Khyati Mody, Only Woman To Cross Finish Line Of The Desert Storm 2019

Racer Khyati Mody was among the three women and 34 teams of the best racers and navigators from all across India who started racing on 6th May 2019 in Delhi in one of the longest and simultaneously the toughest desert rallies in India.

Ria Das
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Khyati Mody

What would be your pre and post-race preparations and reaction if you are the only woman from Mumbai to participate in extreme cross-country rallies and become the only woman to cross the finish line of Desert Storm 2019? Car racer Khyati Mody was among the three women and 34 teams of the best racers and navigators from all across India who started racing on 6th May 2019 in Delhi in one of the longest and simultaneously the toughest desert rallies in India. Khyati is claustrophobic and resents wearing full-face helmet. But that did not deter her from emerging as the winner among women in a battlefield which even men fear to tread.


The rally racer was the only woman to finish the 50,000 km mark and create history last year and also became the first woman in Indian history to cross the ribbon in JK Tyres & Tata Motors 50,000 km. challenge in 2016. Khyati speaks to SheThePeople.TV about making a life out of her passion.

Describe your childhood and what personal inspiration led you to take up racing?

I think it started from a young age probably when I played with my first toy which was a blue car or the feeling I would get even by just sitting in a car with the window glasses rolled down and feeling the gush of wind on my face and hair. My passion for cars intensified when at a young age I watched F1 instead of discussing fashion or boys which girls of my age usually did.

There was no looking back since the first time I sat on a go-kart then progressing to Rotax karts, single-seater formula cars and now off-road cross country rallies.

I am one of the very few women in India and the only one from Mumbai to participate in extreme cross-country rallies. Once I had bunked college to go to a local go-karting track and learnt that there was a race the very next day. Even, without any racing knowledge I jumped at the opportunity and participated and secured the second position on the podium. A national level racer/team manager spotted me and he offered me a seat in a national level karting competition. I participated in numerous national level go-karting, rotax races where I claimed multiple winning positions on podiums and then I tried my hand at single-seater formula cars.

Khyati Mody, Only Woman To Cross Finish Line Of The Desert Storm 2019


Due to work commitments I had to travel to UK and was off the circuit for almost 4-5 years. The motorsport bug had never died inside me. During one of the trip to India a friend who was organising a rally suggested I should participate in it. Without any knowledge of rallies or terrain or even a car I went to Churu in Rajasthan. He organised a car for me, I was an underdog among people who were more experienced. I surpassed everyone by winning the rally. Since then there had been no looking back. I have dominated and won multiple rallies and autocrosses.

How did the first race feel like?

I try to train a lot mentally since my reflexes need to be very strong and quick.

I was extremely nervous in my first race. I am claustrophobic so I hate wearing a full-face helmet. I had to beat that and wear a full-face helmet where I could barely breathe. My heart was pounding so hard that I could feel every beat like a huge drumroll in my ear. I was a little overwhelmed during the line-up so I shifted all my focus on the red flag which once dropped would mean the start of the race. Once I started racing I don’t remember feeling claustrophobic because I was so focused on getting the lines correct and apex that nothing else mattered. Those 15 -16 minutes of the race I had blocked the whole world out and focused on each corner as it passed and then finally after the last lap board came then the chequered flag. I still get goose bumps thinking of that first win and when the first chequered flag came up.

I would give up anything to go back to that moment. Victory was well deserved. I could not stop smiling and being elated with pure joy.

You are only woman to cross the finish line of The Desert Storm 2019. What inspires your love for racing, cars and even Formula 1 after winning the first race?


Of the three women I was the only one who managed to beat the terrain, heat and all the hurdles to cross the finish line. My inspiration when I was young was Michael Schumacher. My current rally inspiration is India’s best rally driver, Gaurav Gill. It’s a treat to see him racing. I have sat with him for a few laps and he makes it look so easy and effortless that you automatically tend to do better.

Racing is my part and my reason for existence, to make a difference in empowering women to go into motorsports.

Which are your favourite places to race?

I love the BIC track, Silverstone track and any isolated location in Rajasthan desert. I adore rallying in desert and nothing beats the thrill of it.

Also Read: Meet Tanvi Jagadish, India’s First Female Professional Stand-Up Paddler

You are the very first few professional female racers in India. What is like to be one in a billion?


I feel honoured and yet it is a huge responsibility. Being a woman you are over judged and we need to put in double the efforts just to be taken seriously. Things are not always handed to us on a platter. From car setups, service, protest we have to always be in the queue.

Khyati Mody, Only Woman To Cross Finish Line Of The Desert Storm 2019 Khyati Mody, Only Woman To Cross Finish Line Of The Desert Storm 2019

How did your life change with racing tracks?

It gave me perspective. It made me realise what life is all about.

I was a regular girl in early 20’s going to college, chilling with friend, parties, movies etc. But racing gave me a discipline and it changed my priorities.

I started focusing on things that I truly wanted to achieve rather than just have a social life. It has taught me a lot about people, relationships; how to keep emotions under check and most importantly it’s made me the person I am today. Since I am not from a sporting background leave alone motorsports it took me time to get into the sport. It taught me to keep my head high no matter how troubled the situation is. Nothing is permanent. Everything changes after every race. You have to celebrate the biggest of the victories and accept the gravest defeats which ensure learning.

Racing has taught me to cherish every moment as it comes. It has taught me to hold on tightest to my dreams and let go of all the fears and insecurities.

How is the racing scene in India for women? Why isn’t it popular among women here?

Participation of women has increased over the years which should be applauded and a lot of credit goes to the women who love motorsports.  It isn’t popular because of lack of sponsorships and the danger associated with motorsports. We need government backing and more individual sponsors to come forward and support women.

Khyati Mody, Only Woman To Cross Finish Line Of The Desert Storm 2019 Khyati Mody on racing tracks

Could you briefly tell us about your goals and upcoming tournaments?

I am prepping for my next rally. there are several in my plate including Dakshin Dare, Autocross Championship, Raid de Himalayas and one of the exciting I am looking forward to is a Limca Book Records drive in July.

READ: Women In Sports Are More Liberated Than In Any Other Field: Arshi Nad

What is your message to young girls who dare to be different and want to go against the societal norms?

Believe in your dream and believe in yourself. Societal norms are made to be broken. If Mary Kom had not fought for herself she wouldn't be where she is today. The society that clenches your hand today will be clapping on your success tomorrow.

What are your biggest challenges that came your way?

Sponsorships are the biggest challenge for me as of now. Also, my parents had to face a lot of criticism from society including the remark that girls don’t go into motorsports, what if she has an accident, tell her to leave the boys’ sport but they turned a deaf ear to that and encouraged me through the years. They have been witness to seeing people dragging me down and now clapping on my successes.

What is your take on women in sports and gender discrimination in our country overall.

Unfortunately, it is a biased and sexist society. On the small races where they have introduced a women’s category the prize is never the same and the attitude isn’t either. They are taken as a fun race. Things are changing gradually and hopefully it will be treated with the respect it demands.

Feature Image: Khyati Mody

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