How a dry fish seller’s son from Kasaragod became most sought after navigator in motorsports world


Express News Service

KASARGOD: Another proud moment for Kasaragod, announced district collector D Sajith Babu on his Facebook page.

Congratulations to the pride of Kasaragod Musa Sharif, said Kasaragod MLA Nellikkunnu.

“Let’s hope the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna will reach Kasaragod through Musa Sharif,” he said.

For Kasaragod — a district with few sporting heroes —  Asia’s ace navigator Musa Sharif, 49, is a legend. He is the most experienced and sought-after co-driver in India’s motorsports world.

Acknowledging his contributions to motorsports in India, the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) has nominated Sharif for the highest sporting honour of India.

“I am honoured by the nomination for Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. Normally, drivers get all the attention. But navigators enjoy the blind trust of the drivers and share the podium with them,” he said. 

Since 2007, he has been the navigator of champion Gaurav Gill, who won the Arjuna Award in 2019, the year when the government recognised FMSCI as the national federation for motorsports. Musa has been a navigator for 29 years. “Coming January, it will be 30 years,” he says.

In these three decades, he has navigated for 49 drivers in 296 rallies, of which 67 were international rallies.

“I never had an off-year,” he chips in.

He has won 21 championships, including eight national championships — seven of them with Gill. Musa has travelled long rough terrains to be where he is today.

He was born to the late Zainuddin Perwad and Aysha in Mogral, a fishing village in Kasaragod. His father used to sell dry fish. 

He got hooked to driving when he got admission for Bachelor of Business Management in Badriya College in Mangaluru, 40km from his home.

Thrice in a week, he used to take his TVS Shogun or Yamaha RX100 to the college. Rest of the days, he would take the bus.

When he came to know of racing events in the city, he thought of giving it a try.

The first race he took part in was the rally organised by Karavali Auto Sports Club in Mangaluru in 1993. Congress’s Mangaluru MLA U T Khader was one of his co-racers.

He won the first championship in his fourth rally. In two years, Team MRF signed him as a navigator and he shifted gear to four-wheel racing.

He started his career as a navigator with Satish Bhat.  In 1997, he joined JK Tyre and then returned to Team MRF in 2001.

In 2013, he joined Mahindra Adventure. Since 2007, Musa Sharif and Gill are together, participating in 63 rallies, and winning in 36 rallies.

Together, they won the Rally of Coimbatore for Mahindra Adventure in January — to emerge national champions again.

His international wins came with Lohitt Urs (Asia Cross Country); Arjun Rao (Malaysian Rally Group N); Sanjay Takle (Malaysian Rally Championship) and Saneem Sani of Thrissur (UAE Rally Championship).

Every driver has a different call sign and navigators have to get adjusted to it. “Before the race, the driver and the navigator take the road twice, and prepare a ‘pace note’. It will be like a story of the road, the turns, and dips, the rise, the angle of the curves,” he said.

On the first trip, the driver gives the notes and the navigator takes them own.

On the second trip, the navigator will guide the driver based on the notes and will make corrections, if needed.

“On the race day, the driver would blindly trust the navigator and go by his command,” he said. 

The navigator
The Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) nominated Musa Sharif from Mogral in Kasaragod for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna

The stats
29 years | 49 drivers
296 rallies | 67 international rallies | 21 championships
8 National championships
7 with Gaurav Gill

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