By Tridib Baparnash,
Coimbatore : Who said Indian women have a long way to go to catch up with their male counterparts in a sport like motor racing? Meet these young ladies from various walks of life who have become the cynosure of all eyes during the opening round of the 21st JK Tyre National racing championship here.
Founded and conceptualised by former national champion Sarosh Hataria, the Ahura Racing team — an all-girl team of six participants — scripted history when they drove the Formula LGB cars at the Kari Motor Speedway over the weekend.
Led by popular Marathi and Bollywood actor Manisha Kelkar and dentist Ritika Oberoi, the Ahura team came into existence after Hataria handpicked 12 women out of 190 who sent in their entries to an online post a fortnight ago.
On Saturday, six of the 12 realised their dream of racing in a professional circuit while the other six have been kept on standby and could get to race during the four-round JK Tyre national championship.
Manisha, the daughter of veteran Bollywood screenwriter Ram Kelkar, was one of those six lucky ladies who had their dream come true on Saturday.
The 32-year-old, a self-proclaimed adventure junkie, was elated to be a part of the historic moment but went on to explain that her motive was mainly to inspire young girls who dream of a career in racing but unfortunately can’t afford the expensive sport.
“I am an adventure junkie and love any kind of speed and adventure. I always wanted to sit in a Formula car but never ever dreamt of participating and qualifying for Nationals, so that way it’s a dream-come-true moment for me,” Manisha told IANS here.
On being asked about her experience, Manisha has no hesitation to call herself the rookiest of all racers, but explained how she chased her dreams in the matter of a fortnight and even taking a short break from her busy acting career.
“I can’t express my experience in words, being the rookiest of the racers, I am proud of my performance on debut. My mentors Saroj and Rohit Khanna taught us really well as we didn’t have much time.”
“Sixty girls were selected from all over India and trained for two days, and then six girls with the best lap time were selected,” she explained.
Manisha, however went on to explain that her main intention was to inspire young girls to battle all odds and take up the sport.
“We have a huge potential in our country, but where we lack is channelising that talent. Lack of sponsors is also another reason but companies like JK Tyre have been phenomenal in their support.
“These kinds of talent hunts help in unraveling the raw talent,” she said.
Dentist Ritika also had a similar story. She became confident after taking part in the Desert Storm last year.
“It was after the Desert Storm my navigator motivated me to take up racing professionally. Being a passionate driver, having done all the forms including off-roading and rally, this was something which I was waiting for a long time,” Ritika told IANS.
The team also includes two mothers Diana Pundole and Natasha Shah, and Phoebe Nongrum, an aspiring IAS officer from Shillong, who are stand-bys and awaiting their chance of racing in the next three rounds.
While the first round got off successfully, with Hataria just about managing the hefty season fees of nearly Rs 80 lakh, the team owner is keeping his fingers crossed on the future as he dreams of having an all-girls team a routine affair.
(Tridib Baparnash can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)