Why should boys have all the fun?

Visvaksen P Chennai | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on February 22, 2016

Vrooming ahead The race was a turning point for women’sracing in India



It was fast-paced action on the track at the Honda all-women motor race held in Chennai

“Ladies practice begins in two minutes,” said a voice over the loudspeaker. In a sight that would have shocked the old-timers, a group of women clad in tight leather suits were sitting astride motorcycles rather than standing beside them holding umbrellas and providing eye candy for photographers. The 10 women, most of whom saw the pristine tarmac of a race track for the first time less than a week ago, were getting ready to participate in the first all-women’s race in Indian motorsport history at the Madras Motor Racing Track in Irungatukottai this past weekend.

The race, organised by Honda on the sidelines of the concluding weekend of the National Motorcycle Racing Championship, was preceded and followed by extended photo sessions and media interviews with the novice riders. The grime in their shared equipment and the sweltering heat was forgotten as the girls beamed for the cameras and dutifully thanked their sponsors. However stage-managed the media circus around the event might have been, the action on the track was anything but as Rehana Reya of Chennai held off Pooja Dabhi and Soundari A in a close contest to take the chequered flag in first place.

Soundari, who was the sole competitor in the race with prior track experience, is the mother of an 8-month-old boy. “I was nervous about coming back to the track after my delivery, but everyone has been supportive and it has been a great experience,” she said. A passionate fan of motor sport, she met her husband Ananth Raj — who rides for Kingdom Racing India — while hanging around the track, trying to break into what was then an exclusive men’s club. “This race is a turning point for women’s racing in India,” she added. “Three years ago, I had to take a loan to buy equipment. And I needed the help of other riders to get my bike ready and learn how to ride on the track. But now, it is much easier. Honda is providing the bikes, the equipment and the training.”

The race, which happened over 4 laps in a truncated version of the circuit ridden by male riders, may have been an exhibition event, but according to Ramji Govindarajan, Director of Ten10 Racing – Honda’s satellite team which helped train the riders, it is the start of something big. “This is an incubation platform, and it needs to be taken to the next level. That will happen when they start riding with the boys,” he said.

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Published on February 22, 2016
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