In a cricket-crazy nation like Pakistan, athletes participating in other sports always feel neglected. The same is the case for people who want to follow motorsport professionally.
At the local level, there is a definite interest in car racing amongst the youth but the unavailability of racing tracks and circuits make it difficult for them to pursue it on a professional level. Most of the youngsters are left to race on the roads, leading to unsafe driving and dangerous accidents.
To solve this issue and raise awareness about motorsport, Talha Bin Azhar is putting in a lot of effort.
The 23-year-old dreamed of living a life surrounded by cars drifting on the tracks, but everyone warned him against it. Despite all the obstacles, his passion for motorsport gave him a chance to follow his dream.
He started the journey 15 years ago by watching ‘Top Gear’ like many boys at that age, but unlike others, he followed it till he stepped into the real world of drifting for more than a decade. Today, Azhar is a professional car drifter, the youngest one in Pakistan, something his loved ones are proud of.
Raised in Oman, Azhar was able to experience the first gear shifts in a car at the age of 10. From there on, he took every chance that came his way in going to car drifting events. That practice helped him in having a direction to becoming a professional car drifter.
Moving to Pakistan for the first time in 2011, he was in continuous search of car race events in the country but didn’t succeed until the age of 17 when he heard about an event, ‘Jeepers’, happening at Walton Airport in Lahore.
He managed to slip in the event to experience the natural drift without a thought. For him, this was a magical moment.
“This was a dream come true,” said Azhar while talking to Bol News. “I watched the cars pass by drifting and the only thing I wondered was what would be going through the drivers’ minds at this very moment. What would they be thinking?”
He then decided to take part in the next season of the event. He practised until the event day when he joined a team known as ‘Red Line’ and built his first-ever Suzuki Cultus car with a 1.6-litre engine that gave him the perfect power to weight ratio for the races.
There, he entered the Pakistani racing community and had a chance to meet the king of drifting – Ahmad Daham – who was visiting the country. “At that time, I thought that one day I’d be drifting on the same track with Daham,” he recalled.
He moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for further studies where he continued attending different car racing events. That too was a lifetime experience for him where he watched the equipped cars and professional racers which further lightened this passion.
His continued efforts to pursue his dream started to pay a dividend as he managed to modify his car by saving money from his food and tuition fees with the help of his mentor ‘BullZai’, a Malaysian racer. Azhar used to borrow cars from his mentor, who also helped him modify the car, to practice.
After five years of hard work and dedication, Azhar’s glory moment finally arrived as he managed to achieve what many other drifters are still dreaming about, qualifying for one of the biggest drift championships in the world – the Oman International Drift Championship (OIDC) 2022.
With several car drifters present in the country, this is the first time a Pakistani driver would participate in the OIDC. The championship was scheduled to be held in 2021 but with the rising number of Covid-19 cases, the organisers had to postpone it and now it is set to begin on January 20, 2022.
Azhar believes that his participation will generate a lot of interest for motorsports in Pakistan.
“It is important to understand how international motorsports works and this is a step in that direction,” he said. “As a Pakistani, it is a huge moment for me and for all of us. This is a new step for all of us and I am sure this will motivate others and enhance the passion of the youngsters who are still wondering whether they can pursue their dream professionally. This is a powerful platform in the world of drifting. Going overseas in an international championship is just huge and I am excited.”
Azhar also aims to do his best and is optimistic about finishing at a good spot with the help of his mentor.
“My mentor is also my teammate,” he said. “So, I am lucky to have his guidance as a mentor and spotter, which will be crucial. Our goal is to do our best realistically. We have set our goals step by step. However, we aim to give the best performance out there as much we can.”
Despite becoming a professional car drifter, Azhar still primarily remains a fan of car drifting. For him, it is still a dream to share the track with the likes of Daham, something that is about to become a reality at the OIDC.
“The level of drivers there is crazy,” he said. “Driving against the best drivers like Daham, James Dean, Sebastian Fontijn, and many more is a huge moment for me. We have been working on it for the past two years. We have prepared the car and sent it to Oman and I hope to go there as soon as I can and get more seat time.”