Western India Automobile Association (WIAA) is marking its 100th anniversary this year. Been active since decades before India's independence, the WIAA started life with some 500 English members and today, it is one of the largest automobile associations in Asia with over 1,08,000 members with activities expanding to various cities in Western India. We got in a conversation with WIAA Executive Chairman Nitin Dossa to dig deeper into the beginning and progress of motorsports in India and WIAA's role in it.
Mr Dossa has been there, seen it all for years now. He tells us that while the formal registration of WIAA happened in 1919 as a Section 25 non-profit organisation, turns out we've got to go further back in time to understand the beginning of this organisation.
It was the Western Motor Union that held India's first car rally in 1904 from New Delhi to Mumbai. The Union was later merged to WIAA, which today operates in tandem with the global governing body of motorsports FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile).
Until 1970, WIAA remained the largest motorsports association in India and continued to hold and promote motorsports activities in the country. In 1971 though, the WIAA committee opined that to continue actively in motorsports, more staff and capital was required and it was then decided to stop active continuation in motorsports. It was in this year when FMSCI - Federation of Motor Sports Club of India - was formulated.
When Nitin Dossa joined WIAA, he'd already gathered a lot of experience in car rallying. He reactivated motorsports within the WIAA. Also, it was under his guidance WIAA first held an all-women car rally 10 years back. And this year, it was the first time that the rally had an all-women organiser crew as well. Not only first in India, but this will also be a world-first as well and FIA too acknowledges never has a car rally at this scale been organised by an all-women crew.
Mr Dossa continues to tell us that the WIAA has been more actively involved in matters relating to road safety. Over the past 10 years, a stark increase in road accident fatalities has been witnessed and to help curb the same, WIAA is working in driver training.
He gave us an example to stress the seriousness of the mater. He spoke of a village in Kutch which has about 400 widows as their husbands lost their lives in road accidents. Kutch has over 60,000 trucks and WIAA is preparing to train the heavy vehicle drivers in the vicinity. A new driver training centre is being set up in Kutch, while one already operates in Ahmedabad.
Nitin Dossa believes that the rate of accidents can be significantly brought down through such training centres.
The end of this very intriguing conversation with Nitin Dossa had to include vintage cars. He is after all the owner of a long list of those – 50 to be precise. No wonder the man was right for this job and no wonder he takes a keen interest in the vintage car rally held in Mumbai every year.
An absolute charm to speak with, Dossa is an avid vintage car enthusiast so I did dread asking him which one of the 50 cars was his favourite. How do you ask a man a question like that? It's like asking which one of your kids is your favourite, but it was inevitable. So, I did.
After giving a split-second worth a thought - so he must really like it - he says his 1933 Hudson was the one. And it truly is the one! It is the only example left – in the world.