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A 39-year-old woman from Barton Seagrave in Kettering is hoping to inspire and encourage other people to understand their own mental health, as she begins a journey to train as a racing driver.

Asha Silva, a service delivery lead for a major advertising firm, has become the latest driver to join Team BRIT.

Asha, who is originally from Newbury Park in London, was diagnosed with adult autism and ADHD a year ago, and hopes that her story will encourage others to seek help and understand the battles they face, whilst also encouraging more women into the sport.

Asha is embarking on a training programme with the team, joining as a rookie and racing in the Citroen C1 Series which begins at Silverstone this weekend.  She will join with three other team members with a range of disabilities.

Asha began to realise she may need support with her mental health after going through conflict with her family and temporarily losing contact with them.  She explains: “I became all consumed with the feeling of loss, and loneliness. It was stuck in my mind and I couldn’t move on. It was natural to feel this way of course, but I realised that this tunnel vision and inability to move on from a thought or feeling was something I’ve always battled with.

“I’ve also spent much of my working life struggling with traditional communications.  Basic emails will tie me up in knots and I will have to ask colleagues to talk to me about what they need rather than writing it down.  I also feel like my brain is moving at 100 mph a day, so each day is a struggle to hold myself back and regulate my feelings. 

“My wife Anji saw how much the loss of connection with my family was affecting me so arranged a referral through my GP and I haven’t looked back since.  I received a diagnosis of severe adult autism and ADHD, and although I’m a long way from a treatment plan, counselling, and understanding what is going on in my brain has helped me significantly. I’m also really pleased to say that my relationship with my family is better than ever.”

Asha has been a long-term lover of cars and racing, and describes motorsport as being “in her blood” as her grandfather competed in races in the African safari.  She would watch F1 with her father as a child and idolised Damon Hill and Michael Schumacher.

In 2021, Asha’s wife Anji, who has multiple sclerosis joined Team BRIT.  The IVF treatment she is undergoing, and the treatment for her condition made this difficult, so she paused her racing plans, whilst Asha steps into the driving seat.

Asha is one of two female drivers in the new C1 team.  She will race alongside Yvonne Houfelaar, a successful sim racer who has scoliosis.  They will team up with Steve Crompton and Noah Cosby, both paraplegic drivers.  Yvonne, Steve and Noah will use the team’s world-leading hand control technology to enable them to race as one team, against able-bodied drivers.

Asha continues: “To be honest, it feel like a dream that this is happening. I am a real believer that if you think big, anything can happen, and life has a funny way of making things happen if you believe.

“I’ve faced many battles throughout life, as a gay woman, and also as a woman working in a male-dominated industry.  I know that I will be in the minority in the racing paddock too, but I’m proud to be doing what I am. If I can inspire other women to get into a sport such as this, or to inspire someone who might think they could have a hidden disability to get some help, then that makes me really happy.

“When I received my diagnosis, it didn’t bother me that I now had a ‘label’ of autistic and ADHD, it’s given me understanding, and everything has made a lot more sense.  That has such a positive impact on the way you feel about your identity.

“We need to be more open about these issues to encourage people to speak up and speak out, and to give people the confidence to try something new. That’s what we’re about as a team, we want to encourage disabled people to get into a sport they may have assumed wasn’t open to them.  There is a whole world of talent out there that is getting missed – and that applies to women drivers, as well as drivers with disabilities.  It’s a male, able-bodied-dominated sport, but the door is now open.

“I hope my autism will actually be an advantage on the race track. My brain works so fast and I have a love of speed so there is a direct link to racing. I’m also hyper-focused on a job or subject in hand, so I know I will fully commit to understanding a track, the racing line, and everything I need to do to perform to my best.

“Longer-term, I want to get in the team’s Mclaren!  It’s incredible seeing how some of the other drivers have progressed, such as Bobby who is also autistic, and Chris who started racing in a BMW 118 and is now in a Mclaren GT4. I’m setting my sights high.”

Asha has her first race in the Citroen C1 series at Silverstone on Sunday 19th March.

“There’s a whole world of talent out there being missed” – Woman from Northampton set to inspire others as she follows a racing dream