Built for speed
Racer Alisha Abdullah has come up with initiatives to popularise racing — as a sport and career
Alisha Abdullah hasn’t just been breaking speed barriers, but several glass ceilings as well. She is India’s first female national racing champion, India’s only woman super bike racer, and has won the overall national championship at the age of 16, beating 22 men.
In 2016, Alisha launched the Alisha Abdullah Racing Academy, through which she is continually on the lookout for talented racers to support. One of her recent initiatives is the “Intercollege Battle” racing competition — an opportunity for colleges around the city to compete against each on the track. The idea for this was inspired by students who would approach her enquiring about racing.
The event took place in December at the Madras Motor Race track, Irungattukottai, in Chennai, and saw five colleges take part: Hindustan Engineering College, KCG College of Technology, Chavara Institute of Management, Jeppiaar Engineering College and MGR University.
The drivers drove Alisha’s Formula LGB 13000 category modified Swift cars. The event also saw participation from girls, for whom this served as a platform to compete with men, albeit at an amateur level.
One of the motivations behind the event is to popularise motor sports which does not enjoy the same status as other sports. “One cannot compare motor sports to cricket. Racing is an expensive sport. One would have to spend at least ₹6-7 lakhs per year on petrol, tyres, and engine maintenance. That is why I came up with this idea of giving students a taste of what it is like to race,” explains Alisha. She also feels there isn’t enough support from the government.
When Alisha started, she was lucky because she had the support of her parents. In fact, her father, RA Abdullah himself is a famous bike racer and a seventime national champion. He gifted her a 600 cc superbike on her 18th birthday and said, “You are going to race.” As excited as she was, it was a huge 240 kg machine; all she could say was, “Are you are kidding me?” He clearly wasn’t.
Alisha, who has done her master’s in human resource management with a specialisation in sales and marketing, wanted to become an automobile engineer — “dismantling and fixing engines is what I wanted to do.”
Now to give others the opportunity to do just that and spread awareness about a career in motorsport (being a racer isn’t the only option), Alisha and Hindustan Engineering College have come together to offer a long and short-term diploma in motorsport engineering. The course will be certified by Anna University and will cover all the technical dynamics of a race car and bike. Details of the course, which will start in June, will be made available soon.