It is a no-brainer for me. It has been ever since what I feel was a pivotal season of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship in 2012. With Super 2000 regulations in use and Proton and Skoda using top-of-the-line rally cars piloted by top-of-the-line drivers, Gaurav Gill showed that he could hang with experienced WRC drivers on a good day.
Proton left the APRC at the end of that season, leaving Gill with only whoever Skoda put in the second car as his only viable competitor for the title. Since 2013, it has invariably been drivers with impressive credentials who receive ample factory support from Skoda.
The Skoda Team MRF outfit run by Race Torque has pretty much become like a training session for the drivers that the Czech company decides to back.
Esappeka Lappi; Finnish rally sensation who Gill beat to the APRC title in 2013 became a WRC winner with Toyota this year at Rally Finland. The 26-year-old is ten years junior to Gill and comes from a country that is synonymous with rallying.
Jan Kopecky; the 2013 FIA European Rally champion to whom Gill lost the APRC title in 2014 on account to a poor finishing record. A lot of those coming down to the Indian being forced to drive outside his comfort zone as Kopecky’s machine received factory updates from Skoda.
Pontus Tiedemand; 26-year-old Swedish rally star who has won this year’s WRC-2 title and received the same level of backing by Skoda in 2015. Gill ended up with a similar performance pattern as in 2014.
After two seasons against such competition, Gill made quick work of Fabian Kreim last year as he won every APRC round he competed in to take his second title.
Now he is up against 21-year-old Ole Christian Velby from Norway who is again a factory Skoda driver and is competing in WRC-2 where he has already won a rally and lies third in the championship. Against him, Gill currently holds a six point lead with just one round left in the season.
Win, lose or draw I think the picture is pretty clear. Gill needs to stop being used as part of a training program for Skoda-backed rally drivers from Europe and be given the backing to compete with them on level footing in Europe too.
I am certain that Gill too will appreciate wanting to compete in unfamiliar surroundings too. Because if there is one current competitor in Indian motorsport who doesn’t shy from a challenge, it is Gill.
One can always trust him to approach any event he takes part in with confidence and no half-measures. That should be an enticing enough reason for MRF to back him and also take the plunge in testing their products in WRC-2. But it is hard to see them doing so with their current fixation on cricket sponsorship.
[APRC EDITORS NOTE: Gaurav did compete in the PWRC back in 2008, in a Sidvin-backed Subaru.]
And it really is a shame because time is a valuable commodity for any competitor in motorsport. Gill will be 36-years-old this December and despite his best efforts to stay in shape, one can’t expect him to carry on forever. If he beats Veiby to the title this year and the Norwegian goes on to bigger and better things in rallying like Lappi, it will once again be validation of the talent of the best rally driver India has produced so far.
But I am sure Gill wants more than just that. He wants to put his reputation to the test in an arena where he will truly be up against it. And he deserves no less.
Source: Vinayak Pande and AutoX