Gaurav Gill becomes first motorsport personality to win prestigious Arjuna Award
Gaurav Gill, easily one of the most accomplished Indian motorsport athletes, has been bestowed with the Arjuna Award in 2019. Gill is a three-time Asia Pacific Rally Champion, having won the title in 2013, 2016 and 2017, with the MRF Skoda team. He is also a six-time Indian National Rally Champion, with his most recent national title having been secured in 2018.
Over the course of the past few years, Gill's name had been put forward by the Federation of Motor Sport Clubs of India (FMSCI) for consideration for the Arjuna Award. However, given the Indian government's stance on motorsport in the past, his name unfortunately didn't make it to the list of people selected for the award. This year, things have finally taken a turn for the better, and the fact that he has been recognised for excellence in the field of motorsport is good news for the sport itself. Gill was presented with the award by President Ram Nath Kovind at a special ceremony.
Indian rally star Gaurav Gill receives the Arjuna Award from President Ram Nath Kovind
This year Gill is competing in the INRC, driving a Team Mahindra Adventure Super XUV300 R2, in an attempt to defend his title. He has also joined forces with JK Tyre, and is set to compete in three rounds of the WRC2 category - Rally Turkey, Wales Rally GB and Rally Australia - in 2019. Gill is currently also working on revamping the Gaurav Gill Advanced Driving Academy, with the help of JK Tyre.
This will not be the first time that Gill has ventured into the European rally scene. The Indian driver took part in three rounds of the PWRC between 2008 and 2009, driving for Team Sidvin India. He also took part in three rounds of the World Rally Championship, competing as a non-priority entry in the WRC2 category, with Team MRF in 2018. Gill's four outings included Rally Sardinia (28th overall and 13th in the RC2 class), Rally Finland (30th overall and 9th in the RC2 class), Wales Rally GB (22nd overall and 10th in the RC2 class) and Rally Australia.
Gaurav Gill is back with JK Racing after 12 years
Gill is one of the most versatile motorsport athletes that the country has produced, and while he has found success in both circuit racing and rallying, he has a certain fondness for gravel. "For me motorsport always has something to do with gravel," he told Team OVERDRIVE in 2014, "either on two wheels or four." This explains his career progression. While he was keen to tackle four-wheeler rallying, since he didn't yet have a driver's licence, he took to motocross. It was a sport that he liked, and found success in, but ultimately gave up after a nasty accident in 2005. He also competed in circuit racing during this period of time, winning the Formula Maruti title in 2004 and the Formula Rolon title in 2006. Between 2000 and 2006, he rallied for JK Tyre, having been picked up by the team after being put through a rigorous test in front of Karamjit Singh. Between 2007 and 2018, he drove for Team MRF.
File photo of Gaurav Gill competing in Rally Australia in the WRC2 class in 2018
While Gill's long-term plans with JK Tyre are still not known, it's no secret that his eye has long been on the WRC prize. It's something that we'd all like to see. However, until that time, it's nice to see that Gill's efforts within the sport have finally been recognised with an Arjuna Award.
Gaurav Gill Rally Statistics
APRC Starts: 57
APRC Wins: 17
APRC Podiums: 12
APRC Championship titles: 3 (2013, 2016, 2017)
APRC debut: 2007, New Caledonia in a Team MRF Mitsubishi Evo IX
First win: 2008, Indonesia in a Team MRF Mitsubishi Evo IX
Last win: 2017, India in a Team MRF Skoda Fabia R5
PWRC starts: 3
WRC2 starts: 3
INRC Championship titles: 6