For us speed merchants, a crash is always, literally, a second away. One wrong turn, one flat tyre and we find ourselves on a collision course with a lottery. I say lottery for one never knows, despite having all the safety equipment in place, just what a crash can yield. I have 16 screws in my body. Every time I try to board a plane, the metal detector comes alive pealing in alarm. One learns to live with the consequences of one’s mistakes.
I have stopped counting the number of times I have crashed but the scariest of them all is still vivid in my memory. In 2007, I was making my debut in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. The shift from the two-wheel cars of Indian rallying to the four-wheel drive of the APRC was quite a challenge. I was convinced that I could prove that Indian drivers had the skill to adapt quickly to the monster cars even though we had been groomed on their baby sisters all our lives.
At the Rally of New Caledonia I missed a turn. Usually that is not such a big deal except that in this case I hit the mud bank on the side of the road at about 180kph. The car instantly flipped and turned turtle — my world became a speeding blur upside down. The car spun and flipped about five times in the air before it slammed into the ground. Thankfully we did not hit any tree or rock, but it was one mangled wreck that I crawled out from. My co-driver was knocked unconscious and I had to drag him out of the car.
The vehicle itself was totally written off. Seeing the severity of the crash, the organisers had summoned a helicopter to fly us to hospital. Thankfully, good rally cars come equipped with roll cages made of a titanium alloy. Even if the outer shell is completely wrecked, the roll cage ensures that the driver and the navigator are safely ensconced in a cocoon within the car.
It was an inglorious start to my APRC challenge and it was one of the few times I have really been scared. But I got out of it fine with just a few scrapes and bruises. It’s an extreme I don’t really wish to experience again.