April 25, 2016
Sneha Sharma, a passionate Kart racer and a pilot by profession, speaks about being her fascination for the sport, background and dreams
She is on the racing track driving and when she is not driving, she is flying! She is Sneha Sharma, a passionate Kart racer and a pilot by profession. Sneha earned the tag of ‘India’s fastest lady’ in ‘Mercedes Young Star Driver’ program. She had secured six race victories and nine runner-up positions in Karting. In her very short racing career, Sneha became the only youngster to qualify into final round of the KCT of the MAI National Karting Championship. Excerpts from the interview…
A full-time pilot with an airline, Sneha discovered her fascination with racing when she was just 16-years old. “I started Karting in 2007 at a local karting track in Mumbai. I used to find it really fun and I was good at it naturally. Then I started participating at local karting events in Mumbai. At one such event, I was noticed and approached by National Karting team Rayo racing to drive with them. Soon I was racing for Championships like the JK Tyres, MRF National Go-Karting Championships, Rayo racing National championships and many others.”
Passion for racing
Being the daughter of Navy personnel, she always had an obsession for machines. Throwing some light on the same, she says, “Yes, actually I didn’t know much about karting as I am not from karting background. But I always liked driving cars. I liked machines and I also loved cycling as a child. I used to sail with my dad as he was in Merchant navy. That’s how I always had this passion for racing.”
It’s a rare sight when you see family coming out and supporting a girl conquer heights in a male-centric field. Although, Sneha’s parents have accepted her choices, it didn’t come easy. Speaking about the same, she says, “For flying, for being a pilot, they were always supportive. But they were not very keen on me having this passion for racing. They didn’t understand why I have developed this sudden liking for racings. It is actually quite a dangerous sport. So they were concerned. Initially, it took some time for me to convince them. I used to lie and go for racings sometimes. Sometimes it even used to clash with my exams so I used to carry books on track and study. Before my exams, I would go through a quick qualifying session and then go to the exams. I kept my passion alive and at the same time focussed on my studies too and I managed to do both these things. Now, my family has finally come around.”
On representing modern women
If we go by the clichéd arguments, racing and machines have never been women’s forte. Sneha Sharma, not only attempted to swim against the tides, but has also been successful in overcoming the obvious obstacles. “I have mostly been the only woman on track until last year. So, it feels good representing women. But it hardly matters to me because from the very beginning I have been the only one so initially people did give me a hard time, they didn’t understand why I am racing. When I was racing they used to de-motivate me but eventually I made my place in the race track. So now it doesn’t matter who is next to me or ahead of me, once the helmet is on, I am nothing but race car driver,” Sneha adds.
The act of balancing
While, racing remains her passion, Sneha Sharma has also not let that overpower her career. A pilot with Indigo airlines, she finds knows best to balance between her passion and career together. “It was very difficult to manage the both, especially now when I am flying full time. We fly about six days a week, four flights a day and I use all my leaves and all my off days on the race. Racing requires lot of physical fitness too and I get very little time to work on my physical fitness and also to practice. Compare to other Asian drivers who are on my grid, I get very little time to work on it. But I do put all my focus when I am on the race track. So on my free time, I am either exercising, reading about racing or racing.”
Racing or flying?
“Racing is definitely very close to my heart. Flying is a very serious profession and is a very different field. So I do not usually compare the two. Racing is my passion, I love racing. I want to be national champion some day. Flying is also good. Indigo airlines are very women-centric airlines. They are very supportive of me. Currently, JK tyres and Indigo airlines are my sponsors,” Sneha adds.
India has not been very sports friendly country. There are many other obstacles even apart from support of the family. Speaking about hurdles, she says, “It’s just financial. Karting is a very expensive sport. I am not from a very rich background. So initially I used to take it from my family and use my pocket money. I used to work as a manager in my racing field, kart mechanic etc. That way I could subsidise my racing cost and at the same time I was racing too. Sponsorship is also very difficult because to be competitive your car needs to be very fast. So far I have been able to garner support from JK tyres and Indigo airlines. But I would want more and more companies to come forward and support so that I can go international. I have been given opportunity to drive in Germany, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. For Germany, I couldn’t afford it so I didn’t go, even though I was part sponsored.”
Sports as career for girls
“It’s not just sports, whatever their passion is singing, dancing, job or anything, one should follow it because now is the time! It is not easy, joining the sports and staying in the sport are two different things. Many women tried and they left. But one can do it. If you really are passionate, you can do it. Why not?”
Sneha Sharma at home
“I like spending time with my dog, listening to music and taking a walk. I am an outdoor person and I don’t like being indoors much until very necessary. Either I am at the gym or swimming. I love playing table pool, badminton, meeting friends, going on drives, watching racing videos.”
Dreams or wishes
“I want to race internationally and represent my country. I want to be happy. I want to travel. I want to go to Greece and Venice someday. But wherever I will be going, I will be going there to race!”