‘Gaurav Gill competing in FIA World Rally Championship’ – this statement was much awaited for a long-long time! The 34-year-old has toiled hard in the domestic scene as well at the Asian level, winning three Asia Pacific Rally Championship titles and five in Indian National Rally Championship.

Despite the results, one of the most celebrated Indian rally drivers had to wait this long to get a proper opportunity at the world stage. He was faced with the common hindrance which any and every driver has to endure – lack of budget!

While the work went on behind the scenes to secure a drive in WRC, the Indian was facing his ninth full year in APRC in 2018 when the rivals he beat and matched in the Asian championship were already into their season in the WRC.

But better late than never, it was finally time for Gill to head to WRC and showcase his talents at the much larger stage when Team MRF announced its entry in selected events in the WRC2 category in the current 2018 season to build-up for a full season in 2019.

“Team MRF, having successfully won 9 APRC titles over the last many years, is now foraying into the WRC 2 with Gaurav Gill at the wheel. Further details will be shared shortly,” the statement from MRF read upon the announcement.

Indeed, details regarding his car and the rallies he will compete in are still to be revealed, however, he said the focus will largely be on the gravel events. With Argentina happening this weekend, it leaves him with Portugal, Italy, Finland, Turkey, Britain, Spain (Mixed) and Australia as the possible rallies.

In terms of the car, while he has driven the Skoda Fabia R5 in APRC, it is more or less certain he won’t drive the Czech manufacturer’s machine which is dominating the 2018 season so far. He now has the choice between Ford Fiesta R5, Hyundai i20 R5, Citroen C3 R5 and Peugeot 2018 T16 R5.

When asked, Volkswagen India’s motorsport chief Sirish Vissa also ruled out Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, citing that the German manufacturer’s new car is still not ready. It will only have its maiden competitive outing in 2018 Rally Spain (October 25-28) as confirmed by VW Motorsport Director Sven Smeets.

For Gill, this is not his first time at the world stage. He has competed in three Production World Rally Championship (PWRC) rounds spread across 2008 and 2009 seasons. His first attempt was in Britain when he drove the Subaru Impreza but was forced to retire due to an incident in Stage 3.

He tried his hands again in 2009 in Cyprus and Portugal – the former he retired due to mechanical issues on the final stage, but the later he finished seventh in class and 33rd overall to score his first and only class points in PWRC driving the Subaru Impreza again.

“It is great to see Gaurav planning to enter some WRC events this year in the preparation for a WRC 2 entry next year,” said WRC spokesperson exclusively. “He did a couple of rounds with Team Sidvin in 2008/9 and already showed a lot of promise then. We hope he will enjoy his taster this year and come back to WRC full-time in 2019.”

When asked on Gill’s and MRF’s involvement in WRC, the spokesperson chose not to comment further until full details are released by the respective parties. Anyhow, for WRC, this could work well as they will have an Indian tyre manufacturer in its fold.

French manufacturer Michelin is by far the most common choice of tyre for participants, with only few opting for Italy’s Pirelli and Britain’s DMACK tyres for their cars. The idea for MRF will certainly be to get up to speed with its competitors and gather multiple cars in future to be able to perform much better.

Meanwhile, aside the long wait for a proper attempt in WRC, Gill is also waiting for his name to be featured on the Arjuna Award list - which he has been put down twice by the Indian Government.
FMSCI has put forward his name for the third time - in the period of judgement he has two APRC and two INRC titles apiece.