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In Conversation with Mrs. Garima Avtar

February 4, 2020

Garima Avtar is a professional rally car racer. She has been a professional driver for Mercedes Benz Luxe Drive Live. She is an Automotive journalist, a car enthusiast and also organizes motorsport car rallies and self drive expeditions.

She has participated and won laurels in almost all of India’s major Rally competitions, including the Indian National Rally Championship, the Raid De Himalayas, Desert Storm, the Mughal Rally , the Monsoon Challenge to name a few and many auto crosses and speed sprints. She has been felicitated as Superwoman of Delhi NCR as well as SuperMom by Radio One 94.3 FM. She has received numerous awards including the Asian Achievement Award for outstanding work in rally racing and setting an example for young minds and upcoming millennials.

Garima is Ex- Corporate Vice President of Delton Cables Limited. She is a Ted speaker, a model, an avid golfer and a Sufi singer too. She visited our campus on the 30th of January for the unveiling of RSME’19, a formula electric car designed and manufactured by IIT Roorkee Motorsports. Watchout! got the chance to interview her and know more about her journey.

WO: How did you enter the world of automotive vehicles? What is your story?

Garima Avtar: Entering in the world of motorsports was something I never planned on. I started very late in life with this, and had a lot of doubts and apprehensions initially because there is no one from my family or friends who has done something like this before. When i started rallying there were hardly any mentors whom I could have taken guidance from. There were apprehensions, but my convictions were very strong, i knew this was what I wanted to do, this was the life I always wanted to have. The seed was sown when I was young. My dad taught me to drive a car at the age of 13. I remember, he used to be very proud watching me drive, also he was very particular that i do not exceed a certain speed while driving.He never treated me differently. That is what matters the most, the way you are brought up by your family.I was lucky that my dad was very progressive in his thinking. He is undoubtedly the wind beneath my wings.

WO: What makes rally cars different from the normal cars and the other racing cars?

Garima Avtar: There are two kinds of rallies, one is the ‘Time-Speed-Distance’ rally also called the Regularity rally. In this kind of rally you are given a proper speed chart, the average speed being about 40km/hr. The navigation is more important in this format. The other kind of rally is the ‘Extreme’ rally. I am into extreme rallying, the high speed one.

I started with TSD and was very lucky to become a part of team Mahindra. I took training and then graduated to extreme rallying. When we do TSD rallying, cars need not be modified, but the safety needs to be ensured,though its not compulsory to wear your racing suit, because the speed is very less and you drive in normal traffic. The TSD rallies are very cool, fun, also competitive.They definitely give you a rule book and its more about finding your way to the checkpoints. You can’t reach before or after the time specified. You get a penalty in seconds.If you reach before time you get double the penalty. In extreme rallies, the cars are all modified. The track can be a gravel track or somewhere through the sand dunes.These tracks are not the circuit racing tracks, where you keep taking laps, these tracks have bumps, dips, and trees all around. The cars used in this rally are extremely high on safety parameters. They have a roll cage, the seats have to be FI approved, you are supposed to wear the rally suit which also has to be FI approved, the helmet has to be FI approved. They have different gear boxes, the suspension is also different. The safety parameters are very paramount, if you don’t pass the scrutiny you don’t get to the rally.

WO: What goes into making a good racing driver?

Garima Avtar: First is passion, the love for the sport, then is discipline and training, because I think it’s very important to constantly own your skills and practice and train ,as there is no substitute for practice. It is very important to know how to drive fast, how to change gears at the right time, also knowing all the techniques like left foot braking is very necessary. That is why it is very important to train, so that you know all the technicalities. The third is the car. Having a good car is also very important. In rally racing there are different categories on the basis of the car, namely 2000cc category, 1600cc category, etc. There is also an open category racing where all the cars of different powers compete together. So, if you have a knife and someone else has a piston, it obviously is not equal competition. So a good car matters a lot.Its an expensive sport at the end of the day, the better and costlier the suspensions you use, the less time you take, and it’s all a matter of few seconds.

WO: You started racing in 2011. There must have been a lot of mansplaining which is attached to this sport. How did you rise above all that?

Garima Avtar: It is all about competency, about the training. When you do a superficial job by just going there and rallying, that is not enough.If you train, and you know how the car is built,you get inside the engineering of the car, you get inside the nitty-gritty of the car, then the guys respect you, the peer respects you,because you know your stuff, you know your craft. Fortunately, I have not faced much of this. I was very lucky that i was picked up by team Mahindra, so i was with the top drivers. I was picked up in my initial days, that’s how i got a good standing in the motorsport community at that time. It is definitely a male dominated sport, but I think with time it becomes like a family. Also, as i mentioned competency is very important.

WO: You just had the opportunity to test out the product which the IIT Roorkee Motorsports team has come up with. How would you rate the car they have put out?

Garima Avtar: I am very proud of the whole team of IIT Roorkee who have put up the car. The vehicle that these guys have made is environment friendly and we know that the government is putting in a lot of effort to make India the global electric vehicle manufacturing hub and thus, manufacturing something like this is just wonderful.

WO: Which form of racing would you qualify to be the toughest?

Garima Avtar: For circuit racing, it’s definitely FORMULA1. For rally racing ,WRC(World Rally Championship) is the toughest.

WO: Did you ever get a chance to participate in the WRC?

Garima Avtar: I would need a crores of money for that. It’s an expensive sport as I already mentioned. I’ll be very happy if I get to drive in the APRC, I have driven one round of APRC that happened in India, but I would love to drive in the APRC anytime soon. The DAKAR rally is also a great championship. For WRC, as I said, you need a different level of expertise, you need a whole lot of money even to train. Last year, I went to Dubai to take training in Drifting and this year also, in February, I will be going to London to train for an advanced level of drifting.I am super excited about cars and driving. And as I said, training must never stop, it is always how much you can afford and what you can do about it.

WO: We read an article about you leading an all women’s expedition to Spiti valley in 2017. What were your experiences and also how did you get the idea of this?

Garima Avtar: I did it for an expedition company. They reached out to me to do an all women’s expedition and I agreed to it. I got a bunch of very enthusiastic and brave women, because Spiti valley has got the world’s most treacherous roads and it was compulsory for them to drive, even the co-drivers were women. Though the team was also accompanied by men, all the participants were women. Many of them were regular drivers who had never driven on the highway, so we had to train them first. The experience was fabulous. I have got the best of friends from the 7 day journey. For the participants, the experience was great. The whole journey was a lifetime of an experience for all of us.

WO: Do you have plans of visiting the 2020 Auto Expo and what are you looking forward to?

Garima Avtar: I definitely have plans of visiting the 2020 Auto Expo. I am very excited about hybrid and electric vehicles. I am a very big car enthusiast but i am also very fond of super cars and sports cars. So, I am going to be mainly focussing on the sections of premium category and will also be looking out for hybrid and electric cars.