Nisha Pandia: Kenya's First Female Autocross Racer
By Naliaka Wafula Imende,
When Nisha Pandya is not selling nuts and bolts and screws, she is on the field racing with the boys. Pandya’s love for autocross saw her switch from a mere spectator to an autocross driver. As the first female autocross driver in Kenya, Pandya is breaking perceptions at breakneck speed, one race at a time and having the time of her life while doing it.
“ I have always had a passion for motorsports,” said Pandya who explained that when her brother, Amit Pandya (two-wheel drive turbo champion of 2013) challenged her to take it up she didn’t hesitate. “Well, I always had this vision of myself being in a race suit holding my helmet ready to race, so once he finished his season and was focusing on other commitments he asked me if I was willing to learn and take up the sport and so I did.”
She has been racing for three years since and practises every Sunday when she gets time off work. She believes that the support has helped influence her outlook on life “ Autocross has taught me a lot and I really appreciate it immensely. It’s made more independent as an individual when it comes to handling my car as well other general activities in my life.”
As someone who loves speed she admits that it has taught her to be patient when driving in traffic. Most people she meets are surprised to learn she races “They really encourage me and some are very proud of me because I’m the only lady driver in my category against 10-14 men. Women really encourage me, even if a few are envious. When it comes to men, some can be really motivating while others see me as competition being a woman, and still there are some Men who think women who race are the sexiest God has created,” said Pandya.
She maintains that her family has always been very supportive especially her mother and her sister. Pandya would be glad to have more women join the sport and she offered some good advice to the would be female enthusiast out there. I would tell her if this something she is passionate about try and go for it live your dream we live only once and even though it is an extreme sport there is caution and safety always at par. Secondly if she needed any assistance I would be willingly ready to help her as I would like to see more women out there.”
According to Pandya the most important thing to consider when starting the sport is whether or not you are passionate and how committed you will be. “ If you do anything in life that you do not love, you wont be happy nor successful. Secondly you have to be committed to the sport. Thirdly Financial stability and last but not least if your someone that takes alcohol and loves late night life that will have to be controlled because with racing you have to disciplined.”
Like any other sport, autocross still faces challenges especially when it comes to organisation of races. According to Pandya, poor planning can lead to too many delays that result in a long and tiresome day. Still, her love for the sport keeps her coming back, in future she would like to get a non-constrictive sponsorship that will allow her to fix up her buggy and enhance it’s specifications. She is more than ready to take on her fourth year as an autocross racer.
“I’m willing to go for my 4th year in racing autocross with God’s grace, so 2017 here I come!”