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Rehana's 'need for speed' in a man's world

As a woman in motorsport, Rehana has battles to win both on and off the track.

Rehanas need for speed in a mans world

With support, Rehana feels that motorsport can transform in the country.  (Photo credit: Rehana)


Arjun Mylvahanan

Updated: 18 Jun 2024 9:41 AM GMT

Earlier this month, the Madras International Circuit played host to the first South Zone qualifier of the FMSCI Indian National Rally Sprint Championship 2024.

With riders racing against the clock, all eyes were on the big screen that flashed the time at the end of a sprint.

One rider though had onlookers pausing for a moment, to the re-check the name and time, in that order.

The rider in question was Rehana.

Competing with men in the 550cc class, she clocked 9:37:111s to finish third. Buoyed by that finish, Rehana saddled up again and as the lone woman in the fray, won the Ladies Class up to 260cc registering 10:49:248s.

A passionate motorsport enthusiast, Rehana has now transitioned into a professional.

In an exclusive interview with The Bridge, she talked about her foray into the world of motorsport and shared her thoughts on what it needs to grow in stature.

Potential in motorsport

As a youngster, Rehana always felt the 'need for speed' and it was this burning passion that drew her to racing.

"I started off road rallying since 2020 but since 2016 I have been road racing. I am an adrenaline junkie and despite my parents asking me to pick another sport I chose this as this was where I found my passion," she said.

Speaking of the growth the sport has seen over the years she has been a part of, she said "There has been a lot of change. My seniors told me how difficult it was to get traction from outside for motorsport."

"Today, with social media, the exposure is much better and the sport's accessibility has also grown thanks to the advent of social media."

"Although there has been growth, this is not enough. More can be and should be done. I want to see the Indian flag flying high in the international motorsport arena and for that a lot of initiatives are needed from both the government and the private sector," she added.

Racetracks deterrents

Rehana strongly hinted on the lack of track experience being a major setback in Indian motorsport professionals not being able to compete internationally.

"The potential to perform well at the highest level is definitely there in India. To unleash that, we need more track exposure and training which currently is not available since there are only three rack tracks in India. Government could certainly help in that regard," she said.

Rehana also highlighted the lack of media coverage for motorsport events as another reason for the slow growth of the sport in the country.

"Media coverage could be improved a lot. We see how popular cricket and football is thanks to media coverage. Everyone talks about the IPL and that is because of how well the media covers it. Motorsport, when given attention, can garner very similar response from the public since it is a sport people would love to follow."

Financial sustainability

As is the case with any sport, financial sustainability is the key factor in determining whether an athlete is able to pursue it full time.

Sponsorships play a big role but a lot of motorsport aspirants are unable to find support due to the lack of motorsport exposure.

"The onus is on us athletes to grow this sport and take it to the highest levels. We need to show parents that this sport is good enough to let children pursue it," Rehana said.

"We see athletes from other sports get given a job in railways and other government sectors. Such incentives, when brought to motorsport, can definitely turn people towards this sector as a viable career path," she concluded.

Rehana is able to pursue her passion thanks to a sponsor. Others, however, are not as fortunate.

Despite motor racing having existed in the country for several decades, the sport doesn't quite make headlines.

Things are now gradually changing, thanks to the growing popularity of international racing events like Formula 1 and MotoGP.

But with just three major racetracks across the country and support lacking in the form of investments and sponsorships, growth is stagnant.

That said, the likes of Rehana will continue to toil on the circuit, driven purely by the passion to race.

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