Lone Girl's Desert Storm
Three strong iron ladies started and then there was one. What started on 6th May 2019 in Delhi was nothing less than a battlefield filled with 34 teams of the best racers and navigators all across India. Desert Storm is the most crucifying and longest desert rally in India. The unrevealed terrain and the crucifying temperatures ensured not all the men and their machines could cross the final chequered flag. Only 18 cars/ATV ran across the finale flag. Amongst this storm was the lone flag bearer of ladies who survived heat, intense terrains , hailstorms, rain and even a literal desert storm, she is none other than Khyati Mody. Hobbyist World got an opportunity to ask her about her experience at Desert Storm.
How and when did you get started?
I think it started from a young age probably when my first toy was a blue car or the feeling I would get even just sitting in a car with the windows down and feeling the gush of wind on my face and hair. My passion for cars was intensified through my young age when I would be watching F1 instead of discussing fashion or boys that girls my age were doing.
There was no looking back since the first time I sat in a go-kart then progressing to Rotax karts, single-seater formula cars and now offroad cross country rallies.
I am one of the very few women in India and the only one from Mumbai to participate in extreme cross country rallies.
It all started when on a fine day I had bunked college once and gone to a local go-karting track and learnt that the very next day there was a race. Without any racing knowledge, I jumped to the opportunity and participated where I came 2nd on the podium. A national-level racer/team manager spotted me and he offered me a seat in national level karting. I participated in numerous national-level go-karting, Rotax races where I claimed multiple podiums and then I tried my hand at single-seater formula cars.
Due to work commitments, I had to travel to the UK and was off the circuit for almost 4-5 years. The motorsport bug had never died in me. During one of the trips to India a friend who was organizing a rally suggested I should participate in it. Without any knowledge of rallies or terrain or even a car, I went to Churu, Rajasthan. He organized a car for me and where I was the underdog and people were better, I would burn the clutch or get stuck. I proved everyone wrong by winning the rally. Since then there had been no looking back. I have dominated the podiums in multiple rallies and autocross.
What has been your favourite competition that you have been a part of until now?
It’s tough to pinpoint one but my first race & rally or the time I made a 50,000 national record along with 3 of the greatest racers or the time I started working alongside Jaguar for their events. My first rally Heat Stroke is the most memorable rally.
What is your favourite thing about driving cross country?
It’s extremely challenging mentally, physically and emotionally. The route is not disclosed until the start or the day or the rally hence the terrain is unknown. We have to rely upon and trust the navigator to ensure us they show us the correct route. It’s like going into uncharted territory with a high level of risks such was extreme dips and unruly surfaces. We are driving on 0% tarmac and just on sand, dunes, dirt, girt or unforgiving mountains.
Where would you love to drive in the future?
I want to drive in Dakar and World Rally Championships.
Recently I got selected in Team India to represent India at AAGC ( Auto Asia gymkhana Championships)
Does one require any special qualifications/ permits?
You need a lot of talent, courage, stamina, love for the sport, perseverance, endurance, determination, dedication, self-confidence to even start the sport. Licenses are permissions are issued by the country’s respective motorsport body. In India, FMSCI is responsible for issuing permissions and permits.
Can you tell us something that people may not know about driving cross country?
It’s extremely challenging mentally, physically and emotionally. The route is not disclosed until the start or the day or the rally hence the terrain is unknown. We have to rely on and trust the navigator to ensure us they show us the correct route. It’s like going into uncharted territory with a high level of risks such was extreme dips and unruly surfaces. We are driving on 0% tarmac and just on sand, dunes, dirt, girt or unforgiving mountains.
We get barely any sleep through the whole day since we have to personally coordinate with our service teams for car service and setups after the end of every leg. Numerous occasions I have slept in my rally car while my car was getting serviced. Our seats are bucket seats( FIA approved, non-reclining) and there is no a/c or blower in the car and there is constant noise from the service team working on the car. The recent rally that I did the temperatures had crossed way beyond the 50 deg mark and it was practically very tough to handle such temperatures and rigid terrains.
What's one piece of advice you'd give budding drivers?
Believe in your dream and believe in yourself. It’s a long and beautiful journey and I can assure you the most memorable journey of your life. Keep at it.