In Conversation With Shriya Lohia, A Young Racing Prodigy Defying Gender Norms

A deep dive into Shriya Lohia's adrenaline-fueled journey from training to professional racing.

Published On Mar 08, 2024 | Updated On Mar 08, 2024


“As a young child, I played with dolls as much I played with toy cars,” reminisces Shriya Lohia, the 15-year old Formula 4 racing prodigy who's defying gender norms to become the first female to participate and score points in the first ever Indian F4 Championship in 2023. 

Also known as FIA F4, this category of open-wheel racing cars is designed for junior drivers. Instead of a global championship, individual nations or regions have the flexibility to organise their own championships while adhering to a standardised set of rules and specifications. “At the age of nine, I was introduced to racing on a family road trip. This was rental (beginner level) karting that my elder sister and I tried out. When I first tried it out, I enjoyed the speed although it wasn't much at the time it was a new feeling for me. The adrenaline rush and thrill I got from it made me deeply interested in the sport,” she elaborates on what got her get her speedster mode on. 

It's quite rare for young ones, especially Indian youngsters, to settle on a career path so early in their life. But the moment Shriya felt the adrenaline rush and thrill of racing in her first ever training program, she realised that it is something she wants to do for the rest of my life. “The idea of racing against others, beating guys and making history fascinated me and motivated to make the step into professional racing,” she confesses. 

Between being conferred with the Pradhan Mantri Rastriya Bal Puraskar in 2022 and her Formula 4 debut, Shriya might just be the busiest teen you'll meet! Off season, she's focused on constantly improving on her times and getting better and learning, whilst being one of the youngest drivers in the series. But no matter how dedicated the young athlete remains to her craft, racing comes with its challenges. “Racing being expensive, it gets difficult to fund yourself constantly. Formula 4 is pretty expensive but also the start of the ladder to Formula 1," she reveals. She credits the unwavering support of the sponsor, Akhilesh Reddy, who's playing a pivotal role in shaping her racing career and inching closer to her F1 dream each day.

The world of sports thrives on sponsorship and for Shriya, it's not just female racers but racers in general who'd benefit from active sponsors. “In my opinion, especially in a male-dominated field such as motorsports, it is important for companies and sponsors to support a female athlete working their way through. In general, it is something we need not just women but motorsport athletes in general need sponsors to survive in the sport longer. I think supporting the right female talent can go a long way, since that also directly shows young girls that it is possible and sparks an interest in their young minds to work towards achieving the same," she opines.

Having said that, outside the technicalities of sponsorship, constant support is what makes an athlete too. “I've had lots of love and support since I entered racing at the age of nine. People have always welcomed me and appreciated my racing. I think every now and then, we do meet people who aren't as supportive as the others but it is equally important to meet both types of people as it proves to be a good learning experience,” she confesses. Wise beyond her years, is she not!

For a young racer like Shriya, who's playlist echoes with empowering tunes like Something in the Way by Nirvana and The Climb by Miley Cyrus, role models must hold a special place in her formative years. “My main role models are Micheal Schumacher and current F1 drivers Charles Leclerc, Oscar Piastri and Lewis Hamilton,” she reveals. She also name drops our very own Formula 2 driver Kush Maini as one the people who she looks up to. :I think one that influenced me the most is Charles Leclerc. He often mentions that he is quite hard on himself after a disappointing race or weekend and I resonate with him in that sense because I tend to have a similar reaction in such a situation. Seeing that I'm not the only who does that makes me think it's okay to be like that sometimes but also important to get yourself back up every single time," she elaborates. 

Role models can guide you to a certain extent but it's personal aspirations that sets you apart from the crowd. What does Shriya hope to achieve with her racing career? “I hope to reach higher levels of Motorsports and make a name for my country and myself. This also helps me become a leading force for women in motorsports that would help more girls and women take interest in the same. I will work as hard as possible to achieve my goals and to ultimately prove that not only men but women can also excel in Motorsports. And I hope that with adequate funds and hard work, I am able to make my way up the Formula ladder (F4-F3-F2-F1),” she expresses. 

Since joining racing, Shriya's dream has consistently aimed at reaching the pinnacle of Formula racing to proudly represent the country. Striving to give her best on and off the track, her goal is to inspire others to join Motorsports and acknowledge it as a legitimate sport in India. Through her work, Shriya has actively contributing to the racing community, extending support to those embarking on their own racing journey. As for women in Motorsports, Shriya expresses genuine satisfaction in witnessing girls confidently competing on the race track alongside their male peers. Offering advice to aspiring female racers, she encourages them not to fear entering a male-dominated field. And despite potential intimidation, hard work and self-proving can help them become a formidable force on the track. The message is clear: persevere, overcome unfriendly attitudes or mean comments, and focus on becoming the best version of yourself, deserving a place in Motorsports on par with anyone else.

So what does the Gen Z racer has to say to her generation about Motorsports? Speaking to them directly, she says, “I think with the growing level of Motorsports in India we should know about it from a young age as we do about cricket or football. That would help spread the interest and the audience that could eventually create some young talented racing drivers as well as a good fan base for them,” she concludes.

Photo: Shriya Lohia