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A professional racer for 4 years, this woman has won all the major rallies that took place in the country. Being a female racing champion was not easy for her but she believes that a fight is a fight- be it breaking the shackles of the society or winning the race, one should never doubt their capabilities or step back.

The 46-year-old, mother of two, loves to compete among men and is breaking the stereotype about women drivers in India and across the world.

Bani Yadav, in a candid conversation with Life Beyond Numbers, says, “If you really want to empower yourself, believe in yourself. Live your dreams. Don’t allow someone else to make you believe otherwise.”

Bani Yadav

Bani Yadav

Born in Lucknow, Bani grew up in Gurugram, Haryana which was very different back then. “In 1977, my parents moved to Gurugram and back then it was a gaon (village) not a city. In four decades the place has changed a lot but not for good. Instead of jungles, you will find concrete buildings. The natural beauty of the place is absolutely lost.”                          

Live Your Dreams No matter what!

A student of Army Public School Delhi, Bani graduated from Miranda House. The fastest Indian woman to win Asia Cup in 2015, she says, it was her father who kindled the passion for driving at the age of 13. “Racing is in my blood. My father used to take me for long rides and was very fond of cars which explains why it didn’t take much time for me to shift from roads to tracks.”

“When you are driving at that speed, staying focused is extremely crucial. One mistake and you may end up losing your life,” she says.

A woman always has to juggle job, family, and racing all the time and this makes it difficult for her to practice. “Managing time is really difficult at times but even today, I follow the old saying- ‘Early to Bed and Early to Rise, Makes a Man Healthy, Wealthy and Wise’. I am not a fitness freak but I do take care of myself by exercising and meditating daily,” she says.

Driving is not gender specific!

Have you come across a man saying that “a woman looks good in a car when she in the passenger’s seat”? Not just that. Your capabilities and the condition of your car equally contribute to winning a race. “Your car has to be perfect before the race and a mechanic plays a great role in it. For a married woman who has a family to look after, it is difficult to spend hours in a garage to get your car fixed. Therefore, most of the time before the race, I found that my car was sabotaged on purpose. That really used to upset me at times,” she recalls.

Gender cannot define your capabilities. “Whenever it comes to driving vehicles, there is a stigma attached to it that women are bad drivers,” says Bani. “Men are very comfortable with women taking up driving as a hobby but not professionally. They find it difficult to digest when a woman wins. don’t want to lose from a woman.”

Many ‘Firsts’ to her credit

  • First woman to win a second position in the IRC – Rally De North
  • First Indian woman to drive a formula 4 car at the Yas Marina Track in Abu Dhabi
  • First woman to win an overall 3rd position in The National Autocross Championship 2016 in the above 1650cc
  • First Indian woman to be awarded an International Doctorate in Motorsports
  • First woman to win the Asia Cup of IRC in the women’s category in 2015
  • First woman rally driver to be felicitated with one of the highest honor in Indian Motorsports. (Won the Outstanding Woman in Motorsports for Rallying in 2016 by the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI))

Bani was also bestowed with the Woman’s Achievers Award by the Amity University for the year 2016. She was a speaker at the United Nations #HEFORSHE Campaign in India to promote gender equality. “When women take part in races, men look at them with a lot of skepticism. Talking about equality, the misogynist mindset is a grave problem in India and one needs to re-evaluate gender biases.”

“Before the race, I shut myself from the whole world. I clear my head of all toxic thoughts and stay calm. Cleaning my car, checking it from time to time is necessary. It is almost like developing a connection with your vehicle because it also plays a significant role and winning has a lot to do with how your car performs.”

Sadly there is no proper infrastructure in our country to practice racing, but the government of India didn’t recognize her efforts but to all aspiring women drivers she has a beautiful message- “You don’t have to fulfill other people’s expectations from you. Believe in yourself first and don’t let anyone define your worth. Find out who you truly are, overcome your fear and create your own story.”