NEW DELHI: Witnessing a car rally is like sitting on the edge of a cliff — modified cars jumping, swerving or drifting at corners, kicking up gravel at spectators and looking like they are about to topple or crash.The car cockpit is equally chaotic. The driver and the navigator bobble inside the car, with the one handling the steering wheel desperately trying to keep the vehicle steady while the partner shouts out instructions. All this while the temperature inside hovers above the 60 degree mark.
Three-time Asia Pacific Rally champion Gaurav Gill has done it all. The racer from Delhi loves what he is doing and will have it no other way. “There is a method to the madness. You need to control the machine and there is a lot of skill involved. I would even say, it is even more difficult than Formula One.”
Though he spends most of his time travelling across Asia or in Europe, the racer from New Rajinder Nagar tries to be at home during gaps in his schedule. “I try and come as frequently as possible. I love the city— there is greenery, parks, big, wide open roads.”But for a man who loves the fast lane, doesn’t the traffic situation bother him? “It is made out to be a huge issue, but it’s better than other metros. In Bombay, it will take you an hour to travel five kilometres. Even more in Bengaluru. In Delhi, you take twenty minutes.”
So, how did the 37-year-old end up in a niche sport? “I took interest because my uncle was into this (Upkar ‘Dicky’ Gill rallied a Swaraj Mazda in the old Himalayan Rally in the early 80s). My family was involved in some sports or the other. My grandfather was a former national-level diver, while my uncles were state-level footballers. Incidentally, I was a national-level tennis player before leaving the racquet for the steering wheel.”
Gill is a big-time foodie, but his diet is strict as the sport is demanding. During tough rallies, racers drive for 15-17 hours a day without air conditioner. “In countries like Malaysia, where it is very humid, you end up losing six-seven kilos over the weekend!”
“I crave Punjabi cuisine at that time! Mutton curries, Mutton rogan josh, butter chicken, lassi. When I come home, I make it a point to visit Colonel’s Kababz in Defence Colony and Karim’s in Jama Masjid.”
In a country where cricket is a religion, Gill is doing his bit to popularise rallying. “Cost of cars and related equipment can cross crores. I feel the government should waive off import duty on special rally equipment. Even Kenya has taken this step.”
“I have my own academy which I hold in different cities of India. Apart from that I have a programme with Ford and Autocar called ‘She Drives’. We train and educate women how to drive and it is free,” he said.