Narain Karthikeyan leaves Zele Auto GP team

Former Formula 1 driver Narain Karthikeyan has announced he will leave the Zele Racing Auto GP team with immediate effect

Narain Karthikeyan leaves Zele Auto GP team

Karthikeyan had been rapid in his maiden Auto GP season but said frustration over results lost to unreliability and pitstop problems prompted him to pursue alternative career avenues.

"I have known [team boss] Michael Zele a long time and he is a great guy," Karthikeyan told AUTOSPORT.

"I don't have a problem with Michael or anyone else, and the car has been pretty OK in Monza and then Marrakech, but we've just had too many errors in the pitstops.

"It was one thing after another going wrong, and I can't afford to do that. There was a sure win and two podiums that we have lost, and it has been a pretty bad start to the season for me."

Top of Karthikeyan's list of opportunities to pursue is a move to the European Le Mans Series' LMP2 class, although the former Jordan and HRT grand prix driver has not ruled out switching teams and remaining in Auto GP.

"We are trying to get an LMP2 programme together," said Karthikeyan. "Nothing is close, so I don't want to name potential teams. The likelihood of the Le Mans 24 hours happening [this year] is 50-50, so I might still do something in Auto GP."

Karthikeyan is sixth in the Auto GP drivers' standings, 64 points behind series leader Kimiya Sato.

"I knew it was going to be tough with no testing, but we overcame that in [round one at] Monza and I drove a strong race after I had problems in qualifying," he said.

"The second race I could have been really fast in the rain but then a master cylinder packed up on the warm-up lap.

"In Marrakech I could have won easily. I had the pace, but we had a 27-second pitstop. The second race, OK, there was a racing accident when I got involved with another driver. I have some responsibility as well.

"Then in Hungary we had a really bad weekend and that was when I wanting to leave."

Should Karthikeyan's Le Mans plans fall through, he doubts he has time to find another Auto GP seat before the next round at Silverstone on June 1-2 as he has commitments with backer Tata in India.

"If the Le Mans thing doesn't happen I need to keep driving so I will probably go and do Auto GP again, but Silverstone might be too close," he said.

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Series Auto GP
Author Peter Mills