From racing to modelling, Alisha graces magazine covers with the same confidence she displays on the racing track.
While girls her age were playing with dolls, Alisha Abdullah was winning go-karting races when she was just 11. Daughter of R A Abdullah, the famous racer who is a seven-time national champion, racing is very much in Alisha’s blood. She says with a smile, “It would not be far-fetched to say that I was born on the race tracks!” Alisha won the MRF National Go-Karting Championship in the National Level Formula Car Racing in the open class when she was 13, and then moved on to full-fledged professional car and bike racing.
A tomboy at heart, she switches between extremes when it comes to fashion. She is at home in workout gear whether she is practising on the tracks or hitting the gym. But she does like to dress up occasionally and can pose for magazine covers with the élan of a professional model. She says,
Watch out for me on the cover of Smart Life magazine!
It is no surprise that Alisha’s role model is Danica Patrick, celebrated motorsports racer, who is also a model.
Super girl vrooming to victory
Growing up in Chennai, which along with Coimbatore constitutes the racing hub in India, Alisha developed a fierce passion for bikes and cars. She came fifth in formula car racing in the JK Tyre National Championship, 2004. The same year, when she was just 15, Alisha decided to try her hand at bike racing. She had been riding 110 cc bikes, but for the competition, she went ahead with 600 cc superbikes and competed confidently with male bikers.
For years biking was her passion, but an accident in 2010 led Alisha put bikes away for a few years. She says, “I had had injuries before but the crash was upsetting. I didn’t want to race bikes anymore, though I loved it.” She moved to car racing and made her mark. She says, “With cars, even if you crash into a barrier, there’s a far higher chance of getting up and walking away uninjured.”
Alisha became the first Indian woman to get a podium finish in an international motorsport competition — the Toyota Vios cup in 2014 which took place in Thailand. Representing India and taking the flag to the podium has been one of her biggest achievements. However, international motor racing is extremely expensive and though she has a few private sponsors, Alisha prefers to focus on national level.
Recently, she returned to her first love, bike racing, after a break of eight years and secured the first place in National Women Racing Championship, 2017. She says,
The risks are higher with bikes, but the thrill and excitement is higher as well.
Beyond burning the asphalt
Alisha also has started a racing academy called Alisha Abdullah Academy for Women, to groom youngsters who can’t afford the expensive sport. Her team has been performing well and she has big dreams for them in the national arena.
A fitness freak, when Alisha is not on the racing track, she is often at the gym lifting weights. “I work out like a guy, which annoys my trainer, who often admonishes me to work out like a girl!”
Her support system consists of her parents, and chilling out for her means watching television and playing with her dogs.
Not surprisingly, Alisha has been getting a few offers to act in movies as well, thanks to her stunning looks. She had starred in a guest role in the Tamil movie Irumbu kuthirai and is considering a few other roles.
Her long-term dream is to start her own garage. Alisha’s advice to aspiring sportsmen and women is — “Be disciplined and work towards your goals. Hard work always pays.”