Published: 27th March 2020
How Samantha D'Souza became the fastest female drag racer in India
Having set the record among men and women nationally, this drag racer from Maharashtra is all set to conquer a number of other obstacles
The sound of a dozen RX 100 engines whirring in unison jolted Samantha D'Souza awake. In 2010, the college student could barely afford an entry pass to a motor sports show, but she remembers watching from in between the barricades and finding her calling. Today, she is the third fastest drag racer in the country and the fastest woman. With a record of 402 seconds, her life has been one fast race to the top and she's still aiming for the finish line.
"I would borrow bikes from my friends to practice racing," says Samantha. With a small frame of just 5 feet, the going was not easy once she decided to pursue the sport. She continues, "Although they emphasize on the importance of height and strength, I have learnt from experience that it's passion that can really take you forward. I rode almost every possible bike when I started to learn. And to be honest, I was struggling to catch up with the boys, I ranked at 18 for a really long time."
RACE FACE: The drag racer practises in the outskirts of the state
It was a race at The Valley Run in 2016 that really changed Samantha's position to where she wanted it. With a third rank among 42 male racers, all doubt was eliminated about her future in the sport. However, with the noise pollution rules in Mumbai, she found herself without any space to practice. She says, "I had to wake up at 4 AM, stuff my bike into the back of an Innova and drive far out into the outskirts where I'd find a good spot — in the forested area where I could race without breaking any rules. And I had to finish this before going back to my day job at Cathay Pacific Airways."
Shuttling in between her daily life and passion, she became popular in the streets as the drag racer who just refused to quit. Just ask the Vada Pav seller right outside her apartment and he'll speak at length about how fast she is. Her commitment to racing was so strong that she changed her lifestyle along with it. With a tightly scheduled work out regimen and diet schedule, she was able to transform herself physically in order to merge better with her bike. With three months of constant training, she's at her ideal physical condition for the job.
About the lack of women in the track she says, "It's a game of ego. A lot of people don't accept women in this profession. The consider women delicate and think we're a bad fit for this role that requires strength. There are no training centres or academies where you can find a stepping stone. On top of this, most Indian parents cannot imagine seeing their daughter racing. I got lucky because my parents have always motivated me, but it's not always the case." Despite the odds, Samantha braved her way into drag racing and now she refuses to take her eyes off of the finish line.