Women who drive are not that gladly accepted by Indian men and when it comes to racing and roaring engines and zooming cars, little do we think about women. Yet going against all the odds, spotted at various motor racing events is a young girl at ease, racing with men all around and giving them a really tough time
Yes, Sneha Sharma is the only girl to have successfully made it to the finals of various racing events including the first season of the Etios Motor Racing. She is always extremely confident and remains unfazed by the fact that she represents the modern woman who has made it into a sport that is largely considered a male game.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda , the Formula 4 racer shared with us some memories of her racing journey so far.
How did it all start?
It all started as a fun sport. Hollywood movies which often show car chases or intense car driving used to give me an adrenaline rush. I wanted to drive those cars. With time I started liking it more and hence one day decided to do something similar. That is how the idea of entering the racing business came to my mind.
My tryst with racing began quite early as my performances in the local Go-karting races got me noticed and I was selected to be a part of the national karting team. Soon I was racing for Championships like the JK Tyres, MRF National Go-Karting Championships, Rayo racing National championships and many others.
Was entering a sport dominated by males a difficult decision to make?
Once I get into the car and helmet is on, I am nothing else but the racing driver. That was the only thought that ran through my head when I was thinking about getting into tI took all the decisions on my own and was aware about all the obstacles and difficulties I might have to face being an Indian girl.
What gave me encouragement and the strength to go ahead with it was my timings during the practice sessions. They were good and I was able to finish the laps in good time. That gave me the confidence and determination to enter the racing world.
Tell us something about your initial days of training.
I used to ask marshals on the track about various racing techniques. Their work was to help communicate race situations to the drivers with their flags, but they also had great knowledge about crucial strategies like cornering and overtaking, hence my first lessons came from them".
How did you prepare and train yourself to reach where you are today?
Races are always a great learning experience, but in order to be regular on the tracks, I had to put in lot of hard work outside the tracks. For instance, I never used to keep calorie counts. But this sport demands fitness of the highest level. Hence in order to be fit I started with my work out schedule. Going to the gym and following a healthy diet for almost 8 months made me completely fit for racing. I lost 30 Kgs.it was a deliberate weight loss. I won’t say it was easy but I can do anything for racing.
Apart from that, as I mentioned earlier, I like to be independent, but with independence comes the responsibility. Finances were difficult to manage initially. Hence I doubled my working hours. I use to manage the tracks till 1 AM. That way I use to earn a little extra. At 7 AM I was again back on the tracks for my practice sessions. I didn’t have any place to go to. Tracks were my second home".
One race which is close to your heart.
All races are special to me but I remember one race which tested various levels of my fitness. It was the JK Tyres 24 hours Endurance International race. The driving time was 24 hours and we were a team of 6 people. I drove the most out of all the drivers. Those 10 hours of driving made me lose 3.4kgs of weight!
What are the hurdles one normally faces in this sport?
Sponsorship in India has always been an issue. Be it any sport except cricket, players don’t get funds that easily. I am getting half of my sponsorship from Malaysia and Germany However for the other half I am eagerly waiting for some Indian company to show their support.Without their support it wont be possible for me to race abroad.
Racing is a technical sports and it is important to analyse race car data and driving paramenters. For this Zen Microsystems from Pune is providing me with a Vbox support equipment.
Its an expensive sport as well and to complete one season of Formula 4 you need to invest 7 lakhs and one practice session costs Rs. 50,000.
However I hardly get time to think all this. I look at the next immediate steps. Long term planning generally pulls me down. I can work hard and better myself but I can’t change the sporting structure. My aim is to win as many podiums as I can.
How did you work towards becoming a pilot?
I left for USA for my commercial pilot training at the age of 17. After that I came back to India and gave entrance exams to get my license. After finishing a bunch of formalities, I finally got my license and hence the new journey began. It is exciting to be a pilot, minus the hectic flying schedule.
What is your life outside the racing tracks?
My friends says typical Bombay girl, and like to keep myself busy all the time. Hence I work as a pilot with private airlines. My flying schedule is quite hectic and I hardly get any time to socialize. I don’t remember when last I went out with my friends for dinner.
However I love my schedule. It keeps me away from all the social drama. I have a few good friends and I bond well with my family. That is enough for me. I rarely get time to visit my home in Mumbai. Hence now I try to make my flying schedule home friendly. Whenever I have a stop in Mumbai, I rush back to my home to see my mother and Snoopy my favorite dog. My father is in the Merchant Navy and so is out most of the time.
What do you do to maintain your fitness level?
Whenever I get time, I go swimming and I take out time especially for my power yoga sessions. Apart from that, I keep in mind small things, like taking a walk after every meal, keeping a calorie count, and watching what I eat.
What will your message be to all the girls who want to make their career in sports.
My experience says women have everything it takes to burn rubber on the tracks. Just stick to your goals and never be afraid of difficulties. Determination will help you reach greater heights. I have always believed if you want something you hav never had then youve got to do something youve never done"