In a 2017 video interview, Aishwarya Pissay spoke about how failing to clear Class 12 and being kicked out of the house got interested in motorcycles. A television show got her into biking long distances, and she ignored comments from conservative family members and sneering male competitors to keep forging ahead.
On Monday she made headlines by becoming the first Indian to win the FIM World Cup after the final round of the championship in Hungary. The 23-year-old from Bengaluru also finished second in the FIM Junior category.
How she won
Representing the country at the FIM Bajas World Championship, whose last and final round of the championship was held in Hungary, Aishwarya climbed from the fourth position to finish top with a tally of 65 points, just four ahead of Portugal’s Rita Vieira.
A big congratulations to @misspissay for becoming the first Indian woman to win a world title in motorsports. She has won the FIM Bajas World Cup in Women’s category and is placed second in Junior’s category. @TVS_Racing pic.twitter.com/ZJXqNSBQ3n
— xBhp (@xBhp) August 13, 2019
Pissay, who won the first round in Dubai and was placed third (Portugal), fifth (Spain) and fourth (Hungary) in the subsequent outings, finished with a tally of 65 points, just four ahead of Portugal’s Rita Vieira.
Having started the Hungarian Baja with a seven point lead, the rider managed to maintain momentum through the race bringing home herself and the bike after a gruelling 590 km of special stages.
How she got into biking
In an interview, Aishwarya said her interest in biking started as a child because her father used to take her on road trips. However, she rode a bike only as a teenager, and in another interview, admitted that the thought of competitive racing first entered her mind when she dropped her friend to a destination after weaving through traffic.
Her first experience with long distance riding came with two reality television shows called Chase the Monsoon and Bun Burner which required her to ride thousands of kilometres in days. Initially, Aishwarya said her parents were hesitant about her entry in the sport, but their minds changed slowly as she won more races.
She, however, did not have many women riders at the start of her career to work with. “‘I have met women in my initial training days who were ready to take racing as hobby but not as a profession. Today, I am happy to see that there are a lot more women Indian champions,” she said in an interview to yourstory.com.
Recognition and injuries
Aishwarya became the first Indian woman to win five national road racing and rally championship titles. She stood out after becoming the girls’ National two-wheeler champion, winning the Indian Rally championship for girls and finishing fourth in the challenging Raid de Himalaya in the Moto Xtreme category (Group B modified class) in 2017. She was the only woman to finish the gruelling race, which saw plenty of riders drop out.
But there were also major speedbumps in the form of accidents and injuries.
In 2017, she met with an accident and fractured her collarbone in multiple places. She had to undergo a surgery in which doctors inserted a steel plate and seven screws in her collarbone.
And after she became the first Indian woman rider to compete in the gruelling Baja Aragon Rally last year, Aishwarya’s campaign suffered a dangerous start when she crashed and suffered from a ruptured pancreas. Which might explain why this year’s victory was particularly sweet.
“It’s absolutely overwhelming. I am out of words. After what happened last year, my first international season, when I crashed in Spain Baja and suffered career-threatening injuries, to come out and win the championship, is a great feeling,” an ecstatic Aishwarya said after the podium ceremonies.
. @TVS_Racing and @misspissay are in Dubai for the first of World Baja Rally Championship rounds which begins on the 7th of March. These Baja rounds are your stepping stones en route to the #Dakar. All the best folks! @BikeWale pic.twitter.com/HcmVRyfAfy
— Vikrant Singh (@MotoringScribe) February 24, 2019
“It was a tough phase of my life, but I believed in myself and was determined to get back on the bike which I did after nearly six months. So, winning the World Cup is huge for me and I will look to better my performance having gained this experience,” she said.