CHENNAI: It’s a significant fillip to motorsports in the country! The Indian National Rally Championships will see the entry of a big player with JK Tyre announcing their return to the sport after nearly a long hiatus, earlier this week. But of particular interest to fans across the country will be JK Tyre’s decision to return to the international scene in a matter of months. The first big step they took in this regard was bringing back multiple-time Asian Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) winner Gaurav Gill back to the fold.
Gill had started out his career with JK Tyre before moving to their rivals MRF more than 12 years ago. The 37-year-old will spearhead JK Tyre’s return to the international scene with the team looking to participate in a few stages of the World Rally Championships-2 season this year. They are also thought to be looking at select outings in the European Rally Championships.
Sanjay Sharma, head of motorsports at JK Tyre, revealed that the move had been in the pipeline for a few years now and that changes in the INRC had proved to be a catalyst in their return. “We had been looking at coming back for around three years now,” he said. “But this year, we have new promoters and they have promised to make the series more exciting.”
The return to the international scene was a bit more complicated. “For us, motorsports is not just a brand-building exercise,” said Sharma. “We wanted to do everything right. We were away from the rallying scene for over a decade so we have a lot of catching up to do with the top teams.”
But then Gill came on board and the whole picture changed. With his experience and contacts, setting up a team worthy of competing in WRC-2 was suddenly possible in a much shorter period of time and the decision to test waters by participating in select stages was taken. Chances are this will be followed by a full stage in WRC-2 next year, but Sharma is not setting any targets just yet. “Gaurav’s return sped up the process of us returning to the international scene,” he said.
“But we want to first participate in select stages this year and see how it goes. There is no use making tall claims unless you are sure you can back it up. We will select the stages this year based on Gaurav’s strengths. So mud seems to be the way to go.” As such, the Rally of Turkey in September seems the most likely venue for their international return.Their domestic return though will happen in a few days with Chennai set to host the first leg of the INRC from June 28.