Aishwarya, who won the first round in Dubai and was placed third in Portugal, fifth in Spain and fourth in Hungary in subsequent outings, finished with a tally of 65 points, four points ahead of Portugal’s Rita Vieira in the final overall standings for women.
Going into the Hungarian leg, Aishwarya (with 52 points) and Vieira (with 45 points) were the top contenders for the title. The fourth-place finish in Hungary earned the Indian 13 points, while Vieira, who was placed third, garnered 16.
An ecstatic Aishwarya told TOI, “It’s overwhelming. After what happened last year when I crashed in Spain… to come out and win the championship, it’s a great feeling.”
‘Honour to put India on global motorsports map’
When I suffered career-threatening injuries, it was a tough phase of my life. But I believed in myself and was determined to get back on the bike, which I did in nearly six months. So, winning the World Cup is huge for me. It’s an absolute honour to be the first athlete to bring home a world championship title and put India on the map of international motorsports,” she added.
She also finished second in the junior category in which both men and women competed. Aishwarya ended with 46 points behind championship winner Tomas de Gavardo (60 points) of Chile. The 23-year-old’s aim now is to do the country proud at the Dakar Rally. “I hope I will be able to get more sponsors on board and eventually realise my dream of participating and finishing the Dakar Rally, which is considered the world’s most difficult cross-country race. In any case, I will pursue that dream no matter what,” she said.
FMSCI (Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India), the governing body for motorsports in India, congratulated Aishwarya on her historic performance. “Aishwarya Pissay of TVS clinches the FIM Baja World Cup 2019 in women’s category. FMSCI congratulates India’s first-ever FIM World Cup champion,” FMSCI tweeted.
Last year, Aishwarya had become the first Indian female rider to compete in the gruelling Baja Aragon Rally. That rally ended prematurely for Aishwarya as she crashed and suffered from ruptured pancreas in the process. “I have had two major accidents. One in which I hurt my collar bone in 2017, then I had a bad fall and ruptured my pancreas in 2018. I underwent surgery and was in hospital for two months. There was not a single day in the hospital that I thought I would not be able to race again. That incident taught me the importance of never giving up,” she recalled.
In 2017, doctors inserted a steel plate and seven screws to fix Aishwarya’s collarbone. She was asked not to race another three-four weeks. “I had a race in just five days. Nothing was going to stop me. I got up and raced and won the championship,” she said.
Aishwarya, who began biking just five years back, is also the first Indian woman to have won five national road racing and rally championship titles. “I started going on weekend rides with my friends and that is where my love for biking began. Then in 2015, I began training at the Apex Racing Academy in Coimbatore and realised I had the skillset to get into professional racing and biking.” From there, Aishwarya has gone from strength to strength.
“I met some women during my initial training days who were ready to take racing as hobby, but not as a profession. I am glad I didn’t go their way.”