Driven by passion and speed, Alisha Abdullah was never fascinated by Barbie dolls and toys like other girls of her age. Instead she was more driven by her fascination for cars and bikes. She started racing at the age of 13 and won MRF Go-Karting Championship and the best Novice Award at the national-level Formula Car Racing in the open class. In 2004, she managed to come fifth in the JK Tyre National Championship. Every time she accompanied her father, who is a bike racer himself, her passion towards the motorsport increased. And this was the beginning of her fearless journey.
She became the first Indian woman to get a podium finish in an international motorsport competition — the Toyota VIOS cup in 2014 which took place in Thailand. Representing India and taking the flag to the podium has been one of her biggest achievements. She also became the youngest woman to start a women’s racing team consisting of 20 women racers across India. She wants many more girls to represent India on the global platform. Here’s chatting her up:
What prompted you to pursue a career in super bike racing?
My dad is a racer, so from a young age I have been on racing tracks. I guess speed is in my blood. Earlier, I was racing on an old version of 110cc bike, but on my 18th birthday, my parents gifted me a super bike and put me directly into super bike racing. I then realised that my parents want me to pursue bike racing as a career.
What are the challenges that you had to face while making a career in a male-dominated sport?
It was very challenging especially when you are the only girl racing among guys. People used to look at me as if am doing some alien stuff. Nevertheless all those things just made me more stronger. Now, people have accepted and respect women racers.
Since you moved to formula car racing too, how different was it to move from bike racing?
The technique and physical workouts of formula car racing is different from bike racing. When you drive a car, the gears are in your hands but for bikes you have to use the legs. Racing lines are completely different, the technique of overtaking a car and a bike is different. On bikes, it is very dangerous and scary around the corners. So when I did my comeback last month in bike racing and had a race in Coimbatore, it was really challenging for me to manage.
How do you prepare yourself before any race? Also, what kind of fitness regime do you follow?
Well, we have to be mentally and physically strong when we are on tracks, which now I manage quite well. You also have to build your stamina which I do everyday. When it comes to the fitness regime, three days prior to my race, I stop working out.
How supportive have been your parents?
My parents are my backbone. Without them I don’t see myself here.
Can you share some memorable incident that has stayed with you throughout your career?
Every day is memorable for me. That said being the first Indian girl to have won the Volkswagen racing was a proud moment. It was all over the news in India and I was really happy, because no Indian girl in motorsports of Volkswagen managed a podium finish. So I had created a benchmark.
What advice would you give to girls who wish to follow the same career path as you?
Not just sports but in general, girls should be strong and focus on their goal and build power to achieve them.
What are your plans?
Being a racer myself and running my Alisha Abdullah Academy. I am training girls who have chosen racing as a career and want to take this profession around the globe and excel in it. Next year, I am coming up with something big which I won’t disclose right now. Just wait and watch (smiles).