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Kollam native Younus Ilyas making headlines in the field of motor-sport in India

By A Staff Reporter

KOLLAM Oct 18: With some outstanding performances recently Younus Ilyas from Kollam is making headlines in the field of driving sport in India. Younus' precision driving and determination at an young age has caught the attention of the doyens in the field of Indian motorsport. 
He has made some top headlines this year and continuing to make inroads into the car race sport arena. Younus won overall honours in the Popular Rally in May, in August he bagged third place in the first round of Indian National Rally Championship held at Coimbatore and recently he finished runner up in the Rally of Jaipur 2017.
The Rally of Jaipur 2017, organised by the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India, is the annual third round of the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC). Younus is just one step away from a major breakthrough which is soon to become a reality.
This website spoke to a few prominent personalities about Younus' prospects in the motorsport arena and his future and this is what they had to say.
Musa Sherif, who has 25 consecutive years of Rallying and Co-Driver to Asia Pacific Champion Gaurav Gill, who was winner of nine national and international championship says: "Younus is very talented upcoming driver in India, he have speed and commitment, some more rally school training / pace-note making  will make him a more better and consistent driver".
Adith KC Race & Rally Driver at Race Concepts Motorsport Bangalore says: "Younus is a good friend, I know him since his debut in Rallying we have rallied in the same team. He is very ambitious and motivated guy, I see him as a national championship contender.
"He has the speed to win the championship, but it’s not an easy road, he has serious competition guys with much more experience and defending national champions.
"I have taken a break from rallying this year, I will try to help him with whatever I can in achieving his goals this year. Next year we are going to be fighting for the same championship. It's going to be fun competing against each other".
Joel Joseph, founder and managing director of Race Concepts Motorsport and multiple National Champion in Racing and Drag Racing series Bangalore says: "Younus Ilyas, approached us in 2015 to tune his Cedia which was then prepared by a team from Coimbatore. Facing poor performance with an inferior car, Younus realised it was not easy to fight the top spot. We helped his car get on the top step by make improvisations to his Engine Management system and also developing a new exhaust system for the last two rounds of the season. 
"in 2016, Younus joined Race Concepts Motorsport as a Group N (stock class with limited modifications) rally driver with his Mitsubishi Cedia completely in our control to develop the engine and everything else to make it a winning package. Younus had a wonderful season with really quick stage times across most rally circuits and he even led most stages overall, much ahead of senior drivers and higher category cars. The car and Younus became undisputed and Younus had a crash at Round 4 of the INRC season in Chikmagalur. He was leading the class and overall at the time of crash and he retired from the championship. In the process, Younus had turned to be a very talented man, capable of handle the car to push it to the very brim and drive on the edge. His focus and seriousness was showing up and we were sure that he will be a sure shot for 2017 season.
"As expected, the 2017 season opened with a bang for Younus, by winning the most legendary "Popular Rally 2017" at Cochin and placing his dominance ahead of the higher category cars alongside experienced and seasoned drivers. He won his 2000cc category and also won the overall rally and soon went on to become the talk of the town.
"FMSCI announced the return of the modified classes for rallying and the new Step-up class (INRC 2) was formed, just in time for us to start preparation of Younus' Cedia. We went on to develop all the new components that were required to soup his car and we were set for the season opener in 2017 at the Rally of Coimbatore. Younus finished 3rd in the category due to the fact that the car still ran a stock gearbox, however we were certain of our results on our next outing at Jaipur.
"Younus started the rally on a high note at Jaipur, but a puncture and severe car damage led to a loss of nearly 20 mins in the opening night stage. The young man didnt loose hope, and continued to prove his mettle by leading the stage times for nearly 3 stages and then finishing the class in 2nd. Younus currently runs 2nd in the championship in the INRC 2 class and is very close in points with the class leader.
"All along the journey with Younus over the last 2 years, I am glad that I could do my bit to shape the talent in him with motivation, guidance and most importantly delivering the perfect car for him to drive on the limit. We are completely awed by his driving skills, humility and car control which is what has got him this far. He is currently the youngest driver (23) to fight at the top level amongst top drivers and is fast gaining popularity among drivers and teams as being the most promising talent on the grid at the moment".
Harish KN, Co-Driver to Younus Ilyas and who is a two time national champion co-driver in Indian rallying says: "Younus Ilyas is very special driver, I will be disappointed if we don’t see him achieve great things in the field of rallying both in India and abroad.
"Inside a rally car when the countdown clock goes zero, he becomes a different person than what I know of him, a very polite and humble young boy, driving comes to him effortlessly, it feels like he is in perfect harmony with the car all the time.
"He is one of the extremely quick drivers in the current grid of Indian Rallying, a future national champion for sure. He is a gifted driver, extremely confident of his driving abilities and has sublime car control.
"He has a lot to learn on the technical side of rally driving, he should invest time in understanding of suspension setup, and also improve his skills on setting up the car for optimal performance on different terrain on which we rally on. 
"This will take time and will come with more rallies and more seat time in the rally car and most importantly with guidance from the best in the sport".
Younus began a liking for this motor sport since the day in 2011 when he witnessed Gaurav Gill, who became the first Indian driver to win the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.
In an exclusive interview Younus Ilyas speaks to Balagopal Kent for www.ukmalayalee.com.
Can you please give us a brief on how you began to have a liking to this sport?
I came across a rally video on Facebook which was a Group B rally car tearing the road apart and full sideways and mostly flying through the roads. Audi S1 Quattro to be specific, it was a fantastic scene and the adrenaline rush just watching the video made me fall in love with the sport immediately and then found out rallying is pretty big in India as well.
I went to Chickmagalur in Karnataka to watch the Coffee Day Rally in 2011. I was fortunate to watch Gaurav Gill the two-time Asia-Pacific Rally Championship champion and multiple Indian National rally champion which was fantastic to watch driving his MRF backed Cedia. Since 2011 Coffee Day Rally I knew rallying is what I wanted to do and specially what Gaurav Gill was doing in that Cedia always stayed in my memory. It took me sometime to convince my parents to allow me to go rallying.  Bought an already built/used Cedia in 2014 and went rallying in one of the prestigious rallies in the country K1000 in 2014 and managed to finish the rally in sixth position though I knew I had lot of work to do.
I had just turned 20 when I first started an event, normally in Indian rallying rookies start with an Esteem or a Baleno but for me it had to be Cedia and driving one of the top INRC rally cars was a different level of learning, it all came very well and natural to me. 
Are you studying? How do you juggle studies and your passion for this sport together?
I am an Engineering student, but I am not really sure if I will be able to complete it though due to my passion for this motor-sport.
What is your utmost aim?
My immediate goal is to become Indian National Rally Champion and from there I want to progress to international rallying, maybe in Asia Pacific championship. I haven’t thought through the long term plan yet my focus right now is on INRC. Already struggling to put together funds for rallying in India anything outside India is not in my budget hopefully new sponsors will come my way soon.
Which is the next major competition that is coming up?
We are back up to second in the championship, just 10 points the championship leader, we have a new rally in the championship in Arunachal Pradesh which is the 4th round of the championship looking forward for it, hopefully we can do one better than what we achieved in Jaipur.
Who are your sponsors and which car do you prefer to drive for the rallies?
We had a sponsor in the form of Blulife Marketing Pvt. Ltd last year and this year Asten Realtors and Ramees Restaurant helped me for the first two rounds of the championship. Unfortunately they have pulled out . Like I said earlier, it’s a big struggle to find sponsors in India. Hopefully we will quickly manage to onboard new sponsors to be able to go fight for the rest of the championship.
Do you have moments when you feel like your energy level is low and what do you do to up it?
They call me the HULK, so you can imagine. I am naturally very energetic in or out of the rally car, however my navigator is my main man who keeps motivated during a rally with some pep talk and at the same puts me down when I am too excited and get me to focus on driving clean and the pace notes.
When do you feel most fun, while driving or while competing?
Competing definitely, we drive hard during testing as well however there is no better feeling than competing with all the pressure to soak in and deliver. When everything works out and we come out of the stage without even checking the stage time I will immediately know we did a good stage.
Who is your childhood race car driver hero?
During my childhood I was not much into racing and rallying, like I said earlier Gaurav Gill of India Asia Pacific rallying is my hero and idol. What he has achieved in the world of motorsport is commendable. Specially because there is hardly anyone who is interested in backing a racing or rally driver in India. It’s very difficult or next to impossible for an Indian to make racing/rallying a full time profession. But Gaurav has proven them all wrong.
How do you drive on public roads? Can you switch off your hunger for speed?
I am responsible driver on the road for sure, we have pledged for road safety which is an initiative by the FIA. The hunger for speed is what keeps me in rallying. Driving fast on public road cannot give the pleasure of rally.
In your opinion is racing far more of a mental challenge than physical?
It’s a combination of both, the faster the cars the more physical they get to drive hard unless they are purpose built cars. But yes being mentally strong is equally important.
Driving flat out over a blind crest is one thing and then you have listen to your co- driver calling notes about what’s coming after the crest and sometimes even beyond that. To be able to focus on the road and at the same time listen and process all the information coming from my codriver is very difficult you need to be extremely focused and mentally strong.
Can racing games or video game simulators give an advantage to drivers before entering a race?
The world of racing does have simulators so I would like to believe it does help, being said that I do not have access to any of those things so I can’t really comment on that. The video games won’t help as they are no where close to the actual racing but simulators yes I think so.
Maybe in road racing it might help to learn the tracks and all that, but in rallying I am not sure, nothing can better the actual seat time in the rally car, more testing and more feeling of the car is something i prefer than a video game or a simulator.
What is your most memorable moment as a driver?
This is year it looks like the hard work of the last two years is paying off, I started the year with an Overall Win at Popular Rally Kochi, in my home state which I think is the best feeling to win in front of my home crowd and my preferred surface which is tarmac.