For the 21-year-old Mira Erda, the Gujarat-based formula racer, it all started way back in 2010, at the age of 9 when she began go-karting with her brothers on the family-owned track in Vadodara. That childhood experience was to stoke her ambitions to take up racing professionally. It was to take her places as well. In 2019, she became the first Indian female to win the Formula 4 in the South East Asia championship held in Malaysia.
In a telephonic interview to Autocar Professional, she said, “I think that win was really needed at that point of time because in previous years I couldn’t perform, but obviously I knew there is so much that I could do but just making sure that I was out there giving my 100 percent made me happy.”
“Becoming the first Indian woman to do so was just addition to that, you know something to make my country proud. It was a great feeling and it just motivated me to perform even better and get the results that I want,” she added.
The Formula series has always been the dream for aficionados of motorsport. The adrenaline rush which one gets by racing against the top formula drivers in a cut-throat competition and being viewed by millions can be quite compelling.
However, it is not that easy. Many give up before they even really get started. But things are changing and women now have more opportunities to have a shot at motorsports. Lately, there has been quite a surge of women racers with the establishment of the W Series, a free-to-enter championship, that provides equal opportunities for women and eliminates the financial barriers that have historically prevented them from progressing to the upper echelons of motorsport.
Speaking on the lack of women in the Formula races, Erda said, “Well, it has been like that for way too many years now, not just in India but worldwide. Not a lot of girls are interested in the sport and for those who show an interest, there may be no family support or society around them not supporting them well enough for them to take the plunge into the sport.”
Having said that, Erda says she has seen the situation change, “especially in India”.
“When I started, it was just me and one or two girls in India competing but now I see a lot of females coming up into this sport” and even starting, she emphasises, is important and “I try my best to make sure that I give them a platform where amateurs can come and learn from me and participate at local levels”, she added.
Girls on track
The Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) is trying to promote the grass-root levels of motorsports. It has instituted a ‘Girls on track’ programme to woo young aspirants into motorsports.
Erda is also doing her bit, having been through the ups and downs of motorsports. She has also been active in lending a hand by organising championships at her own track where she tries to get more girls to participate.
She also has her own team where she has trained a 13-year-old girl who is racing nationally for the past year. With her sponsor Red Bull, Mira has also organised ‘Red Bull clinic with Mira Erda’ where she involves around 15 girls drawn from the different parts of the motorsports universe be it engineering, social media influencers, rallying or go-karts and just getting them all together at her track. It’s a two-day programme where apart from training, she gives them a wholesome experience by making them race on simulators and following that up with a whole race on the track and fitness training as well.
“We have this Red Bull catch-up we used to host regularly but because of Covid we couldn’t do that for the past two years but I hope we can get back on track this year or next year. It’s a race that we conduct on Women’s day where the top 12 women racers in India who have the fastest lap time in all the different circuits, race against me and the final winner goes ahead and gets a fully sponsored trip to one of the Formula 1 Grand Prix with Red Bull,” she explains.
“These were many small initiatives that I have taken from my side. I trained girls at a very young age and guided them on how they perform and how to have the financial support to go ahead with the sport,” she said. At the end of the day, “I tried my best to give them a path that they can follow to success,” Erda signed off.
This article appears in the August 1, 2022 issue of Autocar Professional.