Aishwarya Pissay’s success in the domestic rallying scene convinced TVS to hand her an international outing in Baja Aragon, but that was merely a baby step in the long road to Dakar.
Ever since CS Santosh made national headlines by becoming the first Indian to compete in Dakar, a flurry of riders have taken up cross-country rallying as a profession.
One of the better riders to emerge out of the country in recent times is Pissay, who like several others in the field has received factory backing from one of India’s largest two-wheeler manufacturers, TVS.
Pissay first rose in the limelight in 2017 when she dominated the proceedings in the first ever National Ladies 2w Racing Championship and then showed her rallying prowess by finishing 12th overall - and fourth in class - in Raid de Himalaya.
Considering the 2017 edition of the Himalayan cross-country rally was one of the most challenging in recent years, with 44 out of 67 competitors retiring from both main categories, it was a massive feat for the Bangalore-based rider.
“2017 was quite a challenging year by itself because mid-season - that was last August - I broke my collarbone during a practice,” Pissay told Motorsport.com India, recalling the year
“So getting back from that crash and being able to win both the national rally and racing championship.
“And Raid specially was a very important race for me because the terrain, the cold mostly was quite different and quite challenging. But it was I think one of the best races of that year.”
Aishwarya Pissay, Sherco TVS
Photo by: Sherco Racing
Pissay’s performance in Raid de Himalaya caught the attention of TVS and the Indian manufacturer handed her her international debut at first opportunity, pitting her alongside Adrien Metge, Michael Metge and Lorenzo Santolino in the gruelling three-day Baja Aragon Rally.
The 22-year-old was coping up well with the demands of an event of this scale, but unfortunately suffered a huge crash on the final day.
That forced her to retire from the event and head to an hospital for an immediate surgery, but she has since recovered from the injuries and resumed training for 2019.
“Well I did learn a lot of things.” she said. “During the practice and also the first two days of the race on the Sherco TVS 450.
“The terrain altogether, the entire racing fraternity and the entire stream of racing is so much more different. The quality of racing and competition is quite different.”
Although Pissay’s maiden international appearance ended in a crash, TVS bosses were left impressed with her performance on the opening two days of the event.
“Aishwarya is very hard working and doesn’t stop challenging herself,” Mr. B. Selvaraj, TVS Racing manager, told Motorsport.com India. “She has learnt a lot from her debut race and I am confident that she will be back much stronger.”
With the Baja Aragon outing in the bag, Pissay is already looking forward to racking up more experience to prepare herself for her ultimate dream - the Dakar rally.
While her 2019 programme remains unclear at the moment, it is likely to include several international cross-country rallies on top of national events like Desert Storm and Raid de Himalaya.
“So my ultimate aim that I’m at looking at is to be at Dakar, which would be in a couple of years when I’m ready,” a confident yet realistic Pissay said.
“Also next year  and the year after that would be prerequisites to all the races I will have to do to get to Dakar. So I’m preparing myself for all the races that come before that.”
Aishwarya Pissay, Apex Racing
Photo by: Anand Philar
Although Pissay is at a relatively early stage in her career, she already has plans to give back something to Indian motorsport - and is currently devising a platform to get more females into racing and rallying.
“I definitely am looking forward for a platform for a lot more women to come into motorsport,” Pissay explained.
“The problem with a lot of women coming is that the first thing is the talk in the family. They don’t really know how to get into and motorsport as we know is a very expensive sport.
“So I think creating a lot more platforms for women to come in and take part. Like TVS has this one-make championship for women where they sort of train them and give them an opportunity to race.
“Maybe I want to create something similar, more easier, a more accessible version of racing for a lot of people to come and try. That what I think is required.”
While the programme may take some time to come to fruition, Pissay has already turned into a role model for young women racers enthralled by the world of motor racing.