They drove 116 kms across special stages and 181 kms on the liaison stage
© Srinivasa Krishnan

10 of India’s best female rally drivers you should know about

Discover who are the women leading the pack of speed demons that competed in the prestigious INRC 2020, and find out what drives them to keep going.
Written by David Bodapati
Published on
Rally driving has become an important part of the motorsports fabric in India.
Whether for leisure or profession, there are more people taking on four-wheel drives around the country than ever before. And as a result, the Indian National Rally Championship has seen an influx of competitors over the years.
Here we list out some of the best Indian female drivers and co-drivers at INRC 2020. (This list is not a ranking)

1. Dr Bani Yadav (driver)

Rally driver Dr Bani Yadav seen in firesuit racing overalls with her helmet
Dr Bani Yadav
She won the Coupe de Dame (Ladies) class of Raid de Himalaya in her debut in 2014. She then went on to conquer the Ladies category of every endurance rally event that she participated in; Raid de Himalaya, Desert Storm, Dakshin Dare, Royal Rajasthan or Ultimate Desert Challenge.
She made a successful debut in the Indian National Rally Championship (INRC) in 2015. She was named the ‘Outstanding Woman in Motorsport’ for 2016 by Federation of Motor Sports Club of India (FMSCI). She also won her class in the National Autocross Championship in 2018 and 2019.
She is the only Indian driver with a doctorate in motorsports from Commonwealth University of Tonga. She is also part of the only mother-son duo in INRC, where she participates with her son Arjun Bani Rao.

2. Dr. Shivani Pruthvi (driver)

Shivani and Deepti Pruthvi participated in the first round of the Indian National Rally Championship at Chennai's Madras Motor Race Track.
Shivani and Deepti Pruthvi pose with their rally car
She had initially made her motorsports debut with racing when she participated at the National Racing Championship round at Coimbatore in 2018.
She made her INRC debut at the South India Rally in 2019, and was joined by her mother as co-driver. Shivani is known to be clean driver with a sense of purpose and meticulous timing.
“Motorsports is the only sport that has no gender bias and we compete against men on equal footing,” says Shivani. She had secured a team medal for India at Asian Gymkhana in Indonesia in 2020, her proudest moment in motorsports so far.

3. Khyati Mody (driver)

Rally driver Khyati Mody with her rally car.
Khyati Mody
Her motorsports career started when she bunked college to attend her very first karting event in Mumbai, and she won it.
She was spotted by multiple national champion Rayomand Banajee at the event. Her took her under his wing to coach her and got her enrolled in the National Karting Championship. From karting, she progressed to formula racing, autocross, gymkhana, cross-country, and now competes in INRC.
She made her INRC debut at the Rally of Arunachal in 2020 and secured a podium in her very first rally. But she considers representing India at the 2020 Asian Gymkhana in Korea as one of her highest points in her motorsports career so far.
“I am so proud of driving for the country and it is an unforgettable moment in my life,” she said.
Khyati is known to be an aggressive left-footer who drives smooth and steady but loves speed.

4. Pragathi Gowda (driver)

Rally driver Pragathi Gowda and co-driver Deeksha Balakrishna seen in the bivouac.
Pragathi Gowda (left) and Deeksha Balakrishna
She is a young and aggressive drive with immense talent. Many veterans of the Indian motorsport community who saw her driving for the first time at the Rally of Arunachal in INRC 2020 felt that she is blessed with a calm mind and brute speed. She clinched gold in the Junior INRC class on debut.
The Bengaluru-based driver was assisted by navigator Deeksha Balakrishna in Itanagar. “I enjoy driving, so what better place than to be in INRC,” she quipped after the first round of the 2020-21 championship.

5. Amandeep Kaur (driver)

Rally driver Amandeep Kaur is seen with her helmet.
Amandeep Kaur
Her first-ever motorsports event was Red Bull Catch Up 2018. She then participated in TSD rallies, autocross, and selected to represent India in the 2020 Asian Auto Gymkhana Championship. She honed her skills at Gaurav Gill’s rally school before participating in INRC for the first time at the 2020 rally in Coimbatore. “I was the only girl in that batch but his words of appreciation gave me confidence. I grabbed the tips and subtle nuances of rallying that he brought out so well,” says Amandeep of Gaurav Gill’s school. Her daughter Muskaan and son Jasmehar Singh have followed her into motorsports and won laurels in the national karting championship.

6. Athira Murali (driver)

Rally driver Athira Murali seen in her rally car.
Athira Murali
She is a popular Malayalam automobile vlogger who is often seen driving trucks and buses in local television shows and on her personal YouTube channel.
Her love for motorsports was supported by her father VN Muraleedharan. She holds records in India Book of Records and Universal Record Forum, the second being a record of Kerala’s youngest motorsports female driver. She made her debut at INRC in 2020 at the rally in Coimbatore, and even won the Ladies category while driving a rented rally-prepared VW Polo.

7. Smitha Prasad (co-driver)

She joined the Indian motorsports community when she became the only female driver at the first-ever Rainforest Challenge in India in 2012. She then turned into a co-driver, working exclusively in a Gypsy, and has been the only regular female co-driver at the INRC since 2016.
She navigates for veteran Sanjay Agarwal, and is known to be a meticulous planner who is well-versed with the rules of rallying. She has her pulse on the timing and assists Sanjay in preparing the pace notes.
She had been a rally driver in a VW Polo in 2015, but after switching to co-driver in 2016, she feels that she truly found her motorsports calling as a navigator. Sanjay praises Smitha as one of the best navigators he has ever worked with over his 36 years in motorsports.

8. Dr. Deepthi Pruthvi (co-driver)

Shivani and Deepti Pruthvi won the Ladies category at the first round of the Indian National Rally Championship.
Shivani and Deepti won the Ladies category at the first round of INRC 2019
Dr Deepthi and Dr Shivani Pruthvi are the only mother-daughter team in INRC history.
Deepthi believes in “focus and concentration” as her motto for rallying, so much so that when their car toppled over at the 2019 INRC round in Coimbatore, she kept calling out the pace notes until Shivani asked her to stop and enquired about her wellbeing.
With the support of her daughter and knowledge of her husband, and her own passion and commitment to motorsports, Deepthi has become one of the best co-drivers in India.

9. Deeksha Balakrishna (co-driver)

She made her debut alongside Pragathi Gowda in the 2020 Rally of Arunachal. She comes from motorsport stock with her father being Balakrishna, fondly called as BK among the Indian motorsports community; a biker, rallyist and trainer.
“Motorsports helps you to conquer fear,” she says. She is a 23-year-old psychology student with a cool and calm mind, able to maturely handle difficult situations while in the co-driver’s seat.
Before competing in rally events, she had been to several around the country in different officiating positions, so she understand the sport very well.

10. Shubhkiran Pal Brar (co-driver)

Rally driver Dr Bani Yadav and co-driver Shubhkiran Pal Brar with their rally car.
Shubhkiran Pal Brar (left) and Dr Bani Yadav
She made her debut as navigator in INRC 2016 where she was navigator for Dr Bani Yadav. She has accrued lots of experience in cross-country events over the years.
She takes decisions quickly, backed by knowledge and experience. She was part of a 2019 Mahindra Expedition to Leh-Ladakh under guidance of rally veteran Hari Singh, which taught her how to drive in snow conditions.
Her favourite track is at her hometown circuit of Punjab Motor Sports Club in Ludhiana. She was a chief marshal at the club but had to vacate the position when she participated in INRC 2020. “It is my passion. I am living for motorsports. I love it,” she says.