One-liners don't get any funnier, and analogous to reality, than the ones on the hit 1990s US sitcom Seinfeld. Here's one rib-tickler that's particularly pertinent to the story at hand. Among the huge list of real-life celebrities mocked in the show, were those phenomenons of the opera, the Three Tenors. Or, as Jerry & Co would say, "(Luciano) Pavarotti. (Plácido) Domingo and the other guy."
If you're the average Indian that's pretty much how you'd sum up the country's terrific troika of internationally successful drivers. "Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandhok and the other guy."
Gaurav Gill is the Jose Carreras in this analogy. He's the man you've heard of, but don't know. Which is not a slight on the 30-year-old speed demon, but rather a more realistic sign of the popularity of motorsport in the country beyond the glitzy paddock of F1.
In his shoes
He may not become a household name anytime soon, but after the conclusion of a defining season for the New Delhi driver, he is beginning to make his mark, both on the grimy roads of the rally circuit and in the virtual world.
Want to know how he does, what he does? You can now step into the hot seat and race as Gill, albeit on your PlayStation. The MRF-backed driver was gushing when he informed HT that he'd been featured on the World Rally Championship simulator game WRC 3. "It feels great. I'm the first Indian rally driver they've featured in the game. They've even got the finer details accurate," he says. From the logo of his sponsor perfectly emblazoned on the livery of the virtual car, to the name of his long-time co-driver Glen MacNeall on the rear windows.
Victory in defeat
On the surface, this may look like a disappointing Asia Pacific Rally Championship season for the man who two seasons back lost the title by three points. He finished fourth, and recorded four DNFs (did not finish) in six races. Delve deeper though and the scenario changes. After riding a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X for most of his rallying career, this was Gill's first season driving a Skoda Fabia Super2000. The S2000 category is one that's being promoted extensively by the FIA and the car has proved successful in the WRC. The problem is that it's a left-hand drive, unlike the Evo X, which is available in a right-hand drive. It's also lighter, shorter and more nimble.
If adjusting to a new car was a challenge then so was the top-notch opposition. Gill's teammate Chris Atkinson has won WRC races; Alister McRae (brother of the late ex-WRC champion Colin) and two-time junior world rally champion Per-Gunnar Anderrsson also provided a stiff barometer to gauge his own development. In the end, he was happy. "I was regularly out-pacing these more experienced drivers, but was unlucky. All the four DNFs were when I was either leading or second. I'm looking at the bigger picture - showing speed in this car bodes well for the WRC," he concludes.