Gaurav Gill, the first Indian driver to win the coveted FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship, exclusively highlights the fervour and virtuosity of the motorsport industry during his talk with TheVibe.Having graced the sport from his teenage years, his familiarity, coupled with ardour, for the perilous world of motorsports has thwarted him with intolerable injuries, luxuries across the tracks, and honourable recognition throughout the globe.
At 17, Gaurav was gifted a race bike by his mother, ensuing a legacy of etched wheels onto myriad terrains and circuits. An Arjuna Awardee, the sportsman is hailed as one of the country’s finest champions in the spectrum of motorsports; his indubitable resilience, coupled with his fervour for the tracks, stems from racing being an inbred ‘family affair’. Gaurav ‘grew up being surrounded by fancy cars and bikes. As a 16 year old, I loved the big toys; my mom’s cousin was a part of a racing programme with recognised sponsors. He used to take me to a lot of races and showed me what rallies look like’.
Despite acknowledging, and simultaneously dedicating himself towards schooling, Gaurav reminisces the introduction of go-carting during his teenage years. Due to his tender age, he was unable to partake in rallies just yet; hence, the racer was ‘very excited to have something new in town. I started racing and winning quite a bit, which motivated me to take matters more seriously’. With origins rooted in the miscellaneous regime of the sporting world, he recognised racing being regarded as ‘more of a hobby rather than an actual career path’. In fact, his initial plans inculcated pursuing a professional career as a tennis player, having competed at the same at a national level during his education.
However, given the reputable record Gaurav was garnering at 16 itself, he was invited to race at a cross circuit event sponsored by JK Tyres and Maruti. Unsurprisingly, the lionised driver won, resulting in an immediate sponsorship from JK Tyres. With regard to inhibitions from those surrounding him, given his noteworthy dive into the perilous dome of motorsports, Gaurav was simply told to ‘do whatever it is you want, but make sure you’re doing it properly. Don’t come home if you lose’. Cutthroat and blunt, particularly when coming from one’s mother, his earlier years behind the wheel embedded, and heightened, his existent sense of competitiveness by the tenfold-‘I wanted to win all the time’.
Gaurav’s professional career inevitably begun at the TVS Fcatory with tthe Suzuki Team; he was offered a ride, however, a massive crash thwarted his time on the tracks. The event brutalised his health for he had additionally suffered a severe ankle injury, not six months prior, during a bike race. ‘The bike crash prompted me to prevent myself from riding bikes because of the crashing, I was spending more time in the hospital rather than racing’, states Gaurav.
With his continued racing for JK Tyres, at 18, Gaurav earned the coveted record of being the youngest Indian to win a rally round in Chennai, at the South Indian Rally. Yet, during his international break, the race car driver suffered another terrible crash at the Asia Pacific Championship; ‘I had fallen on the track and broke my knee. My doctor had given me nine months at the rehab clinic, but I worked hard. I promised him I’d be back in lesser than six months, except it took me only four- he’d seen nothing like it. I did a lot of research to get back on the track, especially with water therapy’.
As someone who is ‘always competitive, even while going for a jog’, Gaurav worked tirelessly and ‘promised to focus on my next big win’. True to his words, the highlight of his career unfolded within the following year when he became the first Indian to win the Asia Pacific Rally in Indonesia. ‘My manager promised everyone that he would create an Indian champion who would win a big rally’, evidently, Gaurav became a man exhibiting ‘consistency and speed over a decade’. Amongst his many accolades, the sportsman is an Asia Pacific Rally Champion of 2013, 2016, and 2017, a 6x Indian Rally Champion, a 3x Indian Open Wheel Racing Champion, a 1x Indian Touring Car Champion, and a P1 World Power Boat C’ship Pilot. His stream of acknowledgements reifies the awe-worthy stature of his career.
Unfortunately, during a Maxperienace rally in Jodhpur, a terrible accident unfolded which resulted in the death of a family of three. Gaurav’s life was temporarily blanketed by trepidations, unwanted coverage, and traumatic dealings with the courts; ‘it all seems good when you’re on a high, you forget there’s always negativity around you which you often don’t even know about’, reasons Gaurav regarding the terrible incident. ‘You have to be prepared for the worst, it could have happened to anyone, but you need to remember to always keep yourself and the things around you in control’.
Indulged in the ‘world’s most expensive sport, you do what you love and excel at it. It’s not just a rich man’s sport, though it’s often perceived that way. You simply have to show everyone you don’t have to be rich but committed to doing well’, established Sports illustrated’s ‘Athlete of the year’ 2017. His receiving of the Arjuna Award was ‘a special moment for the entirety of the motorsports industry in this country, inspiring youngsters and manufacturers alike, but most importantly opening gates for us all’.
Where it concerns the attitude towards motorsports within the country, Gaurav admits that ‘it’s going to change but it will take time. Motorsports can never be the common man’s sport, it has always been a niche sport, and there’s no point changing that’. When asked to address the youngsters of the country looking to indulge in such a world, the racer insists that ‘people must be dedicated and committed, most importantly, they need to maintain their focus which is a big problem you can notice these days. You should also try and learn from those around you, be passionate and be 100% committed’.
Given the ongoing behaviour showcased by those behind the wheel, Gaurav is adamant that ‘people should stop driving like maniacs on roads when they’re putting themselves and ten others around them at risk. Find a race track’.
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