Published: 30th June 2021
Speed with a scalpel: How Shivani Pruthvi surgically dissected motorsports across India
Shivani Pruthvi, who just finished her MBBS degree, is really setting the racetrack on fire. What's pretty cool is how she has her (also a doctor) mom as her navigator during the rallies she drives in
Shivani Pruthvi didn't grow up with speed in her blood, despite the fact that there was a racer and a race car at home. In fact, she wasn't really into it till a few years ago. A recent MBBS grad from Davangere district in Karnataka, she is in that very nice club of women climbing the rungs in motorsports. How did she discover her need for speed? Shivani explains, "Recently, I completed my MBBS degree at SDM College of Medical Sciences and Hospital in Dharwad. In the next month or so, I will be posted in a rural area to work as a doctor. When I was in school, I was always into sports. But when I started my MBBS degree, it was just studies and nothing else. The decision to participate in motorsports and car racing happened in 2018. I had come home for my study holidays and I was quite stressed about my exams."
Taking the car out for a spin
This brings us back to that race car at home and her father. "There was a race car that was at home and I asked my father if I could take it out and learn to race. Though my father always wanted me to get into motorsports, he never forced his decisions on me. When I asked him, I felt like he was the happiest man alive and readily agreed to it," Shivani says. Just to be clear, her father, BS Pruthvi, is quite famous in the Bengaluru racing circuit. In 1992, he completed the last 60 kilometres of a local club rally driving his race car on a flat rear tyre — thus creating a local legend. Besides this, he also runs an institute to train youngsters who are interested in participating in motorsports.
Shivani is the second runner-up in the sprint race of 50 kilometres, 2021
Back to Shivani's racing journey and that day in 2018. She recalls, "That day, I took the car out and my father taught me how the car works. We took a few rounds in it and I got the hang of it. I practised driving the same rally car around our factory campus almost every day. He told me that if I do this every day, then I would surely win a rally. " And so, she decided to take the plunge. "For the first time, I participated in the Festival of Speed that happened in Chennai in 2018. I finished second in the women's category and that was my first-ever podium finish. When I was coming back home, a post from the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India popped up on my feed. It read that Volkswagen Motorsport was doing a shootout for the 2018 Ameo Cup. I ran through the simple online process and registered myself. My father was thrilled," she adds.
Prepping for a tough race
What her dad also did was give Shivani a reality check. He cautioned her to prepare well if she wanted to stand any chance of finishing well. "I had zero experience in motorsports and it was important for me to train well. He took me Go Karting in Bengaluru as I had never done it before. He said one has to do their homework well before they participate in any race. I was trained by Deepak Paul Chinnappa, who is well-known in the motorsports fraternity. I was also introduced to Joel Joseph, who also drives in the Indian National Drag Racing Championship. Joel agreed to provide me a championship training car as he believed in me. Then, all of us went to Chennai to train at the Irungattukottai track," she shares.
Shivani joined India’s first all-women racing team, Ahura Racing, and participated in Volkswagen Motorsport India’s Ameo Cup
After hundreds of laps around the track by way of preparation, Shivani and her parents went to Pune for the selection round of the Ameo Cup. Of the 300 or so people who had turned up for selection, she made it to the top 20. "There were 25 drivers in this championship but only two of us were women. It was a lovely experience because we learnt how an internationally equipped team performs on the track," says this young car racing champion eagerly.
When mother dearest navigated
To take things up a notch, her mother Deepti Pruthvi stepped in. Deepti, who is a doctor and a professor at the SS Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre in Davanagere, took up the mantle as her navigator. Shivani explains, "There was a curtain-raiser ahead of the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC). I thought of giving it a try. When it comes to rallying, I am an amateur. I was thinking of collaborating with an experienced navigator, but, at the same time, he didn't want to rush me and that's why my mother Deepti stepped in."
Dr Deepti working as a navigator to Dr Shivani
Though Deepti was a novice, she picked up the nuances and skills of navigation really well, according to Shivani. "She had to learn to calculate the speed, read a set of notes to me about what lies ahead, where to turn, the severity of the turn, the accidents that have happened ahead and what obstacles to look out for. Some competitions required map interpretation too. Being doctors, we are not into Math but my mother picked it up pretty fast. I would agree and disagree on a lot of things during these races, but the combination has worked well for us and we have managed to get on a lot of podiums," she says. In 2019, the mother-daughter duo won the trophy in the ladies category of the South India Rally in the INRC.
Racing can be quite risky
But it hasn't been all smooth sailing. There have been times when the car has flipped, leading to accidents and injuries. Shivani recalls, "In one of the races in 2019, in Coimbatore, my mother gave me all the right calls, but I missed and the car flipped twice. My mother made it out with a cut on her finger when it was stuck between the door and roll bar. To my surprise, she was not shaken at all. She unbuckled herself and got out of the car. She immediately set up a hazard board for the cars that were behind us. My mother took it sportively and that was quite surprising to me."
Both mother and daughter have won several podiums together
So far, Shivani has participated in several races. She was the first Indian woman to participate in the International Asia Auto Gymkhana Championship in Indonesia and Team India was placed fourth in the overall race. In 2021, she was the third runner-up in the super stock class in the Grand Prix held at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore. She says, "This was the most challenging race for me as it consisted of 50 laps. Usually, we have 20 to 30 laps in the race. When it is 50 laps, it gets a bit difficult to concentrate on the race. However, I was the third runner-up. Similarly, I was the second runner-up in the Sprint race."
What lies ahead for her
For any racer to be successful, there are a lot of factors that play an important role, believes Shivani. She explains, "From physical fitness to having a good tuner to set up your car — everything is essential when you are preparing for some of the tougher races. When I say physical fitness, I mean the stamina required to bear the heat and face whatever circumstances we are faced with. I have been fortunate enough because my family is a great support and they work as a good backup team. My parents have been backing me with financial support. It takes a lot of money to be in this sport. To build a good rally car, we need `15 to 20 lakh. The suit, gloves and helmet that we use must be high quality and they must match the safety standards in every race. If you manage to prove yourself in this field, then there are people and organisations who will support you financially."
Shivani earned praise from Sirish Vissa, the head of Volkswagen Motorsport India
If everything goes as expected, Shivani is expecting to kickstart her campaign in this year's rally season, that's slated to begin on July 16, 2021. "This is going to be the Asia Pacific Rally Championship along with the Indian National Rally Championship, where international racers will be participating. I am planning to participate in both these races. My goal for this year is to do my best and win the Junior INRC Championship. I have prepared myself both mentally and physically for these races," says Shivani whose routine hasn't changed even during this pandemic. She ensures that she wakes up at 4.30 am every single day and goes cycling to keep herself fit for the race.
Between the scrubs and the solid race gear, there's a heart full of fire and a desire to win!