Built for speed

Racer Alisha Ab­dul­lah has come up with ini­tia­tives to pop­u­larise rac­ing — as a sport and ca­reer

The Hindu - - EDGE - Mad­humitha Srini­vasan

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.

Strong back­ing

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.

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