Alisha Abdullah loves to ‘tickle male ego’ in the fast lane

By Bharat Sharma, IANS,

Coimbatore: Chennai-based Alisha Abdullah, the lone female driver competing in the Volkswagen Polo R Cup, says she does not get bogged down by gender bias. Instead, she loves to tickle the “male ego” by winning on the track.

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Racing with the guys is something that Alisha has been doing since she first sat behind the wheel at the age of eight. As daughter of former national bike champion R.A. Abdullah, taking to the sport was natural for Alisha.

At nine she was go-karting and was winning races by the time she was 11. She won the national go-karting championship at 13 and claimed the best Novice Award in the open class of Formula car racing.

“My father asked me to try out Karting and after a period of time I was hooked onto it,” says the 21-year-old, who won her first title by winning the MRF Karting Championship in 2003. The diminutive girl tried her hand on the two-wheelers in the 2007 national championship and she finished third. But a near-fatal accident in 2008 while racing on a Chennai circuit forced her back to cars.

Alisha’s next opportunity came with the inaugural Polo Cup last year when she was shortlisted out of 1600 drivers across India for the 20-driver event. She had a forgettable opening season but her third-place finish in the last race here has raised quite a few eyebrows and given her male counterparts plenty to think about.

Alisha acknowledges that the coming races will be tough and is “realistically” eying a fifth place in the overall standings and a couple more podiums by the end of the season. But more than anything, she is relishing the prospect of outpacing her fellow drivers whenever she can.

“I love to beat the guys in any form of racing, they can’t stand losing to a girl. It is fine when they are pushing out each other on the track, but when I push or overtake them, they say I am not a clean driver,” she said.

Alisha, however, concedes that it will always be tough for a girl to compete with the opposite gender.

“The difference is in the driving skills, its is the physical aspect involved that makes it tougher. We take a lot more time to build stamina. I have to train extra all the time.”

Alisha’s take on the dearth of female drivers in the country: “Anyone can drive, but it takes guts to be out there on the track. You got to have a big heart to turn and brake the car at high speed. I am not too sure how many of us are ready to do that.”