Muscat: At the tender age of six-and-a-half, Shonal Kunimal is making Kerala proud by riding a wave of success on Arabian racing tracks.
Son of Shojai Kunimal and Dr Nabrees Qandeel, Shonal made the entire racing world sit up and take note of him when he emerged champion in the Bambino Championship 2017-18 (UAE Rotax Max Challenge series). Remarkably, it was his first major championship.
Shonal, who enjoyed ‘driving’ sitting in his dad's lap when he was just two, is now dreaming of becoming a champion Formula One (F1) driver. He is backed by his supportive and enthusiastic parents, especially his mother Dr Nabrees, who is an avid F1 fan.
Shonal was just five when he started attending recreational go-karting sessions at the Muscat Speedway track. His parents and Oman Automobile Association senior mechanic Sonny Ericson Lozano were stunned by his performance on ‘debut’ as he sped past much experienced children with ease. Spotting the innate talent in the kid, his parents decided to nurture his passion for speed and encourage him to pursue racing seriously.
Shonal, a Grade 1 student of the Indian School, Muscat, undertook intensive training sessions of about 20 hours a week to fine-tune his racing skills under the watchful eyes of expert drivers.
In his debut season in the Bambino Championship, Shonal managed to notch up eight podium finishes with an overall tally of 501 points to take home the title. He finished first in four rounds of the series and finished second in three. In the final round held at the Al Ain Raceway, he managed to finish third despite his machine developing a snag and clinched the overall title. In the process, he became the youngest champion in the history of the Bambino Championship.
Shonal is trained by Omani coach Sanad Al Rawahi, Nacho Girona and Maxi Zizek.
“He is a quick leaner. He is amazingly talented too. This is remarkable considering his age,” said Al Rawahi, a former Omani Karting champion.
Shojai, who works as an IT consultant with a Muscat-based firm, is the son of Jayachandran-Sobhalatha couple of ‘Aiswarya’, Merikkunnu in Kozhikode.