Nine years ago, Younus Ilyas went to see his first rally ever. At the age of 18, he fell in love with rallying. It opened new horizons for Ilyas, who was passionate about cars from childhood.In 2014, Ilyas bought a Mitsubishi Cedia and took on the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) K1000 Rally. There wasn’t much preparation. He finished without any accidents. It was in 2015 that Ilyas earned his first podium when he finished third at the INRC K1000 Rally. Then, there was no looking back.
Now, Ilyas is gearing up for his first rally of 2021. His Cedia is in the garage, getting built for the race in the INRC, category one. “Building the car is an essential part of the sport. As much as you have to be in form, your ride also has to be well equipped. It is very expensive to build the car,” says Ilyas, a Kollam-native.
Ilyas wanted to ride from a young age. “I grew up among passionate riders. So when I shared my dream with my family, they were all supportive,” he adds. But it wasn’t all easy. He had to learn it all by himself. The journey to establish himself was a difficult one, especially with a lack of sponsors. “It’s difficult when you are from Kerala. The opportunities are very limited, from learning to practising. But now, things have changed. And that’s what I tell the countless aspiring riders who message me. It’s not like before. They have schools where everything is taught. So start with proper training. Then you won’t lose time,” says Ilyas.
His big moment was when he has adjudged Kerala’s Fastest Driver in 2017 and 2018. “My concept of time changed ever since I became a rider. In a microsecond you could lose the position,” says Ilyas. He earned the first position at the Popular Rally Cochin INRC two in 2018 and also at the MRF Rally of Arunachal IRC two and Popular Rally IRC three Category in 2017. He was also the overall first in Sprint Debengaluru. Ilyas has always loved rallies when compared to circuit racing. “Everything depends on the rider. There is a signature of the rider in every curve he takes. There is more of a personal element in rally sport. And that’s the exciting part. There is extreme power in it. I can’t find anything that gives me as much joy as rally riding,” he says.
Until two years ago, rally driving wasn’t even considered a sport, he says. “It is only recently that Arjuna Award was given to Gaurav Gill. Now there is support from the ministry but that isn’t enough for the sport to grow in the state. As riders, we have to compromise. Rallying is a very expensive sport. We need good promoters and people who understand the sport. The number of sponsors isn’t enough,” he says.
With extreme sports comes extreme risk as well. But Ilyas dismisses it. He says that crashes are part of rally driving. He met with a bad crash in 2016, at the Chikmagalur Rally where the car went into a total loss. “But that happens, he says confidently. You only get motivated to do better and build another car and earn the podium,” says Ilyas. For someone who has been winning accolades ever since he earned his podium, the journey has just started. The dream is to participate in the World Rally Championship.