She takes on men, entering into their terrain..
Sneha Sharma in Triveni Saree (top) & on the racing track (below)
Sneha Sharma – ‘India’s fastest lady‘, the Formula 4 Racer, will be representing India in W Series Racing, Austria in January, 2019. A Pilot and a Racer, both by passion & profession, she has best of both the worlds, what many would find being caught between two stools. It wasn’t easy, she had her own share of struggles to deal with. But she calmly believed – ‘Don’t Say: Show, Don’t Promise: Prove’; be it speeding the planes in the sky or the cars on the racing tracks.
It all started as more of a casual talk than an interview with this woman of indomitable spirits & undying love for machines, speed and heights. When asked about her fashion choices & dressing tips, she said her work regularly keeps her in western outfits but she loves ethnic wear when it comes to special occasions, as she happily dressed in red saree by Triveni. A professional pilot with Indigo, a car racer, sponsored majorly by Indigo & JK Tyres, she is also a motivational speaker (watch her TEDxSurat video – https://goo.gl/TaQFui) and an influencer. Sneha follows her heart and urges other young women to live on their terms. When inquired about her incredible journey to be among the Top 5 Racers in the country, she shared her story of grit & determination – how she has dared to step into an arena pre-dominated by men. However, she hates this comparison, she said “When my helmet is on, I am not a man or woman, I am a racer & when I fly the plane, I am a Pilot, there is no man-pilot or woman-pilot, gender doesn’t matter.” Overcoming all the barriers that came her way, she is an inspiration & showed us that whether the cockpit or the race car, she is a leader.
Right at the age of 14, when teens would blush at the thought of their crush, Sneha went karting. The girl who has ‘speed in her veins‘ used to ride bicycle so fast that she often found herself competing with bikers on road. The first hurdle was to convince her parents who thought racing would affect her studies, plus they feared injuries. Sneha thinks that if one fulfills his/her duties, then he/she shouldn’t be stopped from doing what they feel passionate about. Sneha used to jump walls, kept the helmet outside the house and carried her books to race tracks to manage time & studies. After initial resistance & when she won a few races, her parents realised that even if they took Sneha out of the racing track, they wouldn’t be able to take out the racer within her. Her family fully supports her now. Sneha said, in the initial days she has also done odd jobs as managing accounts of her team or as a mechanic on race tracks to finance the racing costs or get discounts as pocket money wasn’t enough. Her first teachers were the mechanics who taught her the basics of braking, cornering and so, as she couldn’t afford a trainer then. She says, “Racing is an expensive game and I being from a middle class family couldn’t ask my parents to bear the expenses.”
Sharma first participated in local races and as she started winning them, she was picked up by a National Team. She graduated from karts to cars in 2010 & completed JK Tyre National Racing Championship. She earned the tag of ‘India’s fastest woman racer‘ in the Mercedes Young Star Driver Programme, securing 6 race victories and 9 runner-up positions. She has been amongst Top 5 racers in India. She qualified for the final round of the KCT of the MAI National Karting and got a spot as the only girl at the JK Tyre Karting Championship. She was shortlisted for the 2015 Volkswagen Vento Cup, the Toyota Etios Cup in India and has added many such feathers to her cap. She is going to participate in Malaysia (MSF Saga Cup) and is one of the 55 women selected from all around the world for second stage of W Series (all-female racing series), organised by David Coulthard (Formula 1 Winner) to be held in Melk, Austria in January, 2019.
Sneha Sharma as a Pilot with Indigo
Born in Kolkata and brought up in Mumbai, Sneha was fond of all things adventurous right from young age. She says, “My father was in Merchant Navy and when I saw him sailing, my love for machines came naturally.” Sneha wanted to be a pilot and this could also finance her dreams of racing cars. She is equally fond of flying and racing but however her first love remains racing. She got her racing license first, then the flying license and then came the driving one. She took loan to study flight courses from US & Malaysia at the age of 17. She came back & grabbed a job as a pilot. There were newer roadblocks then. Busy schedule, planning her leaves & holidays accordingly so that she could participate in racing & also managing practice sessions for the same. With her flights lined up, she got less practice sessions than her competitors, leave alone the tiresome, hectic schedule. She would be taunted by her male counterparts, which was obvious as they couldn’t take it that they lost to a girl, but negative remarks didn’t make her lose faith in self. She put that aggression in performance. Managing flights and races is still tough but nothing deters her. She works for long hours. In her free time, she hits straight to the race track or gym. Racing demands high physical fitness, like other sports or rather more at times. She says – “As a girl you need to put extra efforts.” That’s not all to her fitness regime, from workouts to playing badminton, swimming and following a strict diet, are all that she does without a miss. Sometimes waking up as early as 3 a.m. in the morning. Time management is something she excels at, balancing racing, flying & exercising. She does power yoga to keep her mental balance and focus. Rope skipping is also a thing for her in order to keep her eye and hand coordination.
At the same time, inspite of various safety harnesses and rules, this sport can be dangerous as even the negligence of other racers can lead to accidents. She too had fractures, petrol burns and injuries but then she isn’t afraid of death, she fears only one thing – ‘not finishing the race.’ Sneha also opines on what she thinks about the current scenario of sports in India especially racing. She says she is seeing a shift as more appreciation and attention is coming to racing & also other sports. There has been a change from the times she started to which she herself has contributed a lot, in creating awareness about the sport. For girls, she says nothing can stop them if they make up their minds.
As much we loved talking and hearing her lifestory, we knew the clock was ticking and it was time for her swimming session. Before exchanging goodbyes, we asked of her future plans and where she sees herself now. Sneha says, “I am happy with all that I have achieved & am looking forward to the upcoming racing competitions. There’s one life and I want to make the best out of it. Racing is my passion and I hope I keep bringing name & fame to my country.”
The last question was – “Do men still taunt?”
- “I let my performance speak for it !” – said Sneha, with a sense of confidence.
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