Holmes, the man behind Santosh and Gill’s newly acquired race skills

C.S. Santosh and Gaurav Gill underwent six days of intensive training at Neil Holmes Powerboat Training Academy in Southampton.

Neil Holmes addresses a press conference on the eve of Nexa P1 Powerboat racing in Mumbai.   -  Vivek Bendre

Neil Holmes, who has won several world championship titles in powerboat racing, is of particular interest to Indian sporting fans, especially for those tracking the exploits of C.S. Santosh and Gaurav Gill in the world of motorsport. The Indian duo, who decided to test new waters by signing up for the Nexa P1 Powerboat, Indian Grand Prix of the Seas, underwent six days of intensive training from the Brit at his Neil Holmes Powerboat Training Academy in Southampton.

Santosh is the second driver for Baleno RS Booster Jets, and has Martin Johnson as navigator. Gaurav is driving for Ultra Sharks (George Ivey as navigator).

  • Teams list (driver/navigator in brackets):
  • HVR Racing — Boat A (Frank Silva/Anthony Louis). Boat B (Darren Robinson/Giovanni Carpitella).
  • Lloyd Dolphins — Boat A (Craig Wilson/William Enriquez). Boat B (Stuart Cureton/Sara Cureton).
  • Baleno RS Booster Jets — Boat A (Sam Coleman/Daisy Coleman). Boat B (C S Santosh/Martin Robinson).
  • Ultra Sharks — Boat A (Neil Jackson/Jason Jackson). Boat B (Gaurav Gill/George Ivey).
  • MoneyonMobile Marins — Boat A (James Norvill/Christian Parsons Young). Boat B (Lee Neorvall/Glynn Neorvall).
  • Mirchi Mavericks — Boat A (John Donnelly/Kevin Burdock). Boat B (Alain Coppens/Fredrick Bastin).

“They had two days of normal basic training, very much like taking a car. Both passed driving tests and then competed against me,” said the Brit. “Later, they were made to race side-by-side.”

Riding a Panther class boat over constantly moving water requires a different skillset and Holmes made sure the Indians are equipped for it. “It is not just about the physical side of racing, it is about tactics,” he explained.

“Santosh is much more technical, plans his race and analyses things. He has a very good racing mind. If he runs into a problem, he steps back to analyse and then goes in again. Gaurav is used to wobbling around in a rally car, so sliding on water is not going to be unfamiliar for him,” said Holmes, about the two first-time competitors. “Gaurav is more fluid. If the sea water is choppy, he will have the edge. If the courser is flat, it will be equal for both,” the instructor said.

The Nexa P1 Powerboat time trials will be held on Friday afternoon to determine the order at pole position for Saturday’s first race. The two first-timers will be racing against experienced driver/navigator teams.

Talking about factors that determine a performance at a time trial, the Briton said: “All drivers will have done a lot of practice, they will try to get a racing line. How much you scrape seed off times when turning the corners will matter.”

According to Holmes, the Mumbai event has an element of novelty to it. “A perfect racing line is set up on the sea. Established drivers have never seen this before in any powerboat competition anywhere,” he said.

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