After World Cup return, Aishwarya Pissay aims for bigger goals

On March 19 last year, India’s top motorcycle rider Aishwarya Pissay was preparing for the FIM Bajas World Cup in Jordan. 2019 champion of the tournament, Pissay was optimistic for her participation in the second round of the 2021 edition, but just 40 km after crossing the dusty dunes of the Wadi Rum desert, she encountered an accident which resulted in a fracture of two wrists . In the months that followed, the 26-year-old runner underwent rehab and recovery; However, undeterred by the crash, she made a comeback by competing in one of India’s toughest off-road terrains – the Himalayan Rally. For context, the race slogan reads “it makes grown men cry”.

It may surprise us, but for motorsport drivers, injuries are almost a daily occurrence. In an effort to beat their fellow competitors, they often practice across borders. In fact, Pissay reveals the injury in Jordan was “the most minor accident” she has ever had.

“The first time I went to the Baja Aragon Rally I ruptured my pancreas. So it took me a long time to recover from the one from last year,” Pissay said. Hindustan time in an exclusive interaction.

“As an athlete, my focus is on how I can recover and get back to riding as quickly as possible. When I planned to come back to the Himalayan rally, I had no inhibitions about it. I think I finished third overall with the boys, so it was a great race for me.

Following her participation in the Himalayan Rally, Pissay defended the National Rally Championships title – her fifth consecutive victory in the event – ​​and on 26 July she made a return to international action for the first time since his injury in Jordan. On what Pissay describes as her “favorite” ground, the TVS rider successfully completed round four of the FIM World Cup in Aragon, Spain.

“This is the third year that I have taken part in the Baja Aragon Rally. I think that was by far my best finish in terms of how I felt with my performance and my positioning. So it was a good outing, given that it was my first international rally since my crash last year. So my comeback was strong and my performances were on point,” she said.

Participating in events such as the FIM World Cup provides great visibility for riders, not only in terms of visibility on the motorsport map, but also in terms of sharing knowledge with other international riders. For the 2019 world champion, it’s no different. “The brotherhood of motorcycle racing is so great that I meet and learn so much with the other riders. Whether it’s basic things or just understanding the technical aspects of racing. Sometimes when you approach them and ask them, they are very useful “. I train with one of the former Baja riders, his name is Mica. I learn and I train with the best. I understand their way of thinking and the way they train to be there at the top,” says Pissay.

Pissay’s accident in Jordan was largely due to navigational error, and it was not the first time it had hampered his World Cup bid. During the award-winning 2019 season, Pissay’s timing took a hit in Qatar when a similar navigation error delayed his arrival by more than 40-50 minutes. Desert storms in these areas often make it difficult for riders to navigate, but Pissay tells us this is a very common concern for all participants in such rallies.

“Driving through the terrain is definitely a challenge as we don’t usually have desert storms of the magnitude of Dubai. The desert storms there are completely different. The way I prepare is to go a few days before, I usually go 15 days before the race to prepare for the terrain, and understand the bike. Every rider has a hard time understanding the terrain, but for us, the best way to adapt is to be able to go and train a few days before the race”, explains the Indian runner.

Women in Indian Motorsport

Even if one separates the sex ratio aspect, it is safe to say that motorsport in India has a specific niche. Until 2015, it was not even considered a sport in India until the government finally recognized the FMSCI (Federation of Motor Sports Clubs in India) – the official body of the sport in the country. “Many of us are working hard to be able to put India on the world motorsport map. It all starts with government recognition as a sport. It also helps the sport to grow and bring out more champions,” says Pisay.

Add to that the participation of women, and we have a whole other debate. Even after 9 championship titles, Pissay, who almost single-handedly put India on the world map in terms of women’s participation in motorcycle racing, says she gets surprised reactions when she talks about her profession. to the public.

“To be honest, people are always surprised to hear that there is such a sport as motorsport and that I have a career in it and participate in it full time. They ask me, ‘what is it? what else do you do?” something you can do part-time! It’s like any sport, it takes a lot of work, and that’s pretty much what I tell them,” says Pissay with conviction.

At the start of her career, Pissay was the only woman in a racing grid with 42 men. However, his arrival brought a change in the Indian motorsport community; in the years that followed, a distinct “female class” was introduced with the increase in women’s participation in motorcycle racing. Last year, a total of 16 women participated in the national championships.

“I think two years after I joined the manufacturers offered to have a female class. Now you see almost 15-16 female entrants every year which is really great. From me having to race only with males to now to have so many women come in year after year, compete in the whole championship series, it’s great also these days I see a lot of young women participating in this sport, so given the he future of motorsport is a big thing. It’s changing,” says the Indian racer who has become a pioneer in women’s motorsport in the country.

Future plans

Fresh from his outing in Spain, Pissay is now focused on continuing his rally expeditions in India. There are still four rounds to go in the FIM Baja World Cup, but the rider insists her main focus for now remains training in Europe.

“At this point, I’m looking forward to training outside. I want to be able to prepare for next year. It (to participate in the remaining rounds of the World Cup) depends on if I would be able to raise funds and if everything is in place for that. But otherwise, I’m looking forward to spending another 90 days training in Europe. I’m competing in the Indian National Rally Championship as well as the Indian National Sprint Championship so far. I will have the fourth round of the national championship this weekend in Bangalore, I am preparing for it now. The rest of the races start in September, so I’m looking forward to those as well,” she said.

One of Pissay’s main goals is to compete in the coveted Dakar Rally, where she plans to become the first Indian woman to participate. One of his racing colleagues and a well-known face in the Indian racing community, Harith Noah has participated in the rally in both the 2021 and 2022 editions, and Pissay says he is optimistic about reaching it very soon.

“I think I’m close to being there. I’m working on it. Considering Covid had taken a hit on all of us, I was unable to travel and race for 2 years. I only started racing again in 2021 and was able to spend more time in Europe this year. Him (Harith) being my teammate even in the last race in Spain Baja, I spend time racing with him. It’s nice to share and learn from him, to understand his experience or how I could do things differently,” says Pissay.

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