International Women’s Day Special: Meet Sneha Sharma, India’s fastest lady
As a child, she was the odd one out. Ditching the Barbies, Sneha chose a sporty bicycle which she would ride fast. Eventually, she could beat guys on their bikes. Most of them put her down, while a few others applauded her skills. It was then that she knew she had it in her and needed a platform to hone her skills. After getting a taste of racing while trying her hand at go-karting, India’s fastest lady has never looked back. This International Women’s day, meet Sneha Sharma.
Sneha’s big break
Saving up lunch money to head to the local go-kart track became a daily affair for the 14-year old girl. The lack of professional training and funds did not stop Sneha, who with the help of a mechanic learned the basics of cornering, steering and braking techniques. After that, she fought it out at local events, winning quite a few of them. In one of these events, she raced against a lot of professional drivers, catching the eye of a national team.
Sneha had to stay away from racing for a while, concentrating on her studies and getting her pilot’s licence. After coming back, she found the cheapest category to drive in. She also worked with racing teams as a manager, trainer and even a mechanic! Sneha finished second in the JK Tyre National four-stroke championship, winning 10 podium finishes in 2009.
She also drove in Asia’s first ever 24-hour endurance kart race held in Goa. She is also the only girl to qualify into the final round of the KCT of the MAI National Karting Championship. Sneha is also amongst the top 5 at the ‘Mercedes Yong Star Driver’ program, driving an E63 AMG at 265kmph, earning her the name “India’s fastest lady”.
Leading life as a Racer and a Pilot
When asked how Sneha juggles between racing and flying planes, Sneha Sharma credits her time management skills and said “If you love something, you’ll always find time for it. I wake up at 3 am, pilot four aircrafts a day, workout two times a day and follow a strict schedule. Of course, there are a lot of sacrifices required. But in the end, I am getting more than what I am losing and that’s what matters. I have also moved to a different contract with my airlines now so motorsports too get the much deserved time”.
Sneha is positive about motorsports in India is developing, “I feel it is improving, we have a lot of championships happening. We have the X1 Racing League coming up which I would love to be a part of. We have many women participating in motorsports now, but there’s a lot more to be done. When we were at the W-Series selections, we were against ladies who had racetracks in their backyard. We also need more companies to sponsor the sports.”
W-Series and the road ahead
She is also one of the two Indian women who was shortlisted for the all-women’s w-series championship. When asked her about her experience, Sneha recalls, “It was a very competitive event and very well organised. However, we were a big disadvantage since we had to drive on ice and snow, which for me was a completely new thing as I saw snow for the first time. My aim was to drive the car respectfully and push the car as much as I can without crashing.” She is looking forward to participating again next year and get selected.
An injury during racing made her wheelchair-bound and cost her 11 months. Sneha made a comeback in November and finished in top 10 for which she was awarded. Just a couple of months later, she flew to the W-Series selection, giving her less time to prepare for the big event.
All this while, her career as a pilot has been flourishing as well. Recently, she was promoted to a captain of the Airbus 320 and Indigo Airline also sponsors her now. Sneha has also received the Poorna award and outstanding Women’s driver Award in Formula cars by the FIA. This year she will be competing in the JK Tyre National Racing Championship in the FB02 and F4 categories along with Malaysia MSF series .