Exclusive! Interview with Gaurav Gill: Ace Indian Rally Driver


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350Z

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Gaurav Gill. The name needs no introduction. Born and brought up in Delhi, Gill is India’s leading rally driver who has numerous recognitions to his credit, including “Motorsport man of the year 2008”. He is the only Indian Driver to have won the title and invited by the FIA Gala Awards night which is usually compared to the Oscars of the motorsport world. He is also the winner of National Rally Championship, National Road Racing Championship and FIA APRC Rally Indonesia. In 2013, Gaurav made history by becoming the first ever Indian driver to win the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship. He recently invited us to experience his newly opened 3M Car Care Center in New Delhi (Kailash Colony) and spent his valuable time for a friendly one-on-one interaction.

Hi Gaurav. How and when did you decide to become a rally driver?
Gaurav Gill said:
When I was about 15, my uncle was into rallying and that’s when I decided, this is what I want to do. Initially I started racing with bikes but I always wanted to be a rally driver. I chose bike racing because I was too young to obtain a formal driving license. On the other hand, that wasn't the case with motocross; you don’t require a civil driving license since it takes place in an enclosed area. Eventually when I turned 18, I became a rally driver.
How do you train? What’s your daily routine like?
Gaurav Gill said:
We’ve very early mornings when we’re out for rallying. Typically our day starts at 5:00 AM or sometimes even at 4:00 AM. It’s normally a week long program when I’m rallying which includes reconnaissance, testing, meets with the fans, autograph sessions etc. Post rallying, we are again busy preparing for the next round. So it’s a hectic schedule. We’ve different itinerary for different days. Sometimes we have to do testing which starts in the morning and goes on till the day. Then we have reconnaissance which can last for two days because it’s upto 800 - 1000 kilometers of driving each day. Of course, the rallying itself is a long event. If you put everything together, we end up driving for at least 12 hours at minimum.
What is your all-time favorite rally car and why?
Gaurav Gill said:
I obviously like the Audi Quattro S1 because it’s so aggressive and mean looking machine. It can eat up everything that comes into its way. I also like the two-door Subaru Impreza 22B which Colin Mcrae used to drive after winning the world championship. I also really like the Lancia Stratos and Toyota Celica GT-Four with popup lights. It’s among my favorite rally cars. Actually I have many favorite cars but these ones are particularly close to my heart.
What do you think is the best stock rally car in India right now?
Gaurav Gill said:
I think that Esteem, Polo and Cedia are all good stock cars for rallying. Maruti Esteem is best only as far as budget rallying is concerned. Though best rally car in terms of reliability, minimal modifications, something in which one could simply put on the roll cage and go on to the track has to be the Volkswagen Polo. Mitsubishi Cedia is also another very capable car.
Why not the Ford Fiesta? I believe it was formerly used in INRC?
Gaurav Gill said:
We had done a lot of test miles with the Fiesta. It didn’t fair out very well because of the spare parts being relatively expensive. It wasn’t also favored by the teams with big budgets for the same reason.
What’s the most difficult part about driving a rally car?
Gaurav Gill said:
To attack each corner till the limit through a 30 kilometer stage where you end up having 500 corners! I’m sure it sounds difficult.
Sure it does! So tell us, what’s more important in rallying: The car or the driver?
Gaurav Gill said:
Rallying is indeed a real man’s sport. Here, driver’s efforts and skills are far more important than in Formula 1 or any other racing sport in which it’s other way round. In Formula-1, its 75% car and 25% driver but in rallying, 80% is skill and driver talent. Of course, you have to find the right car and right package to win but sometimes a superior driver with less developed car has chances to win in rallies. All in all, I’d say, it’s the driver who makes the car.
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How do you concentrate while driving a rally car?
Gaurav Gill said:
It has all become pretty much natural for me now. I switch myself into the rally mode. When I go for the events, my friends and family members know that I don’t like to be disturbed. I sleep on time at 9:00 PM and follow a much disciplined schedule. For me, it’s crucial to have a proper 8 – 9 hours of sleep to have a maximum concentration all the time.
What’s the importance of a good navigator in rallying?
Gaurav Gill said:
It’s the co-driver who could make the driver look good or bad because of the fact that a co-driver has to be really smart and calculative about how we deliver the pacenotes on time according to the speed at which the driver is driving the vehicle. A co-driver who sits with me at flatout average speed of 120 Kmph can still be good when sitting next to a driver who’s slow because he’s smart and intelligent enough on how to deliver those pacenotes on the correct time. Timing is the key for a co-driver and screwing up is not an option. If he screws up, we both screw up.
What is your favorite and most hated surface for rallying?
Gaurav Gill said:
I don’t hate any surface, I just love rallying. It’s all about driving on natural terrain. However, at occasions, countries like Malaysia can be quite difficult for driving because the surface is layered with moss and algae while the base is grass. Let alone driving, you can’t even walk on it. Driving on such terrain is technical but I enjoy it. It has taken a few years for me to understand how to drive there; as a result, I’m now the fastest driver there.
What all factors do you take into account while setting up the car for various stages?
Gaurav Gill said:
It’s important to understand what the top surface is. Sometimes the top surface can be very loose while the base could be hard. It’s a tricky concept because you can setup your car according to the surface on top but by the time a few cars pass over it, the terrain could be completely changed. If I arrive at one corner, next time, it could be totally different. Things are very unpredictable. That’s how rallying is. So it’s always safe to find a neutral setup for both kinds of surface, rather than focusing on one particular type.
What’s the ratio of a properly set rally car vs. driver talent in modern day rallying?
Gaurav Gill said:
In modern day rallying, setups do matter quite a lot. In older days, even if you didn’t have a well-set car, you could still have won rallies easily. Now the times have changed and it’s more technical. The suspension systems have progressed and become more complicated. If you don’t know how to use them, you’re certainly lagging behind. Therefore, a driver must be well-informed and thoroughly understand the ins and outs of the vehicle.
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How competitive is the Indian rallying scene compared to European?
Gaurav Gill said:
Indian rallying scene is eventually catching up. There’s a healthy competition. People still have a long way to go because we’re still lacking exposure to powerful cars due to the fact that govt. is not supporting us by waiving off the duties. We’re still stuck on the 100 – 150 horsepower cars whereas rest of the world is driving 300+ BHP cars. Obviously, it has nothing to do with the competition but everyone will become a better driver if we have the right equipment. Yet, in spite of that, there are some good drivers in our country who are performing well.
What is the future of rallying according to you?
Gaurav Gill said:
The Indian rallying scene seems to have a bright future. Mahindra is backing us up; Volkswagen is also playing a major role in supporting a lot of talented people. They have their own factory team. I’m quite positive that other manufacturers too are already looking into the sport of rallying in India because it serves them for demonstrating the abilities of their products as well as works out as a good marketing exercise.
Which is more difficult: Formula 1 or WRC? Why?
Gaurav Gill said:
For sure, WRC. Put a F1 driver in rally car and I can bet that he won’t take the first corner in same speed as we can. A Formula-1 driver drives on a man-made circuit and he does same lap on the same corner for about 200 times over the week, whereas we guys travel from point A to point B on absolutely natural terrain and conditions. Sometimes when we drive up towards the mountain, it’s dry but as soon as we reach up, it could be raining or snowing hard. We need to cope up with all these situations only by looking the road on which we’ve never been before. There’s no way that F1 can be close to rallying as far as driving skills are concerned.
Would you want to move to other form of motorsports apart from rallying?
Gaurav Gill said:
I love rallying and I never see myself becoming a Formula 1 driver because it’s not my cup of tea. But yes, perhaps off-roading sport would be a good fit for me because by now I have gained strong experience competing against some of the best drivers in the world. So long distance raids and sort of stuff is something that I wouldn’t mind doing in future.
 
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350Z

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Your feedback on Mahindra Super XUV?
Gaurav Gill said:
I’m proud of the fact that it’s developed in India and about 90% parts in it are Indian made. We’ve developed it with RedRooster Racing for last three years and it has come a long way.
Which is the best rally in India and the toughest section?
Gaurav Gill said:
Nashik rally is among the good rallies in India. It’s very technical because of the tarmac and ghat section. We’ve to be smart while driving to the limits because it’s easy to make mistake up there. When you’re travelling at 140 Kmph over small bumps, it can really throw you off. Especially since the road is only 12 – 15 ft wide. For that kind of speeds, this much width isn’t enough but then, it’s how rallying is and that’s where the fun lies. Apart from that, Chikmagalur round near Bangalore is famous. It attracts many spectators and entries. I had done some really nice stages there.
What are the chances for a talented budding rally driver in India?
Gaurav Gill said:
There are a few who are doing quite well but as I said, we lack the proper cars and equipment here. The talent can only be seen once they drive those cars. It’s very important to understand what the real rally cars are. The stock Esteems or Cedias have limited power but when you put a driver into a rally car, that’s when the real talent comes out. Many people can drive these regular cars upto their limit but very few can get into a 300+ BHP Evo and handle it.
How does a rally aspirant finance himself? What organizations can they look upto for sponsorships?
Gaurav Gill said:
Initially, I too went rallying in my own car. Basically, you have to get out and beat me to get into the team. That’s how I would like to put it. {Laughs}
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How’s the car tuning scene in India? Do our indigenous tuners stand a chance?
Gaurav Gill said:
Why not? We’ve a lot of tuners from southern part of India. I’m happy with their efforts and proud that they’re using Indian made products. They have been successful at it which is a great feeling. I have personally worked with a few of them. I think that tuning scene is going to be the next big thing in India very soon.
How good are Indian tyres when compared to foreign brands? Does our R&D stand a chance against the might of foreign MNCs?
Gaurav Gill said:
Indian automotive sector is booming at an alarming rate. All of us have noticed a sudden jump in car sales and related products. Tyres are the key. At the end of the day, it’s only because of tyres due to which the power of the car comes down to the road. We’ve a few popular Indian tyre companies. I’m associated with MRF from eight years now. I have been doing a lot of engineering for them and they’ve also come a long way. MRFs have become brilliant tyres now. We’re competing with well-known Asian tyre manufacturers and successfully defeating them. We have also competed against Pirelli and Michelin which I think is a great step forward. All other local brands have also shown a significant improvement, especially for OEM tyres because they have a stiff competition since popular makes like Bridgestone and Michelin are now easily available in India.
You have also closely worked with R&D team of MRF?
Gaurav Gill said:
Yes. I have been working with them from years. Whatever is our feedback, it’s used to develop tyres that ultimately you and I use.
Is rallying simply sheer talent or politics? Or a bit of luck?
Gaurav Gill said:
Rallying is: (A) Sheer talent. (B) A lot of luck. (C) No politics. It’s about real driving.
What car do you own and why?
Gaurav Gill said:
I have been fortunate enough to own some nice cars. I love German cars and my favorite is BMW. I drive a modified BMW 320d and recently bought a Mercedes Benz C63 AMG. I personally think that BMWs are most involving to drive. They offer a very quick feedback; it’s like driving a race car. As I have grown up driving race cars, so I prefer something that comes close to them for regular commute as well.
Your favorite car on sale in India right now? Why?
Gaurav Gill said:
I obviously love supercars but I’m practical when it comes to buying a car. I’d love to pick an M5 in which I can take my family for grocery shopping and on the way back, I can drive it like a Ferrari on the racetrack!
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Best road you’ve driven on so far (anywhere in the world)?
Gaurav Gill said:
I love driving in New Zealand. I think that’s one of the best places to drive amidst natural scenic beauty. There are also some brilliant roads in South Africa from Cape Town to Johannesburg.
What you’re usually found doing when you're not rallying?
Gaurav Gill said:
I come to my 3M Car Care store in Delhi because I like to maintain my cars and help others as well. It’s all about passion and not because I’m looking to earn more. I and my friends bought nice cars and some people tried to fool us without knowing about our background. They told us they could do Teflon coating for Rs.3,000 in 15 minutes! In real, there’s nothing called “Teflon coating”. It’s actually done on cookwares and underground sewage pipes. Eventually, after having similar experiences, we decided to open our own car care business where we deliver only quality.
What’s the opinion of your family members about this profession of yours?
Gaurav Gill said:
My wife absolutely loves it. She’s unhappy if I don’t win. My mom has also been highly supportive throughout my career.
What do you call a proud Punjabi who can breathe underwater?
Gaurav Gill said:
Gaurav Gill!! {Laughs out loud} :biggrin:
Thanks, Gaurav, for your valuable time. Please share a message for rally aspirants on The Automotive India.
Gaurav Gill's Message For Rally Aspirants: The Automotive India
 
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Nice catch there Vibhor. I think we must be one of the first auto forums to have had an interview with GaGi. Smart, confident chap. Hope he nips the WRC one day. Amen.

Whats the address of his 3M shop at Dilli?
 
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Fantastic thread, This guy is an inspiration for budding blooming wannabe rallyists in the country!
Nice to hear a sound message in the video as well - race on the track not in your city streets (which is the unfortunate reality). All the good luck with the 3M venture!

Vibhor, please invite him to join us!
 
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All respect to Gaurav Gill, the sport rallying is highly under rated, it needs extreme passion,precision,skill,to keep a rally car moving

the interview is very good one indeed, great job @350Z , actually might sound funny but my late dream is to make a racing academy in South India,not for Rally but for Grand touring since its easier to make a GT car than a rally car which is obnoxiously difficult , there is one racing Academy in Chennai based on JK tyres and thats progressing really well

The question @350Z asked about Fiesta being a rally was actually one I too was expecting to ask if I had a chance to meet Gill someday!

About Rally driver vs F1 driver vs GT driver , Gills opinion is super correct
1. Rally
2. F1
3. GT
I too see that even in our news papers everybody write about Lewis Hamilton and Vettel but nobody even thinks about Sebastian Loeb,Ogier,Lattvala,Solberg,Hirvonen,mads Ostberg etc, I mean these are real drivers,one has to see the onboard footage of these drivers, really breathtaking, they drive with almost 0 visibility,yet with full pedal to metal and a micrometer imperfect move means they could be sent flying off the course
In India Gill is definitely my favorite rally driver , about the world it has to be Marcus Gronholm , there may be better drivers than Gronholm but I like his driving style the best,on another note he drove Ford(Ford Focus RS) to world champion title 2 times as well

I still watch rally and currently the German rallying is going on, Team Volkswagen is creating world records with Ogier,Mikelson,Lattvala as their team and it is sad that there is very few telecast of the South Asian Pacific rally and INRC in channels or even in Youtube

Anyway all my best wishes for Gaurav Gill for his advents in life and nice to have a thread like this @350Z
 
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350Z

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Whats the address of his 3M shop at Dilli?
Following is the address: A-20 Kailash Colony Main Road, Opp. Metro pillar #79, Near KCol Metro Station, New Delhi.

Vibhor, please invite him to join us!
I’ll sure ask him. Gaurav frequents our forum anyway. :smile:

Drive Safe,
350Z
 

Akash

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Excelent interview man.

Good to know that the guy modified his car by himself. BTW +1 to this statement about the BMW cars. I am pretty sure most car lovers would agree with the fact that BMW does offer the best feedback ever compared to most of the cars!
 
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