Oh, to be in the 2014 meme culture once again. So innocent and so fun, when we used Impact font and badly drawn cartoons, and cut-up videos to add some modern comedic timing. One of the most memorable car memes of that time was the utterly totemic “Samir, you’re breaking the car.” As it turns out, it wasn’t just a meme. It was a plot by a rival rally driver to ruin their enemy's career.
Samir Thapar is a veteran rally driver, with 20 years of experience before that iconic video was ever posted. He was no amateur, scoring podiums in regional rally championships throughout his fragmented career. When he wasn’t racing, he ran a textile business in India and was a wealthy individual. For Vivek Ponnusamy, the co-driver that coined the famous line, racing was his life and career. And when the two met for the 2013 Coimbatore Rally in a freshly built Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X, hopes were high for success.
The trouble came when he posted full videos of his stages in the rally, including audio feeds from him and Ponnusamy. Though the vast majority of the footage shows two men getting to know one another under the pressure of competition, there were moments throughout the hour-long footage that were compiled into three minutes worth of comedy gold. And as explained in a video by Youtuber Albon, it turns out that neither Thapar nor Ponnusamy thought it was as funny as everyone else did. In fact, it almost ended both of their rally careers.
The video was damaging enough that it destroyed their reputation in rallying, leading to Thapar stepping away for a short period and Ponnusamy losing co-driving jobs over the video. It made the two men look like hopeless amateurs when there was real professionalism beneath the silly video. It was bad enough that according to Albon, Ponnusamy took legal action to investigate the source of the video. His hunch was proven right: police found out a competitor made the video. That competitor was team manager Yohann Setna.
Under an obscure Indian defamation law, Setna was taken in for questioning by the police, who obtained a full confession and arrested Setna. It didn’t last long as Setna was released the next day, primarily because nobody was sure that there was a crime to prosecute. From there, Ponnusamy’s options were exhausted. He was left to pick up the pieces.
Almost a decade later, all the people involved have moved on. Thapar retired in 2016 after campaigning the Evo for a few more years, Ponnusamy recovered and retired from co-driving in 2017 to manage a small tire company, and Setna remains in the background of motorsport. Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine how such an iconic and funny video caused so much damage. It’s a classic lesson: nothing is ever the way it seems.
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