Women get their due in Formula Racing

Kirti Patil
Monday, 9 July 2018

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 Kelkar (Marathi and Bollywood actress)

COIMBATORE: Two Sundays back on June 24, when Paul Ricard circuit hosted Formula One Grand Prix, France’s first F1 race since 2008, it gave a chance to Saudi Arabian woman racer Aseel Al-Hamad, who drove a Renault Formula One car around the circuit in front of thousands of fans.

Her laps in 2012 Lotus Renault at Paul Ricard Circuit was to celebrate the end of ban of female driving in the Gulf Kingdom, but Formula One as such is still long way off from having a full time woman driver in either of the competing teams.

Back here in India, JK Tyre Motorsports made it possible to have an all-women team competing against men in a full field in Formula LGB4 racing from this season, the Round 1 of which was completed over the weekend at the Kari Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Podium may be still way off, but the start made through the Ahura Racing, which has all women drivers, is a notable effort by the former National Champion Sarosh Hataria, who conceptualised and founded the team.

The Ahura Racing team—an all-women team of six drivers—scripted a sort of history over the weekend.

The team comprises Marathi and Bollywood actress Manisha Kelkar to add celebrity angle and dentist Ritika Oberoi. Hataria handpicked the team by choosing 12 women out of 190 who sent in their entries to an online post a fortnight ago.

On Saturday, six of the 12 drove the single-seater formula cars to realise their dream of racing on a professional circuit. The other six have been kept on standby and could get to race during the four-round JK Tyre national championship over the next three months.

The 32-year-old Manisha, an adventure junkie, was happy to be a part of the historic moment. She says her aim is to inspire young girls who dream of a career in racing but unfortunately can’t afford the expensive sport.

Manisha explained how she chased her dreams in the matter of a fortnight and even took 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 Sarosh 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.

“These kinds of talent hunts help in unraveling the raw talent,” she said.

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.

“We are proud to welcome an all-women’s team into the JKNRC,” Sanjay Sharma, JK Motorsports head, said. “We are confident that this will usher in a new trend, attracting many more ladies to motor sports,” he added.

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