Having had enough of biking, biker girl Gul Panag participated in a women’s car rally for the first time in her life last year in November in Chennai. “It was a different kind of adrenalin rush, but nonetheless a powerful one,” says Gul.
Gul was supposed to race by herself without a companion. At first, she felt trapped inside the car. The car was fitted with a roll-cage on the inside which protects the driver in the event of a catastrophic crash. “I didn’t fear that I would crash during the race but I was still apprehensive since it was my first time,” she says. It was extremely hot inside and she could not turn on the air-conditioning. “Airconditioning slows down the car. I needed all the power to get ahead of my opponents.”
The car rally tests the skill of the driver. Therefore, all the drivers drive the same kind of city car with equal engine power. But because it’s a race, the engine of the cars are given a turbo charge which makes them more powerful than the regular city cars. The track was approximately two kilometres in length and the race was eight laps long.
As the roll-cage provided her assurance that she would be safe inside the car, she stepped on the accelerator. “Special seat belts, helmet and the power of the engine gave me a high as soon the car started moving,” she says. Gul realised that driving in a race was very different from driving in the city. “In the city, you drive in a lane. But on the race track you just drive straight.” Before the actual race, there was a qualifying round which was supposed to be completed within a specified time limit. Gul was able to do that and was competing with national champions in the rally. “I did not come first. In fact, I came last. But I am happy about the fact that I made it through without crashing.” A powerful and thrilling experience that proved to be very memorable.