Published: 07th May 2019
Meet Lani Fernandez, the 21-year-old from Pondicherry University who is gearing up for the National Motorcycle Racing Championship
Lani Zena Fernandez talks about how her dream to become a bike-racer when she was five is all coming true right now as she preps to compete in the NMRC this June
It was the fifth day of the fifth month and just like any bike enthusiast Lani Zena Fernandez — who is also a Psychology student at Pondicherry University — sat at home cheering for her favourite Moto GP star Marc Márquez as he started knocking off the 27 laps to the chequered flag. The thrill of the rush and the adrenaline pumping through her veins as her favourite biker zoomed past the finishing line just knew no bounds. But her passion for biking doesn't start and stop with watching Moto GP every Sunday at home.
First pick: Lani won second runner up in Round One of the Formula Junior Racing series
Before you start second-guessing what she does, I'll break it down to you. She took to the race course! Eyes popping and jaws dropping yet? And it doesn't get any better than this. She is going to be racing in the MRF MMSC FMSCI Indian National Motorcycle Racing Championship this year alongside Alisha Abdullah and former champion Ann Jennifer. And to top it all, she is only 21!
As you relax your facial muscles from all the jaw-dropping after-effects, this is how she made it real. She says, "I have had a passion for bikes and I know for a fact that I get that trait from my dad. My dad was a racer back in the 80s and he even has a collection of both vintage and modern bikes. I loved the feel of being on the track from the age of five as go-karting was something I loved doing on the sidelines as well. Long story short I know I wanted to become a racer from when I was five. But the whole process only began when I hit adolescence."
Racing genes: Lani gets her thrill for speed from her father
We all have those days where something significant in our lives kicked off and if we were to hit pause right now and get lost in our thoughts that drift you to the phrase 'It all began when' — Lani's story rides back to when she was 16 and when she mounted her dad's glorious Yezdi Classic, "Two-stroke bikes will always stay classic in India and I am one of the very fortunate who got to learn how to ride a bike on a Yezdi. It was a dark night and the roads were empty and the whole ambience was calming and satisfying," she exhales lost in the moment. She then continues telling us how she moved on from riding her dad's bike to having one of her own. "I got my first bike — an Impulse — when I was 18, which I rode to college every day back in Bengaluru. My passion for biking just increased by the day. From there, I moved into racing for good."
The relatable statement 'there is always a first time for everything' perfectly sums up Lani's first experience on the track with a motorbike. She explains, "I started racing in the year 2018 with TVS Racing Training School. I was trained for the TVS selection and had to compete against 80 people. The first round was chaotic and I had a crash incident but that didn't pull me down. I moved to another team with TVS called the SDZ Motosports and post all the individual training I was placed eighth in the first round of selections. Later in the One Make Championship selections held by TVS, I was placed first with the fastest lap this year. Now I have the TVS Championship and the National Championship by MRF to look forward to this year." Well, that has been an eventful one year for Lani, hasn't it?
Stunt Mania: Lani can pull off a wheelie and a stoppie as well
'The road not taken'? Oh no! Lani just took it. She rode down the road that most girls wouldn't take, the road that was stereotyped to be something that only men would tread on. "I never had it easy. Motorsports is not common in India which makes it harder for a girl like me to pursue it for a career. It is expensive and as most parents would call it, 'unsafe' for a girl. I pursued it anyway. It is a passion worth fighting for. Only if I start fighting now then in the future will other girls have a well-established motorsport base to look up to. As a sports community, we lack recognition and funding in India. And for a girl, it is even worse, where any other regular sport isn't given impetus, motorsports don't stand a chance. I will still pursue it until this sport is given the recognition it deserves especially for women," she concludes. Amen to that!