Over the years, Avik Anwar had watched many a national anthem being played while the Formula One champions stood on the podium to accept their victory. To hear the 'Amar Sonar Bangla' being played was one of the reasons he started racing.
Last month, that is exactly what happened when he won the UAE Pro Championship GT86 Class. All those years of hard work had finally paid off. History had been created.
"I was having goosebumps. I can't express those feelings in words," Avik said during a recent interview with The Business Standard.
When news of Avik's victory made it into the Bangladesh media, many people were left surprised. In a country where you need to constantly push through traffic to travel short distances, a motorsport champion was beyond imagination. Bangladesh does not even have a racing track for drivers to practice on.
Avik first made headlines back in 2019 when he became the first Bangladeshi ever to win an international motorsport event called the Volkswagen Ameo Cup in India. Later that year, he secured third place in a Malaysian race circuit.
With his recent success, he became the first Bangladeshi to qualify for P1 for races. He was also the first one to qualify for P3. It was also the first time anybody from Bangladesh raced in an FIA approved event in UAE and won it on the first go.
Avik has been an avid F1 follower ever since he was a kid. His father brought cable connection to their home just because Avik was so passionate about this and had to watch F1 racing.
"I was probably in third grade back in1997. My father had brought a cable connection so that I could watch formula one. I always wanted to be a racing driver but my father insisted that there was no point," said Avik.
Avik however still received tremendous support from his family throughout. His father always pushed him to pursue this on his own.
"Zero financial support, mental support hundred percent."
Avik went to Canada in 2007. That is when the opportunities opened up for him to explore track driving. He had to save money from his part-time job in Canada when he first started going to race tracks in 2009. He practised there for a few years before racing officially in Bangladesh in 2014.
He won the Rallycross Championship thrice in a row in 2014, 2015, and 2016 in Bangladesh.
"I started as an underdog in 2014 and still finished first," Avik reminisced.
The next year he raced with a broken leg. He took so many pain killers before racing that he couldn't feel his hands after racing.
The third year, he won again pretty easily and decided to go international to test his ability.
Avik's motorsport journey, however, was not as easy as it probably sounds. He had to face several obstacles on his way, but he still kept on chasing his dreams.
In the absence of racing tracks, Avik practised mostly through simulators.
"A simulator generally gives the racer the basic guidelines of how one should drive on the track. It is more like a guide. It simulates 50% of real-life racing experience."
"But it helps, it really helps."
An entry-level simulator costs around one to two lakhs taka, Avik informed.
Talking about money, motorsport is a pretty expensive game. With no race track, newcomers can either buy an entry-level simulator or travel to India or Malaysia for first-hand practice.
Every time they go to practice it will cost them near to two to three lakhs taka.
It goes up to 35-40 lakhs to complete a season of racing, as per Avik.
"I'm doing three rounds of this UAE championship, it will cost me 40 lakhs in total, including plane fare and hotel and everything. Had I done five rounds here, it would have cost me around 60 lakhs or more," said Avik.
Bearing this huge amount of money all by himself is quite tough. Avik has been seeking sponsors and found a few. But that hasn't got all the cost covered as yet. Besides, he has a few complaints against the sponsors as well.
"Yes I'm getting quite a few sponsors, especially after winning the last race, but they're still not enough. They don't even cover half of the cost," Avik said.
The most frustrating part for Avik is the sponsors don't even pay the money they promise during the deal.
"We had a verbal agreement with a company that they would give me three lakhs taka for this UAE tour. They didn't pay me the money before the race. So when I returned home after winning, they came and gave me 1 lakh. How is it even fair? Even if I didn't win the race, they were supposed to pay me the full amount that they promised," Avik complained.
"It was bad. It was horrible."
So what keeps Avik motivated for racing despite all these shortcomings?
"The immense pride for the country, the surprised look on the faces, and the passion I had since I was a little kid," Avik didn't hesitate to answer.
Avik is used to getting the surprised look on people's faces whenever he races in an international event, mostly because he comes from Bangladesh.
"A lot of people have passion but they can't follow it. I have worked hard to come this far and I'm not going to stop here."
Avik caught more attention this time after dedicating his win to Tamim Iqbal, one of the best batsmen Bangladesh cricket has ever produced. Their friendship goes a long way back. Apparently, Tamim used to tease Avik for not winning anything big in the international circuit when he started racing.
"He used to joke with me that I don't win anything. I told him to give me some time and I will definitely win something soon. Bangladesh cricket didn't come to this place overnight, it takes time."
"So, when I won the first time in 2019, I let him know and he was very happy. I couldn't dedicate that to him but the second time I won I dedicated my win to him. It was a genuine gesture," said Avik.
Avik has a busy 2021 ahead of him. He was actually lined up for a lot of races in 2020 but they have been transferred to 2021. He has the remaining round of UAE Pro Championship GT86 Class on 18 and 19th February and will be flying to Malaysia for another race later this month.
Following Malaysia, he will compete in a championship in India as well. After that, he has an endurance race lined up in Malaysia. He was the first Bangladeshi to do an endurance race.
Thailand 24-hour race is lined up in December and Avik will also participate there.
"I'm not waiting for any sponsor's money, I'm gonna pursue this on my own," Avik seemed determined and confident.
Avik believes there is an untapped potential for motorsport in Bangladesh but they can't flourish due to a lack of infrastructure for training and the necessary aid from big companies or the government. But Avik hopes this situation will change shortly and the opportunities for motorsport enthusiasts will grow.