On her best days, Nabila Tejpar would rather drive 100mph, as her car glides through the trees, scattering gravel and throwing a dirt cock’s tail.
Tejpar, 27, a 2011 graduate from Saint Stephens Episcopal School in Bradenton, had made a name for herself as one of the few women in the world of international rally racing in Europe until the COVID-19 pandemic hijack sport in 2020.
As she prepared for a race in Ireland, she received the call that the rally season had been cleaned up due to the pandemic and that she was told to return home to Essex, England.
It was a brutal break from a career that included participating in the British Rally Championship in a Ford Fiesta in 2016 and 2017, and the title of British Women’s Rally Champion in 2017 and 2018. Later she drove a Peugeot 208 R2 at events in Spain. and Portuguese. She also drove a Proton, a car made in Malaysia.
When it became clear that the pandemic wasn’t going to end anytime soon, she returned to her family in Lakewood Ranch to start sorting out her options for the future.
âI focused on physical training, finding other avenues to explore and keep a sharp mind. COVID taught me that you have to have back-up plans, âshe said.
Tejpar would like to get into rallying in the US and is working on developing sponsors. The US National Rally Championships are scheduled for March.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Rally Association advises that it is working with event planners and local and state officials to determine all options regarding upcoming events.
âWe thank you for your patience and for staying home and staying safe,â the association said on its website.
Most Americans are not as familiar with rally racing as they are with NASCAR or drag racing. In rally races, drivers race on closed or paved roads through forests or towns. The timed race is done in stages, from 2 to 50 kilometers. There is a co-pilot or navigator in the front seat, who may be called upon to change a tire or perform other maintenance during the race.
A driver whose time is not competitive in one stage may be able to compensate by being faster in other stages while still winning the rally.
âRallying in America today can be compared to football 30 years ago: a global phenomenon that is not as well known in the United States. I plan to change that, âTejpar said.
âSport is a glorious and charming thing, made of noise and aggression,â she said. âThere is nothing like it. “
His father and grandfather, Indians born in Kenya, were also rally racers who moved to the UK around 30 years ago.
âI dreamed of being a racing driver when I was a little girl,â she said. She had her first practical experience while still a student at Saint Stephens.
âI fell in love with it and realized that was what I wanted to do,â she said.
When she told her mother, Riz, and her father, Aziz Tejpar, owners of Environmental Biotech, that she wanted to be a rally driver, they laughed and said, âIt’s not really a career. , is not it ?
But instead of blocking her ambition, they insisted that she graduate from college first. She received a Bachelor of Science in International Business, Entrepreneurship and Management, with a minor in International Relations from American University.
âMy mom said a deal is a deal, so she let me start competing when I was 21,â Tejpar said. Over the past five years, she has taken part in around fifty races.
Back in the United States, she tells herself that she enjoyed her time in Saint Stephens, learned a lot and developed as a person after leaving the British education system. She is also impressed with the development of Lakewood Ranch while racing rally races in Europe. Another benefit of being back in Florida in the winter is âsoaking up the sunâ.
Bernie Yanelli, a faculty member at Saint Stephens, is not surprised at the path taken by Tejpar.
âHaving taught Nabila American history and economics at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School over a decade ago, I’m not at all surprised by her rather unique form of achievement. Even then, she possessed inner motivation and a sense of determination – two traits she inherited from her entrepreneur parents, Aziz and Riz, âsaid Yanelli.
âOver the past few years, Nabila has also been very generous with her time, frequently serving as a guest speaker in my economics class and keeping my students engaged with her many remarkable accomplishments,â he said.
To learn more about Nabila Tejpar, visit her website www.nabilatejpar.com and her social media pages. To learn more about rally racing, visit https://www.americanrallyassociation.org/ and https://www.fiaerc.com/.
This story was originally published January 9, 2021 at 5.15 am.