Many Australians best knowledge of Indonesia comes from a trip to Bali. Here they may or may not be impressed with the scooter skills of the locals, but it is in a car that 23 year old Rio Haryanto hopes to make his name.
Haryanto is Indonesia’s first F1 driver and made his debut this season with the smallest team in the competition Manor Racing. Not surprisingly to keep his dream of challenging for the F1 title in the coming years he needs funds.
The Indonesian media has estimated that the team will require EUR15million. The state owned oil and gas company Pertamina are stumping up EUR5million and the Ministry of Tourism has also made a contribution.
In a unique way of raising funds the Indonesian Government and telecoms companies in the country came up with the idea of encouraging fans to show support by testing the word RIO to an agreed number. Part of the number featuring the number 88 the number of the car that Rio races in.
Haryanto advised that it was the Minister of Sports idea and that fans ‘send a test message to the number and then its about 5,000 rupiah per message if you are willing to support me to have some extra funding.’ He said.
Haryanto has 467,000 followers on twitter more than many of the established F1 drivers but a very small number when one considers that the population of Indonesia is around 250 million.
The Communications Minister is right behind the initiative as he told supporters that they should make their texting ‘like taking medicine, three times a day.’
One does feel that had Haryanto opted for MotoGP more Indonesians would have related to his quest, but we wish him and the team all the best. It would be a huge achievement if a driver from Asia could crack it and get a ride with one of the key manufacturers and challenge for the title.
There have been several try before Haryanto, some of the best being Japan’s Ukyo Katayama, the former Larousse, Tyrrell and Minardi driver, who made 95 grand prix starts between 1992 and 1997. Then there was India’s Karun Chandhok who started 11 races between 2010 and 2011. The man who sparked the interest in India was their first F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan.
Satoru Nakajima from Japan drove for two of the most iconic names in Formula One between 1987 and 1991, with stints at Lotus and Tyrrell. He was also teammate to Ayrton Senna in his debut season at the age of 34. His son also raced in F1 but with little success.
The most successful Japanese driver has been Aguri Suzuki. His podium finish at the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka the best result in a career that spanned eight years between 1988 and 1995. Another Japanese driver to record a podium finish at Suzuka is Samui Kobayashi who achieved the feat in 2012. He has raced for three full F1 seasons but may well share a similar fate to Haryanto, as in 2014 funds raised by his supporters allowed Kobayashi to secure a return to F1.
So never underestimate the power of fans. For Asia and Indonesia and even F1 we hope that Rio Haryanto raises the required funds and leaves a positive mark on the sport. Certainly if he does all those who texted will feel a part of that success.