Interview: Gaurav Gill on rallying the new XUV300, his advanced driving academy, and his 2019 WRC2 plans
The 2019 season has brought with it change aplenty for Gaurav Gill. The six-time INRC title holder has made the switch from Team MRF to JK Tyre Motorsport, the team with which he began his rallying career many years ago. And, in addition to swapping out his Super XUV500 for the new Super XUV300, he is gearing up for a three-rally stint in the World Rally Championship's WRC2 category.
On the XUV300 that was recently rallied at the INRC season opener in Chennai
Gaurav Gill: The XUV300 is the ideal car. It suits the conditions very well. It's quite nimble and agile, and I think it's going to work wonders for us in the National Rally Championship. It's not a full R2 spec, but that's only because we used the first round as a test, rather than an outright rally in which to compete or perform. But it's showed some really good potential on Sunday when we managed to win most of the stages without even an LSD. That shows the potential of the car is quite high and it's very promising. I'm looking forward to the next rally already, where it should be in it's complete R2 spec form.
On the expectations from the XUV300 once it's running to full R2 spec
GG: Well, I think once it runs the full R2 spec it's clearly going to be super fast, like the R2 cars that are run in the World Championship. I don't expect anything less than having a full-blown R2 spec car in which to compete against all the other guys who are competing in the Volkswagen R2. So it's going to be good competition, and finally we're going to have something which is super fast.
On his goals for the 2019 season of the INRC
GG: The goal for this year is to develop the car as much as we can, spend as much time with the RnD department, the team, the manufacturer working towards 100 percent reliability, along with top performances. The goal is to try and win as many rallies as possible and the championship, so that we can maintain our dominance.
On the Gaurav Gill Advanced Driving Academy being supported by JK Tyre
GG: Well, the GG ADA is coming out very soon. We're going to hunt out talent - between five to seven drivers this year - and ensure that they get ready for a junior rally team by JK Tyre Motorsport next year for the national rally championship, with two R2 spec cars. My aim will be to have two drivers that I can develop to compete against me. I know that sounds funny, but that's the way it will be. I'm always inviting competition and I'm looking forward to that.
On heading JK Tyre's rally operations in India
GG: I am planning to put a team together, which will be a junior rally team for JK Tyre Motorsport for 2020 onwards. We will manage the team, the drivers, the cars, along with our other partners. And we will ensure that we run a very competitive outfit which should be able to get onto the podium and make a mark for themselves and the team. It should be a great comeback for JK Tyre Rallying. They're constantly developing tyres as we speak. We've got some new tyres coming up for the next rally, completely built by JK Tyre in India. Hopefully that should be up to the mark with the competition. And there's constant development going on for even cross country rallying tyres, so you should see us use those tyres in the upcoming Dakshin Dare.
On his WRC and ERC programme in 2019
GG: Well, for the WRC, we start with Turkey. Prior to that we go to the UK to do a 150km test with the new Ford Fiesta R5, so that's going to be something new. And from there we go to the Wales Rally GB and Rally Australia. We're trying to manage a round in Cyprus for the ERC, so let's hope we can push for that in the middle. Due to logistics we need to see if it's possible. We're going to try to make the most of it. It should be a very strong year with an equal or a level playing field with everyone else around me, so I'm really looking forward to the year.