Making their mark in almost every field, Pakistani women have now dared to enter into the male-dominated sport of motor racing. While people perceive the sport as something dangerous and risky, Karachi based women drivers Sonia Khuhro and Ghazal Beg scoff at the risk.
Sonia has been involved in Xtreme Autocross Championship since its inception in the year 2009. Her husband Asad Khuhro is one of the people who revived the format of autocross in Pakistan after it got banned in 1995. On the other hand, for Ghazal, autocross is a way to make her father, former Pakistani racer Naeem Beg, proud by showing-off her skills behind the wheels.
Besides the fact that both women have a passion for driving, they have one thing in common. They picked up the sport by taking after their male family members. For Sonia, it was her husband who encouraged her to become a racer and for Ghazal, her father was her inspiration.
“It’s all good fun,” Sonia told The Express Tribune. “I’ve always loved cars and have been fond of driving. I’ve always been a fast driver, but I only started racing and navigating with my husband because he was very interested in it.” A mother of three, Sonia is respected by everyone on the autocross circuit for her efforts in bringing local women racers to the track.
For Sonia, who began driving when she was 16, autocross is a family event and winning and losing does not really matter. She loves to drive and borrows her friend’s SUV to ensure a good performance on the track. She said that the last autocross event that was held in January, where she finished second, was disappointing, but at the same time she was happy to see other women racers taking part in the event. “There are lots of women who want to participate in the race, but it’s always challenging to convince their families that autocross isn’t just safe, but is in fact the safest form of racing as we don’t go more than 60 kilometres per hour. I remember telling a lady who was really concerned about her son participating in the race that there’s nothing to worry about. I told her that I drive as well and asked her how old her son is. She replied that he was 32, and I burst out laughing,” added Sonia.
Sonia believes that her biggest challenge was to organise the go-cart 12-hour race in 2004. Today she is proud of taking the initiative of holding the first all-female go-cart race in the country. Meanwhile, she hopes that someday the motor sport will enjoy the same status in Pakistan as cricket, with Xtreme Autocross events being held in Karachi.
Ghazal has been driving for five years now and takes pride in being one of the few women racers in the country. “Autocross only happens in Karachi and I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s thrilling, there is this adrenalin rush and I get to do what I like,” Ghazal added. However, she feels that autocross needs publicity so that more women would know about it. Currently, according to Ghazal there are only three to four women who take part in the races and many girls who want to participate in it are told-off by their families if they want to drive in an event. “I was encouraged by my father. He instilled this confidence in me. I never saw it as a man’s sports neither did it deter me from trying,” said the 20-year-old.
While the presence of women at the race track is refreshing, both Sonia and Ghazal agree that they are encouraged by their male counterparts and wish to have more competition in the next event that will take place on March 12, 2011.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2011.
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