MUMBAI: Gaurav Gill came back with swollen elbows. The ace Indian rally driver is used to zooming through rough dirt roads, but piloting a powerboat on a bumpy sea is another challenge altogether. Putting all his experience behind the wheel and wired-in aggression to use, Gill managed to qualify seventh in a field of 12 in the Nexa P1 Powerboat Indian Grand Prix of the Seas.
“I really missed my seat belts as well,” said Gill, after completing the 5.2 km qualifying lap in 2:30.60. “It was so bumpy out there that my elbows kept hitting the dash every time I was steering the wheel.”
Maneuvering the 1000 kg boats on open seas is as novel an experience for Gill as it was for the curious on-lookers that steadily grew in numbers along the Marine Drive on Friday. It was the opening day and the opening show of powerboat racing in the country and the speed boats, with their roaring 250bhp engines, skimmed the surface of the water. As the sea started getting choppier through the evening, one could see the boats taking off after hitting the swell and wobbling with the moving water.
This race is unique in the Powerboat series mainly because it is the first time that the boats will have to run a course defined by the inner and outer lines. Usually, there are only buoys to mark the turns and the racers have a wider leeway to steer out of a bend. But with the action taking place so close to the shore, it was deemed safer to race on a defined track.
“It is going to be chaotic,” said CS Santosh, the Indian biker who has thrice competed in the Dakar rally. Santosh and Gill are the only rookies in a field comprising of seasoned pros. Though they trained for it for a week in England and had some race experience in America, they are still trying to come to terms with their new adrenaline fix.
“I still have to understand what my fastest line is. On Saturday, it is going to be interesting, especially on the first turn with all the boats looking for a fast start. I’m just going to have to wing it.” The Bengaluru-based rider clocked the fastest lap of 2:31.54 and will start ninth on the grid.
After Friday’s qualification, Welsh brother-sister duo of Sam and Daisy Coleman will start at pole position.