THE FEDERATION OF MOTOR SPORTS CLUBS OF INDIA - HISTORY
|| The Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) was founded in 1971 and is a long-standing member of the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) and the Federation International de l’Automobile (FIA), the world bodies for 2/3 and 4 wheeler motor sport respectively. The FMSCI is the only national motor sport federation recognised by the Government of India for the promotion and control of motor sport in India, and is affiliated to the prestigious Indian Olympic Association. The FMSCI is affiliated to the Asian Motorcycle Union (UAM), the Continental Asian wing of the FIM. Having been the ASN of the FIA since its inception but for a few years in between , FMSCI now looks forward to stability and growth of Motorsport in the country. IT’s been the FMN of the FIM uninterrupted for the last three decades.
Over the years, it has involved leading business corporates like JK Tyres, MRF, Indian Oil Corporation, ITC, the UB Group, McDowell, Birla Tyres, Popular Automobiles, Ceat Tyres, AVT, Goodyear, Maruti, TVS, Escorts Yamaha, Hero Honda, actively in motor sport, which has benefited the sport immensely. Furthermore, it has brought almost all the major four & two wheeler manufacturers within the fold of motor sport by “ homologating” their vehicles, the technical registration of the vehicle with regard to its gearbox, suspension, etc., to ensure a level playing field in national competitions.
The FMSCI has developed over the years a dedicated pool of 98 Stewards, 20 Technical Delegates and a thousand-odd Marshals in addition to the following infrastructure/facilities for motor sport in India:
The international race track at Chennai by the Madras Motors Sports Club with international quality transponder/automatic timing equipment implanted at the start/finish line of the track.
Go-kart tracks by member clubs at Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Ludhiana, New Delhi.
Calibrated Scrutiny Kits for vehicle inspection.
Automatic rally timing devices with printers.
HAMS and other communication equipment.
The Advanced Driving & Corporate Academy, the only one of its kind in India for training aspiring racing drivers, is run by FMSCI members.
With the promotion of motor sport being it’s main objective, it ensures that motor sport events are conducted in a safe, fair and orderly manner and in accordance with its National Competition Rules. To prevent bad organisation, incorrect regulations and inadequate safety arrangements, it has established a procedure by which the regulations governing each event are processed by the FMSCI and if found in order, a permit is issued to the organiser for a nominal permit fee. The services of FMSCI trained officials are utilised to ensure the smooth running of an event.
HISTORY OF MOTOR SPORT IN INDIA
Motor sport in India took a long time to find its feet. From not so modest beginnings in 1904, when rickety Fords and wooden Rolls Royces ambled majestically past finishing lines, the sport began to develop progressively. Motor cars were not a common sight in the country. Only a few Maharajas owned vehicles. The scarcity of cars on Indian roads would have caused people to wonder if enough was being done to introduce the automobile in India. So the first Indian Road Race was held in 1904 by the Motor Union of Western India and it ran from Delhi to Mumbai, a distance of 810 miles. The purpose of holding such a race was three-fold. One was to convince the Indian public that cars were now suitable for their country, second was to attract tourists who would bring their cars and lastly to introduce the car manufacturers in Europe and elsewhere to the country’s motoring needs. Lord Curzen, the Viceroy, gave his consent to the event. Different class winners were awarded trophies and a special prize was given to the car which arrived in Mumbai in the best condition. Only amateur drivers were allowed to participate, and each was to be accompanied by an observer to record the number of stops made en route. The car which made the least number of unauthorised halts was declared the winner.
When motor sport made its advent, well before World War II broke out, it was largely unorganized, tentative and doddered really on the brink of amusing insanity. There were no rules, no central governing body administering the sport, no national competitions and prize money, and definitely no professionals. In the words of Percy Ghyara, an acknowledged expert on the origin and development of auto racing in India, “it was fun”, specially driving down a carved out racing track along the Worli Seaface in Mumbai or puffing around in an old Ford on Marina Road in Chennai. Recalls Percy, in Mumbai where a car owner would drive hell for leather only to be caught by a prowling policeman, and both cop and driver enjoyed their cat-and-mouse game once in a while. Soon Kolkata too had its own dare-devils who drove on the wings of skill and fear. An off-the-cuff meeting brought together Rusi Sethna in an old Ford, Dara Pandole and Effie Dinshaw, who would regularly drive from the Wellington Club in Mahalaxmi down to Worli. The outbreak of World War II put an end to driving by the country’s racing enthusiasts. Post-war brought in its wake, the discovery of several air strips which would be converted to racing tracks - Juhu, Sholavaram, Barakpur and Yellahanka – all became well-known tracks over the years.
In the morass of an unorganized sport, a few clubs took birth - The Madras Motor Sports Club, the MG Car Club in Mumbai and the Bangalore Motor Sports Club. The Chennai club was largely disorganized in its membership and constitution. Pune had its own airstrip and so formed a club where motorcycles took pride of place among the major races held there. In Mumbai four wheel racing held sway in the MG Car Club. A race would be held once a month, and a grand annual event was looked forward to as the big race special in a calendar year. Even though the country did boast of auto clubs, no uniform rules or regulations governed them. This led to repeated friction between Mumbai and Pune competitors and a sudden withdrawal by the Mumbaj riders in 1949-1950 at a race organized in Pune by the Deccan Motor Sports Club. Dismal days were soon to hit both Mumbai and Pune. The MG Car Club closed down as several Englishmen left India while the Pune Club drifted into hibernation. The MG Car Club was affiliated to the parent body in England and the club held its last race in 1954. The club in Mumbai was re-christened The Bombay Motor Sports Club. The Pune club suffered another blow in 1968 when the airstrip, by now a much-raced track, became an air base again. A similar fate befell the Barakpur air-field. And in Mumbai, the Juhu air-strip came into the possession of civilian authorities.
The south of India has been considered the cradle of motor sport in the country. To an extent, this is true in the last five decades. Sholavaram stands out as the Mecca of Indian motor sports though it no longer serves as the venue for professional events. RV Chellam, a die-hard rallyist on the circuit, recalls the first motor race at Sholavaram. Even as two participants, Jengee and Strong (both in MG’s) chased each other round a bend, a cameraman, almost on the track, though he had been warned against doing so as no fences or barricades existed then, began clicking furiously. One of the participants saw red, swerved and went directly for the photographer. The poor sod threw his tripod and camera at the mercy of the onrushing MG and hid behind a parked car to keep Chellam company. After a couple of merry spins, the MG got back on track and the race went on. It was during this time (1953-1955), that the Bangalore Motor Sports Club conducted its first motor races at the Jalahali airstrip. A lot of Sholavaram drivers attended the races, participating with gusto, There was no prize money and one raced “for the heck of it”.
Chennai and Bangalore held the forerunners of modern day rallies. An average speed was expected from a participant who had to traverse a distance in a specified amount of time. Taking part in these post-war rallies were both stock and modified cars. In the first Sholavaram to Mahabalipuram road rally, competitors were repeatedly reminded that the rally was in the nature of a reliability test where speed was to be constant, would not average more than 30 mph and all road rules were to be followed. The competitors were also told to make their own arrangements for lunch. And then the punch line -- those who were capable of doing so, were requested to contribute towards the rally’s expenses. The total prize money was Rs.100. Chellam shared the first prize with another participant, earning for himself a coupon worth Rs.15 which bought him a wooden toy car from Spencers for his daughter.
The rallies suffered from acute want of financial aid. But things had to change! According to Percy, June 1969, should be considered the beginning of motor sport in India. The origin of a formal body running the sport began to take shape. In 1970, the Western India Automobile Association (WIAA) at Mumbai put thought into deed. Its president, Thirbhai Tayebji spoke to Percy of organizing a ‘real rally’ and not the so-called reliability trial that WIAA was conducting for its golden jubilee year. In September, Percy toured Europe, meeting professionals connected to the sport, pleading for guidance and assistance in conducting a professional rally.
In 1972, the 7000 km long All India Highway Motor Rally based on the Monte Carlo Rally was conducted. The rally was to be completed in a week’s time and formed part of the silver jubilee celebrations of India’s independence. It was sanctioned by the Federation International Automobile (FIA) and backed by all motor sport clubs in India. The rally attracted 120 entries and the competition started simultaneously from Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai. They were all Nagpur-bound. Nobody knew the route from Mumbai to Nagpur, not even the WIAA president, except for three people. Percy admits that organisational blunders crept in. For example, the control was not told of a vehicle passing and shut down for a while. Nazir Hoosein drove past but nobody at the control checked him. For the first time, big prize money was offered.
After this rally, a group of Mumbai riders went to Chennai to participate in a race. The rules there were most inadequate, prompting the Mumbaiyites to complain to the WIAA. One driver, Kumar had carried out extensive modifications to his vehicle and at the time of scrutiny, he vanished. This gave rise to talk about the formation of a national organisation. For the next Sholavaram event, Percy was virtually hijacked by the Madras Motor Sports Club to evolve the rules and regulations for the rally. Aghast at the varied rules for the rally and rules existing among the many auto clubs, Percy for was soon in the forefront for forming a national federation to govern motor sport in the country.
In 1971, the Madras Motor Sports Club, the Bangalore Motor Sports Club, the Calcutta Motor Sports Club, the Coimbatore Auto Sports Club and the Indian Automotive Racing Club, became the founder members of the Federation of Motor Sports Club of India (FMSCI), India’s first national governing body for auto racing and rallying in the country. The Federation was registered as a Private Limited Company in 1973, became affiliated to Federation Internationale de l’Automobile in 1979 and to the Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme in 1986. Fifteen years after its inception, the FMSCI was recognised by the Government of India as the sole authority to control and conduct motor sport events in India.
Fittingly enough, Percy Ghyara became the Federation’s founder secretary. The serious task of formulating the general competition rules for the FMSCI was left to Percy, Nazir Hoosein and Lalwani. Taking inspiration from the already existing international rules of motor sport, Percy and his colleagues drew up the Federation’s constitution and framed a whole set of technical regulations that was to govern the sport. Eventually Percy became President of the Federation and the Chief Scrutineer of all events. FMSCI’s gain was WIAA’s loss as it held no event after Percy’s exit. So WIAA passed a historical resolution that Percy could not hold any Federation post as he was on the WIAA governing board. The FMSCI sent Percy to Erance to seek support from the international sporting body. Initially the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile dithered over handling over sporting power to the FMSCI, but eventually it did.
There was no looking back. As motor sport began to get the recognition it deserved, the clubs began to get more organised in running and conducting events. Ambassadors were replaced by Formula Fords, Formula 2s by Formula Atlantics. The first indigenous formula racers in the country was launched. First Sholavaram, later Sriperambudur, became the Mecca of track drivers across the countryEndurance driving and navigation skills were put to test in race after race, rally after rally with the Himalayan, South India and Karnataka 1000 rallies standing out as the ultimate test for man and machine.
In 1980, motor sport in India went truly international with the Himalayan Rally. Nazir Hoosein, on an East African Safari, saw the possibility of organising a rally on a global scale in India. With the sponsorship of Air India, the organisational skill of the East African Safari Rally, the Madras Sports Club and the IARC, he held the first Himalayan Rally. The first rally was more in the news for the spate of protests, at times violent, that greeted the participants. Percy believed that starting the rally from Mumbai was a mistake. Air India wanted Mumbai as the flag-off venue. The actual rally however began in Delhi. Enroute to the Himalayas, several cars were stoned and when the vehicles checked into Agra, the rally was in shambles. Recalled Percy, “I was in Agra with the secretary of the international motor sports body from Germany. The first three cars which checked into Agra belonged to German drivers. Percy, who spoke German, used all his persuasive powers and charm to convince the secretary and the three Germans of the need to continue with the rally. Meanwhile, Nazir pleaded with the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi to ensure the participants safety. She did and the rally left Agra more than 36 hours behind schedule. From Agra to Delhi heavy police bandobast was provided and save for few hiccups along the way when two lady drivers were man-handled, the rally terminated in the Himalayas to thunderous applause and appreciation from the organisers and participants alike. Mrs.Gandhi was present at the awards function and promised total cooperation for the next rally. For a few more years, the Himalayan rally continued and then quietly faded away, thanks to a lot of internal bickering.
No other international event save the Second Asian Highway Motor Rally was organized in India after the successful Himalayan rallies. The rally began in Tehran and passed through Kabul, Lahore, Delhi, Nepal and Kolkatta before terminating at Dacca. Percy represented Telco and WIAA on this rally. The Pakistan government refused to issue visas to the Indian teams. When India did not issue visas to any Pakistani national wanting to visit India, Islamabad relented. But every Indian vehicle was to be accompanied by a Pakistani army jeep. The Indians protested and Pakistan relented again. Violence also greeted this rally at several places, forcing several competitors to threaten a withdrawal. A four hour curfew was clamped in Delhi and Kolkatta to the East Pakistan border. At 2 am the convoy of cars drove through Kolkatta, then plagued by the Naxalite movement. Worse was still to come. A cyclone hit Dacca and no reports on the rally reached the motor sport authorities in India for quite some time. Later news filtered through that Nazir and Lalwani had won the rally.
According to Percy, in 1981-82, the FMSCI became politicised as tyre companies sought to control the sport. In 1985, he bid good-bye to active involvement in the sport. In 1997, he was roped into the Indian Motor Sports Appeals Tribunals which hears complaints and appeals from participants.
Even as motor sport became confined to Chennai, a young collegian who took part in a borrowed vehicle in a two-wheeler rally in Mumbai, sought to break the South’s domination of the sport. The genesis of forming his own motor sports organisation took seed in his fertile brain which gave birth to Shrikant Karni’s Sportscraft and the start of a another chapter in the history of motor sport in India.
Sholavaram was bid an emotional adieu by motor sport fanatics the country over as the hub of motor sport shifted to Sriperambudur, where a race track was built on 200 acres of land. The men behind the venture were Indu Chandhok, S. Muthukrishnan, JN Patel and KD Madan, backed by companies like Ashok Leyland and MRF. The track was built to international standards by Larsen & Tubro. The crowds, however, refused to come to the new venue. Perhaps their hearts were still in Sholavaram, which had seen crowds in their thousands witnessing events.
The Coimbatore Motor Sports Club has constructed its own track. Even as Chennai held sway in the sport, the Indian Automotive Racing Club got back the air strip at Juhu and re-started competitive events. Kolkatta did likewise at Barakpur and Bangalore’s club shifted its activities to the Kolar airfield. But Sholavaram will always take pride of place.
The 90’s saw the growth of the National Rally Championship with Castrol coming in as the Title sponsor .The National Racing Championship took roots with support from JK Tyres .
Now with FMSCI firmly in the saddle as the ASN of the FIA and the FMN of the FIM , it can look forward to growth and stability across India.
2009 promises to be a watershed year in the History of our sport with 7 National Championships to be organized by member clubs in various 2 and 4 wheeler disciplines of the sport such as Rallying , Racing , Supercross and Karting .