Sneha Sharma, 23, looks completely unperturbed by the fact that she is the only one among the two girls competing in the JK Tyre Racing Championship finals held at the Buddh International Circuit last Saturday, Sunday. In fact, she has made it a point to race only with her male counterparts.
For this Mumbai-based girl, racing is not an easy job. She has traveled with books on her racing assignments, fought with her parents, told numerous lies and jumped walls many a times to pursue her passion.
“I have jumped walls, lied at home. Initially I carried a lot of books on the track, you also have to put extra efforts being a girl. I wasn’t allowed to go to a race once and lost some points in the championship,” recalls Sneha.
Apart from racing, she has some uncommon traits vis-a-vis her competitors: she is a full-time pilot. Managing passion and profession is not an easy job, and she agrees.
“I am flying with Indigo as a pilot, so that is my profession. While racing is my passion which I take professionally as well. I do juggle it. But its not easy as the season is set up in such a way that it has 6 races in a month, so I have to plan my offs in such way that I can attend them, therefore, I don’t get enough time to practice like others,” says Sneha.
She has lost half of the season due to her flying career and almost had a two-year gap in her racing career. Life has been a little harsh on her but she opines not getting the respect of her competitors has been the biggest low.
“I face more music on the track. A lot of drivers don’t like to lose to a female counterpart. There are quite a few incidents where they have passed me comments like you don’t know how to drive, just go back you are wasting your money. I wouldn’t take any names though, but very good drivers were among them,” says Sneha who finished at the 11th position in the Formula 4 event.
Finding sponsors for the race has also been a struggle for the passionate girl.
“It’s quite a few times that they(sponsors) won’t come forward because they think women may not able to match the performance of a man. But I don’t take these issues by heart, I would like to keep driving. I have other issues on my mind like inspecting the track conditions, my race strategy. I would like to focus on these things,” she adds.
Even after fighting tough circumstances, she hasn’t given up and instead works part time to reduce the cost incurred on her driving. She desires to drive on international level some day.
“It’s been a long way, I started with local karting at the age of 16. Those races were conducted by private companies. I was then approached by a team called Rayo Racing, to compete in the national carting championships with them. I started and I used to get podium finishes. I also used to do part-time work with the team in a different role so they can subsidise my cost of racing. Right now my main focus is formula cars, that is where I want to excel in. By next year I would like to get podiums,” reveals Sneha.
After the initial resistance, her family has stood behind her like a rock in tough situations.
“Initially they were not happy considering the fact that racing is not a conventional sport for a girl. They also thought that it would affect my studies. But with time they came to accept the sport and now they support me where they can.
On being asked among the two – profession and passion – which is much trickier, she admits, “Flying is a very serious profession and racing is all about pushing your car to the limit. Being a pilot you can’t brake the rule but here you can, so I think racing is much more challenging.”