It has been a long time coming, but the Indian government has finally modified its trade policy to allow cars and motorcycles – including prototype racers like F1 cars – to enter and leave the country without being considered as items that are being imported into the country for sale or distribution.
Motor sport fans may be scratching their heads over the timing of the notification issued by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) as it comes in a year when India is not on the F1 calendar after three previous editions that saw many problems encountered by F1 teams as well as the circuit staff at the Buddh International Circuit, the venue for the Indian Grand Prix.
In the inaugural edition itself, it was reported that some Mercedes F1 team’s tyre balancing equipment was caught in customs and was not able to reach the circuit in time for Michael Schumacher to use it in time for qualifying, which saw his car suffer tyre vibration issues and allowed him to post only the 11th fastest time in comparison to teammate Nico Rosberg who qualified sixth (Schumacher finished the race fifth ahead of Rosberg).
Circuit staff also recalled instances of having to deal with customs officials over the transport of Pirelli tyres to the circuit for use who considered them to be goods that were being imported into the country.
The postponement, followed by the cancellation of a World Superbike Championship round in the country was also rumored to be linked to problems arising from the unforgiving regulations with respect to the transport of racing equipment into and out of the country.
The notification clarifies that the vehicles will not run on public roads at all when they are transported for a racing event and will only be used within the premises of a closed circuit facility and that whoever brings the vehicles will have to ensure that they leave the country within 30 days of the completion of the event.
No documentation will be required either to prove the country of origin for the racing car or bike as well.
The directive, however, does not cover the entry of cars and bikes for rallying, which has experienced its own share of problems as a result.
The winner of the 2012 Raid de Himalaya, CS Santosh was unable to use a new off-road bike to compete in last year’s event due to the machine along with supporting equipment being caught in customs in New Delhi where officials were demanding a certificate of origin.
Santosh was forced to use an old bike along with employing makeshift means to insert the tyre mousse in his bike’s tyres, which exploded at the start of the third day of the rally in the rear tyre, ending his involvement in the event on the spot.