2017 in review [Part 1]: Indian rally drivers and riders
In the first part of our season review, we give our take on Indian drivers and riders who represented our country internationally in short-distance and cross-country rallies.
Gaurav Gill (APRC)
Gaurav Gill enjoyed another title-winning campaign in Asia Pacific Rally Championship, proving yet again why he deserves a drive in WRC2 or Dakar rally.
After sweeping the 2016 season with six out of six wins against gravel rookie Fabian Kreim, Gill faced a much stronger opponent in Ole Christian Veiby in 2017.
A factory Skoda driver and a winner of a WRC2 round, Veiby was quick from the very beginning of the season. The fact that he spent several months testing or racing the Skoda Fabia R5 didn’t help Gill either.
However, the New Delhi-based driver still managed to win his third APRC crown, beating Veiby in three of the fives rallies in a shortened 2017 season.
Yes, Veiby was hurt by reliability issues more often than Gill, but there were occasions where the latter won fair and square.
In the season-opening New Zealand rally, for example, both Veiby and Gill had their fair share of technical gremlins, yet it will Gill who emerged on top by overcoming a 33.2s deficit on the final day.
CS Santosh (Dakar + others)
2017 was largely a successful year for CS Santosh, despite admitting to struggle in the Dakar Rally.
With early navigation issues and hefty penalties, Santosh could only muster a 47th place finish. However, the fact that he made it to the finishing line - something no other Indian rider has been able to do - is itself an achievement.
While Dakar is - as Santosh puts it - the Olympics of cross-country rallying, one must also look at his results during rest of the year.
The Bangalore-born rider came back from Desert Storm injuries to finish a strong ninth in the PanAfrica Rally. A 15th place result in OiLibiya rally was just as impressive.
More crucially the experience he obtained from a packed 2017 calendar - plus training in Spain - means he is well prepared to take on the 2018 Dakar Rally, which begins in less than a month’s time.
Aravind KP (Dakar + others)
Aravind KP became only the second Indian to take part in Dakar this year, following in the footsteps of Santosh.
However, the TVS-backed rider was forced to retire from the gruelling two-week rally on the back of two crashes.
Nevertheless, it was an important learning experience for Aravind, who went on to successfully finish several other cross-country rallies in the remaining 11 months of the year.
He was classified inside the top 15 in both Merzouga and OiLibya rallies, showing he is capable of making a name for himself at an international stage.
One can expect Aravind to build on a promising 2017 season next year.
Abdul Wahid Tanveer (Merzouga Rally)
Abdul Wahid Tanveer earned a free entry for the Merzouga Rally based on his performance in India Baja earlier this year.
The initiative, launched by Dakar organisers ASO, provided a much deserved international step for Tanveer, who had already impressed on home soil, including the Raid de Himalaya.
Considering it was Tanveer’s first overseas outing, he did more than a stellar job by finishing in 29th position.
He even managed to outpace his more experienced Sherco TVS teammate Aravind on Day 2, showing he has the inherent speed to succeed further.
At the same time, a poor showing in the marathon stage showed he needs more experience to cope up with the demands of international cross-country rallying.
It remains to be seen what the future has in store for Tanveer, who has been denied a Dakar debut by TVS - despite earning a free entry as part of the aforementioned ASO initiative.
2018 Silk Way Rally: Start from Xi’an
Canadian ALDO Racing Team to run the 2018 Silk Way Rally