The glitch-free staging of last month’s Indian Grand Prix was seen by many as the country turning over a new leaf after the controversy-ridden 2010 Commonwealth Games.
However, in a shocking revelation, HT has learnt that the race almost never took place after race marshals threatened to boycott the event, even accusing the organisers, Jaypee Sports Limited (JPSI), of cack-handed management.
According to Meco Motorsport team owner, Akbar Ebrahim, on October 30, the morning of the GP, the Indian race marshals held a meeting at around 6am and conveyed their grievances to the organisers over perceived shabby treatment.
“On the day of the race, the marshals threatened to sport black armbands as a sign of protest at the treatment handed out. First, there was a Diwali (Oct 26) get together scheduled, as the marshals were spending the festive period away from home. However, that was cancelled,” said Ebrahim.
The marshals were also unhappy at the food and beverage that was served during the race weekend.
“The marshals even gave a verbal boycott threat to the organisers,” added Ebrahim.
The boycott was averted after JPSI chairman, Sameer Gaur, personally addressed the furious marshals hours before the race.
Gaur gave a heartfelt lecture on how the show must go, and even said the marshals would be rewarded for their efforts.
JPSI vice-president for corporate communications Askari Zaidi, felt the marshals, selected on a volunteer basis, were the main reason for this unsavory last-minute incident.
“Mr Gaur explained the importance of the event to the marshals, he even promised to gift them a high-end watch to resolve the matter,” said Zaidi, who added that the marshals would be getting the watches soon.
Some have already been dispatched to their homes.
Even Ebrahim agreed the marshals were far from professional. “During the JK Racing Asia Series race, one of the race marshals was standing on the pit-wall during the formation lap, something that is not allowed.
“When told so, he shouted back, ‘I’m a marshal I can stand anywhere I want’,” he said.