There is much to be done, but Gaurav Gill and MRF Tyres have put tyre to gravel in the highest level of rallying behind WRC.
There’s no turning back now! It may have come at least two years too late, but with the backing of MRF Tyres, Gaurav Gill is now a competitor on a stage much bigger than the one he had repeatedly conquered in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.
Through his results and constant conversations with the top brass at MRF Tyres, Gill played his part in the decision being taken, but it sure seemed like a long time coming, given the low of Gill missing out on the 2010 APRC title and the near constant criticism that followed.
One person who was surprised was Gill’s long-time co-driver Glen MacNeal. ‘After hearing it talked about so often for five years I was definitely surprised when Gaurav told me,’ MacNeal told autoX. ‘But pleasantly surprised and definitely happy that the decision has been taken.’
MacNeal speaks for every Indian motorsport fan who are keen to see the combination of Gill’s natural talent and MRF’s willingness to take every step possible to achieve success play out on the world stage. And the first step for that is the four rallies that MRF Tyres are competing in this year in order to develop a tyre that will work well across all types of rallies.
In Sardinia, where Gill finished 12th among the WRC-2 participants, the surface was a very sandy and rough one, made even rougher for Gill, as he and MacNeal had to line up after the top WRC cars had chewed up the surface and dug out rocks that were ‘the size of footballs.’
The tyres used by MRF were a development version of the ones used to great effect in the APRC, and judging by the early split times on stages that showed Gill being among the top three fastest drivers, there’s plenty of development left to be done before they hit upon the ideal rally tyre. Which, paradoxically, is a compromised tyre, as it has to work well across a variety of surfaces. It’s this feature that makes it relevant for a tyre manufacturer to be involved in rallying and the WRC because when it comes to road tyres, a similar compromise has to be reached.
Gill is confident that MRF is up to the job, as he is about his own performance in Sardinia. ‘I am very pleased with my performance, as I am with MRF’s approach to WRC-2,’ Gill told autoX. ‘They are being very professional, and I am sure that the data that we collected in Sardinia will help us even in Finland, which is a much faster rally with a very different kind of surface.
‘The roads there are wider in some parts and the speeds are a lot more as we average around 130km/h on the stages.’
MacNeal also vouched for Gill’s capacity to take on the challenge, and he should know, having taken part in nearly 100 WRC events and being a co-driver to Gill for almost a decade now. ‘He is probably the best driver I have ever worked with,’ said MacNeal. ‘His natural talent, competitiveness and willingness to listen and learn all combine to make a very fast rally driver, and MRF is doing its bit too.
‘They seem committed to the development of the tyre and to give Gaurav every possible chance to be as fast as we all know him capable of being.’