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Harshitha Raj Gowda, a 22-year-old from Bangalore, had begun living her father's dream at a very tender age of eight. Harshitha got a taste of racing from her father Rajshekhar Gowda. He always dreamt of becoming a successful racer as he was very passionate about racing. When he could not live his dream because he didn't get much support from his parents, he got a customized bike which was around 2-feet-high for his daughter and asked her to ride when she was at the age of around five.
Her father had to give up racing after several accidents and her mom Manju was not keen about her getting into racing. So Harshitha was sent to a boarding school. But back home during the holidays, her dad would encourage her to race. She first participated in a competition when she was only in the seventh grade. "My legs were trembling and I completed the race. Then my dad started training me. I sat on his lap and learned to drive," she said.
The first competition was a local event in which she participated during her 8th grade. It was a Zen car that she drove for the first time even though she didn't know how to drive properly. She actually finished the event and was ranked 3rd amongst all. This motivated her and she completely wanted to get into racing and take that up seriously. She has completed almost 100 local events and almost 20 rallies all over India till date.
She wanted to take part in INRC i.e., Indian National Rally Championship which runs six rounds all over India but she was not permitted there because she didn't have her road licence then. Once she turned eighteen she started participating in all the road events and she was the youngest female driver to participate.
During her participation at the Coimbatore INRC, she did not have any idea what rally racing is all about. By that time local people were aware of her and her driving skills. Once she started rallying her dad became her navigator. "Everything in a rally matters a lot," she said.
She got a lot of trophies and awards for a lot of events that she participated. She is both into driving bikes as well as cars. Her dad didn't force her to become an engineer or doctor, rather supported her to do what she wants. Harshitha has completed her Hotel Management from MS Ramaiah College of Hotel Management in Bengaluru.
People criticised and mocked her dad for bringing her into racing. Her constant support system was her dad through all the odds. The journey, in the beginning, was very difficult for her because she was deprived of all those things that a kid at her age would get. But then now she feels proud now because she realises there is no gain without pain. On August 4 and 5, 2018, she took part in the Coimbatore rally and this time her car broke down at the first stage and had to deal with a lot of issues.
Taking up racing as a passion is something where you don't get much support for. But Harshitha continued to pursue her dreams. Racing is an expensive sport and it is really difficult to get sponsors.
One of her best events was Asia Pacific Rally Championship held in Chikkamagaluru last year where she came third. It is one of the difficult rallies amongst all. "It feels great to compete with men with years of experience. What began as living my father's dream, is now my dream - becoming an accomplished racer," she said.