(September 24, 2023) Nikeetaa Takkale, a prodigious Pune-based rally driver, has quickly made a mark in the motor racing arena. Within just a year and a half, she amassed over 60 trophies and clinched the title of the fastest driver at the INAC autocross west zone round in 2022. Furthermore, she won the prestigious motorsports award for emerging Indian women in 2022. In a true display of grit, during the Nagaland rally, she overcame severe challenges to secure third place in the Junior INRC. On the international front, Nikeetaa is gearing up to represent India as the sole female driver at the 2023 Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
During a brief visit to her hometown, Pune, in 2021, Nikeetaa Takkale was attending an autocross event when she met the person who would change the course of her life. “That’s where I met Chetan Shivram (sir) for the very first time,” she tells Global Indian. “He wanted me to drive the autocross just for fun. My dad encouraged me to try as well and I decided to take part.” She ended up winning nine trophies and the best amateur laurel, on her first attempt. That sparked a passion for motorsports in the already athletic Nikeetaa Takkale.
A prolific and accomplished sportsperson growing up, Nikeetaa Takkale shifted gears for a while, to study BBA and Cosmetology, before following her dreams in racing. In school, Takkale was an award-winning athlete, with 36 medals in the 400 meters, 100 meters and sprint to her credit. She played football too, and won a trophy for best football player’. After completing her IB in 12th in an international school, she did her BBA from MIT college along with fashion design from INIFD apart from a cosmetology course from Lakme academy.
There was no looking back for Nikeetaa after that triumphant first race. She has been in motorsports for a very short time, but has won over 60 trophies in the last year and a half. In 2022, she bagged the fastest driver trophy in the INAC autocross west zone, and in the same year, won her first motorsports award for ‘emerging Indian women in motorsports’. “The very important people behind my success are my parents and Chetan Sir who have always kept me motivated whether I win or not,” she says. “These awards have always made me do better day by day and I have kept improving and am making sure that I collect many more awards in the coming years.”
Now, Nikeetaa is gearing up for the international circuit and is in training for the Asia Pacific round. She will be the only Indian woman in 2023 to represent the country in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship. In a short span, she has completed Pune Time Attack Autocross, Pune Auto Prix, Coorg Autocross, Hyderabad Indian National Autocross Championship, Pune Indian National Autocross Championship, and K1000 rally, among others.
The racetrack is an unforgiving place, filled with challenges. “Every rally has been a learning process. On many occasions, my car has broken down during the race but I always make it a point to finish,” says Nikeetaa. She recalls an experience in Nagaland, for instance, as she participated in her second rally. “Everything was new to me, from the route to the terrain. I was very new to motorsports and day one was fantastic as the timings were good.” Day two started off well too, but as she neared the final stage, the car’s steering wheel broke. “I was not able to drive because the steering wheel was moving around everywhere and it was a downhill section,” she says.
Nikeetaa continued to drive downhill without reducing speed, clinging to the steering wheel with one hand because she knew she could make a podium finish and was determined to finish the rally. “Then my key broke and I opened my car’s bonnet to start it through wires because I had not carried my spare key with me.” She called her tuner and explained the situation to him and followed his instructions to start the car. Despite all these challenges, she didn’t just finish the rally, she placed third at the Junior Indian National Rally Championship (INRC). “This experience gave me confidence and I have learnt that no matter what, it is important to never give up,” smiles the determined young driver.
Each rally is preceded by rigorous training. Nikeetaa drives her rally car to get used to it and hone her skills. “For the Asia Pacific cup, I am training very hard, I have been learning new skills, techniques and getting used to high-speed turns. I am very excited for the APRC round and am hoping for a very good result. My upcoming Coimbatore rally will be fun and it is very new for me because this will be my first time in Coimbatore and I am hoping it will be a successful one,” Nikeetaa explains.
When she has no rallies, she likes to shop and travel. At home, she likes to spend time with family chilling with her favourite coffee. She also likes learning new things as she believes she is a person who cannot remain idle.
Nikeetaa admits that her racing career is most important to her and as her parents have always travelled with her, she really does not feel the pressure to juggle her personal and professional life. She adds, “Racing has taught me to never give up, no matter what and be competitive. Dedication is the key to success. As I have been very successful in such a short time frame, I would advise aspiring racers to always keep trying because not every day will be yours. One must win and one must lose but the day you lose will be the day you will start winning. Always keep trusting yourself and be dedicated to what you are doing. You will be rewarded for your efforts one day that will make you see the kind of success that you would have never imagined.” Apart from the upcoming Asia Pacific Cup, she wants to drive in the World Rally Championship which is her biggest dream in motorsports. Until then it is time to cheer this youngster as she steers her way in a trajectory that few have tread – and done so successfully.
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