Srinagar: Passion for car toy cars as a child propelled Humaira Mushtaq of Jammu and Kashmir to steer her dreams in racing arena during the ongoing MRF Indian National Racing Championship in Chennai.
A doctor by profession, 25-year-old Humaira secured the podium finish at Madras International Circuit in Chennai during the ongoing prestigious championship, which brought her into limelight.
“It is a proud moment that I am the first female Formula car racer of J&K and first one from the union territory to achieve podium finish in the first round of the championship,” Humaira told Greater Kashmir. But this has not been an easy journey to success for her.
“I loved toy cars during my childhood. More than dolls, I used to have toy cars in my hand whole day,” recounts Humaira who hails from Bathindi area of Jammu. She gradually started racing in a custom-made go-kart at the age of five after her father discovered her passion for cars. She vividly remembers her karting weekends with father.
Gradually Humaira honed her driving skills and eventually started doing Rotax Karting and later on moved single seaters Formula racing.
“I was a self-taught road car driver and started driving on roads as a teenager abroad. There were only two tracks, one in Madras and one in Coimbatore, but I never let that burning passion to become a professional racer disappear inside me and, yes, I demonstrated instincts early on. I was a street racer at 14. As a teenager I was performing donuts, drifting cars, and street racing with grown up men,” she says.
Gradually love for car became a passion for her but her parents, who were doctors, prompted her to pursue medical education and Humaira became a dentist.
“Still I had the passion for cars,” she says. “Yes I have been a student of dentistry, but I don’t practice it as a professional. I am focused on my professional career as a racing driver. A turn of events got me to medical school but I struck to where I belonged and what I wanted. I know these professions are poles apart but that’s how it is.”
SUPPORT BY PARENTS
“Unfortunately, I lost my dad when I was 14. He was extremely supportive of me regarding racing. He was my first coach, my first mentor. Very early on in my life as a child, I made up my mind to become a professional racer and pursue this as a professional career. My dad’s last words to me were: ‘Don’t stop racing, become a professional, Allah will help you through,’” Humaira says. “My mother was a bit skeptical about it initially and I don’t blame her because back in the day there wasn’t any successful female F1 athlete.”
She says that she choose a path that wasn’t explored at all.
“My mother being a single parent after my father’s demise felt the responsibility on her for shaping and counseling me to take up a conventional career that could at least guarantee a job later on since racing was considered a men-dominated sport and wasn’t a game for a woman or at least that’s what people felt,” she says. “But my mother is a very positive and intelligent woman. She knew I was too headstrong to quit racing. So she made a point clear which demonstrated that I continue my education and make it to medical school. In return she would fund my initial stages of career which comprised of trainings and testing because motorsports comes with a huge price tag.”
What obstacles she faced in her mission to become a professional car racer?
“I wouldn’t say obstacles, I would say challenges. Yes, they started as soon as I packed my bags and decided I will race. I love challenges and overcoming my fears. I’m not afraid to create examples. Racing is not just the expression of my skills but how I look at life. Norms, conventions, routines, stereotypes do not apply to me,” she says. “I want to be get credibility based off my skills and performance and not for my gender.”
ROAD TO SUCCESS
Humaira got the first breakthrough when she started professional racing in 2019 with JK Tyres and subsequently with MRF.
Narrating about her race in the ongoing MRF Indian National Racing Championship in Chennai, Humaira says when she started the race chances of winning seemed very slim.
“My race start wasn’t the best but I remained optimistic and strongly determined without worrying about how the turn out of this event maybe and thinking that, at least, this should be the best performance of my life so far. When I look in the mirror the next day I shouldn’t say girl you could have done better. Honestly I gave everything I had, everything I could. Allahamadullilah, I got the podium, which was least expected,” she says getting emotional.
The podium is the rostrum on which prizes are awarded to the three highest-placed drivers at the end of racing.
“That was the time I realised the power of faith and belief and determination. Honestly, if you’re persistent and unwilling to give up, anything is possible. I am not just talking about racing but in every aspect of life. My first victory is very special to me. I dedicate it to my late father who would have been very happy but I know he’s looking over and cheering for me from the heaven above,” she says. “It has been quite a journey for me getting to this point coming from J&K and being its first female racer and competing with pro racers from all over the country and even abroad who were part of the championship. It is like a fusion of two extreme poles J&K as north and Chennai in the south. I still have two more rounds remaining for the championship. I am determined to give my best performance.”
MESSAGE TO YOUTH
“My message to the youth is don’t expect rewards quickly. There is always a possibility of doing what you want to do in your life even if everything seems impossible. But if you’re persistent and determined you will make it,” she says.
For those who want to pursue a career in motorsports, Humaira recommends going far Karting track.
“Karting is the purest form of racing. This trains you for circuit racing in future. My message is not just limited to women or youth. My message goes out to each and everyone. I want to tell you to dare to dream impossible and believe in your dreams and work hard to achieve them,” Humaira says.