.
What advice do you have for others who want to pursue what you are doing?
It may sound like a cliche, but my advice is never give up. I started racing later than most kids, and at times I felt behind the curve compared to my competitors. But with the right attitude and willingness to be a sponge, you can identify your strengths, catch up to the leaders, and become a solid racing driver. Finding success and improvement will keep you going day after day.
Contact information: Gopal Sundaramoorthy, firstname.lastname@example.org, (518) 598-7175
Born in Wisconsin, Yuven now resides in Madison, WI, where he is a student at the University of Wisconsin. In addition to racing, he participates in robotics, is an avid snowboarder and a basketball player. Yuven‘s racing career is passionately supported by his father, Gopal Sundaramoorthy and mother, Sudha Maniam.