With an incredibly strong automotive passion and love for speed, Phoebe Dale Nongrum is out to conquer the male-dominated sport of racing, as she becomes the first woman from the State and the region to be selected into a Formula LGB 4 team. 30-year-old Nongrum has been inducted into Ahura Racing, a professional racing team and she will be racing in different circuits across India.
Women still account for perhaps only one per cent of race drivers globally.
Nongrum fell in love with speed and machines when she was 12 years old. ‘When I was a kid, my dad (the current DIG of the Garo Hills, Onesimuss Pasi) used to make me sit on his lap while driving and let me grab the steering wheel so I could learn how to drive and it became my passion! I have been driving for about a good 18 years now,’ Nongrum said in an interview with Highland Post.
She participated in her first street drag race at 18, with her mother by her side. ‘My skills kept improving on the roads of Shillong as it’s a hill station. I learned my corner’s and turns on those roads. There were no tracks then so the road was all I had to perfect my skills,’ she said.
Her love for the wheels remained even as she moved to pursue further studies in Bangalore. She returned to the State and conquered the dirt track and won her first autocross. Nongrum also co-drive at two National Rallies, the Arunachal Festival of Speed and the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) and took home the win.
Talking about her new opportunity, Nongrum said Ahura Racing is a professional racing team formed in 2017, owned and managed by Three-Time National Champion, Sarosh Hataria who has two decades of successful racing experience. He had held a talent hunt for women drivers for the Formula LGB 4. ‘I made it to the team of 12 girls and there will be 4 seasons of racing this year against the men. The selection was tough, I had to compete with 60 women and I made it to the first round selection of 24, then 12. Very tough fight! They judged us based on our fastest lap timing and I did a 1.23, that’s 1min 23sec on a 2km track. Now I am part of this team and will be racing in different circuits in India.’
Talking about being a woman in motor racing which is considered a man’s world she revealed, ‘I think women can equally run the world. For me personally, I don’t believe, it’s a man’s world. I believe I can do what most men can and I believe in the limit of the mind.’
Asked about her future, Nongrum said, ‘My plans are to keep fighting to get further in this field and to be able to compete with men on the tracks and be able to beat them.’
Even as the roar of engines makes her adrenaline rush, the sport can also burn a hole in a pocket. ‘It’s an expensive game and my dad is the only one supporting me and I am so grateful to have him. But I am open to anyone who would like to sponsor.’
In her message to women with the same thrill for speed, she said, ‘If you have the passion and the will to race, you should go ahead. No one but yourself is keeping you from doing what you love.’
By Rikynti Marwein