Gaurav Gill’s car involved in accident, three people dead

Gill was hospitalised due to the injuries sustained in the crash during the Maxperience Rally, Round 3 of the FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship.

Gaurav Gill is the first Indian rally driver to be conferred with a Arjuna Award.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

The rally fraternity was in a state of shock after three people lost their lives in an unfortunate incident at the Maxperience Rally, the third round of the Champions Yacht Club FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship here on Saturday. The rally came to an abrupt end after the incident.

The tragedy happened in the first stage when Gaurav Gill (co-driver Musa Sherif) crashed into a motorcycle carrying three people a few hundred metres away from the finish line. “The motorcycle had forcibly entered into the barricaded area, breaking past the security barrier while the stage was still green. The driver was moving at a high speed and could not even see the motorbike as it emerged from a sharp turn,” said Arvind Balan, the local organiser of the rally.

The Team Mahindra Adventure driver cannot be blamed for the accident as the Marshals had been constantly warning the fans not to breach the security barrier. Since the two-wheeler entered the rally route from a bend, the rally driver would have had no chance to bring his vehicle to a screeching halt. Gill was devastated by the incident.

Be it racing or rallying, there’s always a disclaimer that reads motorsport can be dangerous and that people attending it will do so entirely at their own risk. But it is time to make it even loud and clear to its fans, particularly those from the rural areas. The FMSCI can review the safety aspects as well.

“Safety is something that we are always looking to improve. It’s an ongoing process and we keep working on that, but this is a sad thing to have happened at Jodhpur today,” said Farook Commissariat, Chairman, FMSCI Rally Commission.

Seven-time National rally champion V.R. Naren Kumar said it’s the choice of the stages. “The organisers will need to take adequate responsibility while choosing the stages. Public roads are always a problem. It’s better to choose private roads and, if that is taken care of half your problems are solved.”

“Also, the organisers will have to educate the people about the nature of the event. It needs to be far deeper but it’s a challenge,” he added. He said there’s nothing that a driver can do. “The sport calls you to go as fast as you can but it’s really sad when lives are lost.”

Sajeev Rajan, who has been a technical delegate for many rallies, stressed that public roads will have to be avoided. “We need to have private lands as in Coimbatore that is within control.”

“The driver and his co-driver has the route in his pace notes but somebody crossing the route is never in his note,” he added.

The officials and crowd-control marshals were doing their best, trying to keep the spectators in control and within the demarcated area when the accident happened. “It was a blind spot and it took Gill by surprise. It was unavoidable,” said Vamsi Merla, the promoter of the INRC Rally.

“The organisers had done their level best to ensure safety measures. They went to the villages and asked the people well in advance not to venture into the stages. They had got the necessary permission and clearance for the rally and this was quite unfortunate. I wish and pray it never happens again. This is a black day in Indian motorsports,” he added.

He said Gill also sustained injuries. “He is undergoing treatment in a local hospital and I wish him a speedy recovery.”

Team Mahindra said its legal team was looking into the accident. “It was an unfortunate incident that took place despite all the safety measures being in place,” said J. Prithiviraj, the FMSCI president. “We extend our deepest condolences to the bereaved family. The entire motorsports fraternity stands with them in their hour of grief,” he added.