Competitive racing is not easy. While a driver has to have strong endurance, the focus must be constant as well. Pune’s first female All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) driver Sayali Dhale is at ease behind the wheel–she led Pune to victory at an international motorsport event last year.
It has been around two years, since Team Nemesis Racing, a motorsport initiative from the College of Engineering, Pune (CoEP), has been taking part in the international events of Baja SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers).
SAE held an intercollegiate design competition, which took place in Maryland, USA, last month. Sayali drove the team’s ATV and bagged the overall fourth position in the contest.
She initially joined the team to work on the ATV’s suspension, but gave it a shot when it was time to select a driver. The mechanical engineer was voted as the best person to drive by the boys in her team.
This competition isn’t amateur by any means. The ATV costs lakhs to build, while the US trip stretched the team’s budget to around Rs 30 lakhs. The engineering students invested months in the winning design, after which they commenced gruelling trial sessions to test the ATV’s durability. Sayali put in extra effort, and that earned her the respect of her fellow team members.
During the competition, Sayali had to drive the ATV over the hill, and so she would practice off-roading over rough patches of land near her college. The practice sessions would last for around six hours, Sayali told the Pune Mirror.
It is her experience playing soccer, and captaining the CoEP football team, which helped Sayali. She had the physical endurance required to race. Pitted against far more experienced drivers from Cornell and Michigan State University, and another 90 teams, Dhale prevailed.
It was only the 100-foot-hill that intimidated her. The slope was around 30-35 degrees, but Sayali cleared it in her first attempt. She admits to being terrified, but kept the ATV in control, to make sure that she bagged the second place in acceleration. The combined efforts succeeded, making the MK-X2 one of the fastest ATVs in the world category.
The team had their dreams pinned on Sayali, and given that massive responsibility, she sure seems to have performed well under pressure. Her team went on to bag the first position in sales representation. Even though they had last minute glitches–their ATV arrived late, and the weather was cold and unpredictable, Sayali and her team tasted victory.
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A commendable effort indeed, by Pune’s first female ATV racer to take part in a US event, in participating and emerging triumphant in one of the most prestigious college racing competitions worldwide.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)