23rd July 2008, 13:20
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| | Rallying In India Will Wake Up To A More Professional Tomorrow : Mohan Nagarajan
Extract from todays bangalore edition of TOI , page number 28.
Bangalore : A co-driver for many years and an entrepreneur now, Mohan P Nagarajan occupies the centre stage of Indian rallying these days. Ever since he returned to the motorsport scene last year with the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, promoting Naren Kumar, and the Production World Rally Championship this season, the supremo of Sidvin Core-Tech, the main sponsors and promoters of the Indian National Rally Championship, has advocated revamp of the sport in India. Excerpts from the interview.
What changes do you plan to bring into rallying in the country?
We want to create an atmosphere of trust and friendship and package it with a professionally-run championship so that there are more number of participants. We are charting a roadmap for the
next 5-10 years. I am encouraged by the fact that the Rally of Karnataka held in Mysore in June attracted around 45 entries. We are in talks with MRF and JK tyres to field their teams and I am happy that they have been supportive. We look forward to welcoming them soon into this year’s championship.
From K-1000 Rally onwards, which is slated to be held in August, we will be putting certain ground rules in place. We will identify problems unique to centres as well as those common to all centres. We aim to set them right as soon as possible so that by 2009, we will have a proper, transparent system in place. We will strive towards finalizing the 2009 calendar by October-November this year. This will give a lot of time to the teams to prepare and us to organize the logistics. We need to train people, get the right equipment, the task ahead is huge.
Did you also realise that there is a huge difference between what you saw at the continental level and India?
In APRC, we saw Malaysia and Indonesia organise much better events than we do presently. This despite all the human capital, resources and history that we have. We realised motorsports per se had not been given its due in India, where it is run by individuals. We want to change that. At the same time, we realised we can change nothing by merely doling out money. That’s why we are into promoting the sport big-time.
What are your objectives?
We want organizing clubs to work like a corporate house. Rallying needs infrastructure, high level of organizational skills, communication equipments, timing equipment, marshals etc. Under individual control many of these may not be possible.
We plan to have a proper rally office based out of Bangalore. It will comprise a board of advisors from the media, advertising, medical, automobiles and manufacturing sectors. We are looking at this office to be headed by a CEO. We are now in the digital age and we will start with having an interactive portal for rallying.
How do you see yourself working in tandem with the ASN?
For us it does not matter who the ASN is. The ASN is a regulatory body. We are promoting the sport with a clear vision. Even the FMSCI, who now hold the sporting powers in India, agree the sport has to be promoter-run. We share a good rapport with FMSCI and that will be harnessed to improve the sport.
In large part, will 2008 be a sort of trial run....
Yes. We want to conclude this year’s championship as soon as possible. We have introduced a few new aspects, like exemplary television coverage. We are trying to get some advanced timing equipment from the British Rally championship for the K-1000. But essentially, we are preparing everyone for next year. The changes are happening slowly. We want to have a North Cup and a South Cup in the national championship to encourage local drivers. A number of manufacturers are keen on being a part of rallying at some level. We would also be talking to large volume manufacturers, like Maruti, for example, asking them to field teams in the championship.
Equipment has been a bone of contention. Will you be seeking the help of international players to procure them?
We have already started an asset bank. We have fabricated start ramps and arches, marshals tents, etc., as per international standards. We are providing the same to all the organizers free of cost to improve the aesthetic value of the events. We are talking to international partners to come with equipment and expertise to help us run the Indian championship, particularly, the ISC (International Sportsworld Communicators) who presently hold the rights for WRC. We are putting a plan together for them to invest here and being part of the sport.
We also aim to get the foreign manufacturers to come to India. For example, Ford is manufactured in India but we don’t have the manufacturer’s participation. Over the years we have failed to create an atmosphere where rallying is looked at seriously as a brand-building vehicle for the manufacturers in our country. We need to start creating this atmosphere now or it would be too late. Together, we would like to carry all these positives to make a fresh beginning in 2009.
Would it mean foreign cars and foreign drivers too?
Yes. Our proposal starts with renaming INRC to Indian Rally Championship. We have planned an open category along with one for Indian drivers. This will see the introduction of 4x4 cars in India. Our aim is to get foreign cars to be part of the Indian championship — it may be a Subaru or any other manufacturer — during the second half of the season in 2009. We have the capability to invite the world’s top drivers to come and drive in India as ambassadors. This will expose young Indian talent to world class drivers.
Lets hope this brings in more sponsorships in the motorsports industry in India and change the rallying scene here.
All the best Mohan Nagarajan in your endeavor to change the rallying scene here.