Thirty-six-year-old Gaurav Gill isn’t too worried about the ageing, which has left his mind free to think about getting faster and setting lofty goals for himself.
Rallying is not racing. Racing is not rallying. Sometimes, while following motorsport people tend to forget that due to the predominance of circuit racing. Including those who gauge the prospects of the most prolific rally driver India has produced – Gaurav Gill. At the age of 36, Gill is a three-time FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) title winner, but he’s his sights set on a larger stage. Whether it is rallying in Europe or eventually making it to the greatest rally-raid of them all, the Dakar Rally.
‘Rally drivers age like wine,’ Gill told autoX. ‘They get better with age. Rallying is sport where one has to grasp as much seat time and driving experience on different terrain across the world as possible. It’s a never-ending learning curve, and it takes years to win on the international stage.
Those who’ve seen Gill practice his craft most definitely feel that he should at least have the backing to attempt a step up to WRC-2, the second-tier championship of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Lindsay Hegan is one such person. He is the manager of Race Torque, the team that runs the Skoda MRF team in APRC. He feels that a properly funded three-year effort in WRC-2 would lead to the kind of success that people hope to see from a driver as talented as Gill.
Gill agrees over the time-frame, given how much more experienced the drivers he has competed against in APRC have been. ‘Some of the drivers have been attempting the same rallies for five to seven years,’ said Gill. ‘They drive for over 250 days of the year, whereas I get a maximum of 40 days. I am hoping 2018 will be a lot better.’
Driving experience from a very young age is even better, as is seen in WRC with the man called the ‘Max Verstappen of rallying’. Kalle Rovanpera is the son of former WRC driver Harri Rovanpera, who began to compete at the WRC-2 level last year at the age of just 17. He was the winner of the WRC-2 class in Rally Australia last year, which was only his second event. Rovanpera is a factory driver with Skoda and also supported by Red Bull, which means he is free to practice and compete pretty much as he wants, while getting guidance and training from the best in the business.
‘Given the complexity of the modern rally cars, It’s extremely important to drive for three to five days a week, clocking 400-500kms in the car you wish to compete and to stay on the top of your game,’ said Gill. ‘More than just Red Bull sponsorship, one needs to source infinite funding in their initial years in the sport.’
Gill is hoping to get something close to that funding for a Dakar Rally effort soon with Mahindra, which currently competes in the Indian National Rally Championship, where Gill won his fifth national title. He takes inspiration from Carlos Sainz, a former two-time WRC champion, who won his second Dakar Rally this year at the age of 55.
‘A rally driver never ages,’ said Gill. ‘He gets smarter and more patient with age and Carlos has shown that.’
Gill hopes his compatriots catch on to this idea as well. Which is the reason why he has embarked on his latest venture, opening an academy for advanced rally driving in Coimbatore – it’s coming up in Delhi as well. ‘The idea is to take the sport to the masses and make people aware of such an exciting sport of driving,’ said Gill.