India is a country with a large motorsport culture, with many young drivers hoping to break through. Since Force India’s creation in 2008, the sport’s popularity has continued to rise, and in 2017 the F1 team launched the ‘Force India F1 Team Academy’ aiming to inspire and recruit young Indians with huge potential. Although not part of this academy, Mira Erda is one of a number of young Indians hoping to make a career in Formula One.
Born in 2000 in Gujarat, India, Mira didn’t start karting until relatively late in her childhood. In 2009, her father bought a go-kart track which allowed her to discover her love of racing, and her rivalry with her brothers spurred her on to continue. After impressing people, including her father, he offered her the chance to get into the sport more seriously. “I wanted to do it because I loved racing and cars. As it is always said, motorsport is a male dominated sport, but that just motivated me more to get into it. Later in 2010, I got professionally trained and started racing,” she explained.
Unlike many, Erda freely admits that she had to work to improve her skills and initially “wasn’t that great”. “I always enjoyed it because of the speed and overtaking. How well I can push the car and my driving skills, just kept getting better with practice. When I first drove a go-kart, it was difficult for me to control the kart, but it was a great experience overall,” Mira told me. Hard work has now certainly paid off as her career continues to go from strength to strength.
As with most drivers hoping to reach the highest series of motorsport, Europe and European racing is Mira’s next aim. “I am really looking forward to racing more in Europe as the tracks there are more technical and tough. It gives a racer more experience, as in Europe it is more competitive with racers from all parts of the world coming over to race,” she said. Often, when drivers get to race in Europe it separates those who are good from those who are great and Mira is hoping to show that she is one of those with a long career ahead of her.
However, this doesn’t mean that Erda isn’t realistic with her expectations saying: “mostly every racer’s aim is being a Formula 1 driver, but not everyone gets that opportunity. My aim is to reach the highest level of motorsports that I can, and to be recognised at world level.” That’s not to say she lacks any ambition, but realism is a quality that any driver who want to get to the top requires.
She has many accolades to her name so far, despite juggling her racing career with her education. In 2016, she became the Formula 4 Rookie Champion of the Year, something she is extremely proud of. “Finally, after so much hard work and racing and improving my driving skills, when I actually won the championship it was the most outstanding moment of my career so far,” Mira said. But that’s not the only “outstanding moment” as she was also honoured by the FMSCI (Federation of Motorsports Clubs in India) with the Outstanding Woman in Motorsports award.
“I’m very proud of that as in India, motorsport is not recognised as much. As a female, to get an award for Outstanding Woman in Motorsports is a big achievement for me,” Erda explained. To get an award with such a high-profile in her native India was a huge confidence boost for the 17-year-old, encouraging her to go on and improve.
Mira aims to inspire youngsters, but who inspires her? “My idol is Lewis Hamilton,” she told me. “Since I started racing he has always inspired me to improve as a racer and (I admire) his driving techniques and his mindset during a race. Also, I started following Max Verstappen as a young racer, the aggression and the driving skill he has is just incredible.” 2 drivers who also started and entered the sport at a young age, they inspire a whole host of youngsters to follow in their footsteps.
To finish, I asked Erda about what advice she would give to young girls aiming for a career in motorsport. “Being a female amongst all the men is not really a big deal because the car doesn’t know who is driving,” Mira advised, adding: “It’s the driving skill, aggression and strength which matters. Being a girl, I feel that I’m nothing less than a guy. For me, it’s just a matter of experience and strength.” A sentiment reiterated by many in the industry, seeing yourself as no different to anyone else is a valuable piece of advice that is crucial to a successful career in motorsport.
Mira Erda is amongst a number of young people from India hoping to break into the highest series of motorsport and proudly represent their country. Her hard work and determination have prepared her for what is surely a positive career, and with her aim of racing in Europe very soon, we could shortly see her making waves throughout continent.
(all photos, credit: Mira Erda)