Interview with Mira Erda, the first Indian female to bag a podium in Formula 4
Mira Erda is the first Indian female driver to race in the Euro JK Series as well as a Red Bull Racer. She began racing at the age of 9, and her first professional race was JK Tyre Rotax Max National Karting Championship. She shifted to racing the Formula LGB class of race cars in 2014 as the youngest female driver before making her leap to the 2017 JK Euro Series, where she became the first and only Indian woman to participate. She has also garnered her first international podium in round 2 of the 2019 Formula 4 series, against experienced racers. She's even established a training academy in her hometown, to help youngsters and aspiring racers to kickstart their career in the motorsport community.
We had a chat with her and here's how it went:
Team evo: Let's talk about your biggest achievement yet, your first international podium in round 2 of the 2019 Formula 4 series. How was the experience?
Mira Erda: It was the very last moment, to be honest, that we decided to go for that round. Thursday I got a call in the morning that said: “we have a discounted seat available, do you want to come?” I was like yeah, sure, let's take the opportunity and I actually went there on Thursday night itself, Friday morning I landed. I had no practice, no experience with the car. The only thing that was good was that I had practised on the track before. So I was quite confident, but I didn't want to push right from the beginning, learn about the car and the track and by the end obviously, I got quite comfortable and I knew how much I could push the car. In the last race, I finally managed to get a podium in the women’s category. Being the first Indian female to actually get a podium, representing your country, it was like a really exciting scene that I caught and I was so proud that I could do this for the country. That was my first international win in the women's category. Before that, I had also bagged four podiums in the 2019 Formula 4 SEA (South East Asia) championship.
Team evo: Let's go a little back, how did your journey start and how did you actually get into racing?
Mira Erda: It was my dad who actually got me into racing, he started a go-karting track in Vadodara and I was just eight years old, and I used to drive with my brothers and just enjoy karting, and it was just then that my dad realised that she has potential to go and actually race, he asked me if I want to do it at a professional level. And I was like yeah let's do this, let's try it and we went to see one of the National Racing Championships in karting in Pune and that's when I decided I really like doing this and I don't care if it's a male or a female driving, so let's just go for it and give it our best. After that I got professional training for two three days, another week of practice and I started my journey at the age of nine.
Team evo: What are your next steps from here? What have you been into lately
Mira Erda: Well, I did the MRF Championship last year and the JK Tyre championship this year as well and it is quite good, my target was to get the fastest lap time and I finally managed to get that in the race weekend, not the best results that I wanted but again we’re back on the track and I'm going back to the hotel as we speak. The car is having issues, but for now, I'm just trying my best to give my 100 per cent and figure out the issues with the car, and actually just target a podium or a win. Hopefully in the next two upcoming rounds.
Team evo: Being one of the only females in this industry in India, do you feel like there's an added sense of responsibility?
Mira Erda: No, in the motorsport community, I have grown up with all the same people, officials, drivers etc. There's no responsibility that I actually feel for being a woman racer, because they have treated me like one of them, and not as a female per say. On the track or off the track, I just give it my best when we're competing and we fight really hard and we're really close off track as friends and family. So all I care about is as a racer how much pressure I get when I'm driving, how much I go, win races or how many competitors I have to overtake. As a female, there's nothing I feel pressured about, but as a racer obviously I feel it, that I need to do this, win this race.
Team evo: Which is your favourite class of racing, apart from Formula one?
Mira Erda: I don't watch anything other than formula one but if you say any type of racing, I would any day go for karting. It's been like the best thing for me to just go, watch kart races happening anywhere, it's so close and raw and you don't really see all of that close action in formula cars or in any other racing, either bikes or cars. I think go-karting is something that I'll always enjoy watching.
Team evo: How did you feel when you were awarded with the outstanding women in motorsport award?
Mira Erda: It was a very proud moment. FMSCI started recognising women finally in a way and giving them awards for their performance, to all the women performing in their highest feats. I was one of them, just being able to get recognised by the federation, motorsport in India, I think that was another push for me, another motivation for me to go and try harder and win races, so that they can recognise us more and other females can get motivated and get into the sport.
Team evo: Who's your role model? Your favourite Formula One driver?
Mira Erda: I would say Max Verstappen for sure, he's young, but he was aggressive when he got into Formula One Formula one and always, they used to call him, you know, like he's a very aggressive driver. Now he has toned it down so much. He's found that balance, that one as a racer which one person needs that when you need to be aggressive, you are up there. But when you need to be calm and patient, you know what to do, you know how to control everything. And that is something that I have always wanted to find myself as a young driver when I was racing initially and looking at max, I have grown up looking at his driving style, I have grown as well, so I always look up to him and obviously the way he is driving right now is just another push to learn and push to find that balance always and keep it like that when I am racing on track.
Team evo: Which is your favourite Formula One track?
Mira Erda: Well, I do not have a favorite formula one track. Each track has its own speciality. They're all technical in their own way. So I, as a racer, always want to go try every race track that I can. And a Formula One racetrack? That's like a goal for me! I want to go and race on each and every race track as possible for as much as I can drive on that.
Team evo: Which sports car would you like to drive on a racetrack?
Mira Erda: I have always been a fan of Mini Coopers, because they're small, compact and yet so fast. So that is one car that I really want to go and drive in Monaco. It's like that track is quite tight and it has a lot of technical corners and a small car is something that I really want to drive there one day.
Team evo: How do you manage your studies with your racing career?
Mira Erda: Well, I have managed it quite well till now and I've now got done with my college. It was a challenge, obviously when I was young, but you know, as a motorsport athlete, you learn how to manage things when you're giving a 100 per cent in the sport. You feel that you need to give a hundred percent into everything else as well. So whenever I would, you know, be home, I would always focus and give enough time to my studies. When I'm on the racetrack, I will always make sure that studies and all of that doesn't hamper my racing. It's all about prioritizing things about how and when you need to prioritize what. So I did manage that quite well and oh, I've always kept a target for myself. My parents say that if you can pass we’ll be more than happy, but I always feel that this is not something that I want, I always target to get at least seventy per cent marks in any subjects. So, yeah, that's sometimes something that I've always managed to push myself and I keep doing that quite efficiently.
Team evo: Being a racer, fitness must be of utmost priority to you right? So can you tell us a little bit about your fitness routine?
Mira Erda: Of course, as a racer when I initially got into the sport, I was super weak. I was just 21 kg and I started realizing that, you know, it's all about having that strength and stamina, because racing is not about winning in the first corner or on the first lap. It's all about, you have to patiently wait and wait and by the end of the race, you start losing your stamina and that's when people gain advantage over you. So I had to start working out at a very young age, but, I at least make sure that wherever I am, I give at least half an hour, if I'm traveling or 45 minutes to cardio. Other than that, when I'm at home or at least two hours of working out. Different types of workout is something that I'll always prefer doing. If I'm on the track, I go for a run or go for a walk. So always staying active is something that I always want to do.
Team evo: How has the involvement of Red Bull helped you in racing?
Mira Erda: They have been one of the biggest help that I could have ever gotten, because at the point, when I won the rookie championship and I became. Indian females to actually race in the JK Euro series, it was a huge help to me, in the sense that they were that push that I needed as a sponsor, as a partner, you know, like just getting such a huge brand on board.
It gave me so much more opportunities and they always believe in going all crazy. And I have been that person. If something happens, I'll do it. I'll go crazy, but I'll find ways to find, get that thing. So in that sense, and then obviously I have been into this sport for such a long time, I have always wanted to grow more and create more opportunities for people. And that's when Red Bull came in and we got the opportunity to work together and create opportunities for mature racers by the Red Bull kart fight by the Red Bull Catch-Up. So in that sense we, as a team, are also trying to grow the motor sports scene in India and personally as an athlete getting such a huge brand, supporting me from the back door is so much more helpful. They helped me go internationally and do some testing. Even the 2019 race happened because they were backing me off to actually go up there and race at an international level. I think that all happened because of them. So it has been a huge help to me in my career.
Team evo: Can you tell me a little bit about your team Erda’s Racing?
Mira Erda: Yes, We train at least a hundred students at Erda’s Racing every year, college students. Formula student teams that come to our track to train. So I always try to give it a minimum budget because it's very difficult for everyone to get into the sport and, you know, get training and testing. So at our academy, I have trained quite a few young kids and for now I had two kids all actually racing in the rotax max championship, and one of them was a girl and she's just 14 years old. She's up there racing. It's her first year and she actually got a podium last weekend in the Rotax championship. I'm just trying to push as many youngsters as we can into this sport and help them out, because I come from a middle class family so I know how difficult it is to get sponsors and to be able to participate at an international level. So I do my part at Erda’s racing, to help them out as much as I can, at least give them a start in the motorsport community.
Team evo: Do you think motorsport in India can be pursued without a lot of capital or big partnerships like Red Bull?
Mira Erda: I think they can because now, FMSCI is focusing a lot more on grassroot level opportunities because we also feel that it's high time that in India, that we can grow the motor sports scene. There are so many people who want to get into it, but they don't know how to get into it. We have so many tracks coming up, the infrastructure is improving and even the current tracks are being redeveloped. So I think in that sense, it's become so much better and I think without capital, at least if we don't have the budget to race internationally. There are so many championships that are happening at a very low budget, nationally. So I think it's possible.
Team evo: What message would you like to give the youngsters?
Mira Erda: I would say, if you want to follow something, give it your best, don’t give up. But if it's motorsports, you really need to put down everything else and actually, stop all those distractions in life and just focus. It's a very tough sport and if you want to get into it at a higher level, it needs a lot of dedication and so if you want to do it, do it with your hundred per cent.