Meet the man looking to bring motorsport to Pakistan

KARACHI: For a nation that seems to have its sporting attention fixated solely on cricket, the prospect of introducing motorsport may appear far-fetched.

And yet, that is exactly what Usman Ghani, the first Pakistani to gain a Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) Race License, is hoping to achieve. The 27-year-old is doing everything he can to open the world of professional motorbike racing to his country.

But perhaps more noteworthy is what has driven him to take up this mission. Sharing insight into his motivation, Ghani said that he diverted all his attention to the track when confronted by the most tragic moment of his life.

“In 2017, I lost my closest friend to a road accident,” Ghani revealed. “It happened right in front of my eyes, through no fault of his own. His bike crashed simply due to road conditions.”

Ghani had gained his FIM license that same year. “Although I had passed the assessment the year prior, I needed the results of my medical and drug tests for my license,” he recalled. “My friend’s tragic accident made me direct all my attention to the track.”

With his license in hand, Ghani embarked on a mission to coach fellow motorheads. “I coach for free and always help anyone that asks me a riding question,” he said. “Because I feel if I can teach someone something that’ll help them one day save their lives. That’ll be one way for me to reduce another loss to a family.”

In the three years since, Ghani has also won 10 Podium finishes overall – P3 in the last championship, and P3 in Rookie Championship in his first year. He also became the first-ever Pakistani who was able to strike back-to-back podium finishes in the SuperStock Championship based on piloting the MotoTech Yamaha R6.

Although he grew up in Saudi Arabia, Ghani said his heart had always been in Pakistan. Talking about his passion for motorsports, he said he and his elder brother inherited it from their father. “Both of them are petrolheads and growing, we had posters of exotic cars and bikes all over the house. I was also always involved in motorsports as well, whether I was simply watching an event or helping arrange one.”

In Pakistan, Ghani wants to change the stigma of bikers being ‘crazy and unsafe’, which he thinks is why the sport is looked down upon. “I want to portray a better picture of bikers in general and the fact that this is an exciting sport and if supported, it’ll take bikers off the dangers of road riding and into a safer world of track riding where they will learn, excel and be safer,” he said.

At the same time, he also wants to raise awareness about bike and road safety in the country in general. “Pakistani bike riders need to address safety. It is of paramount importance and the most basic starting point,” Ghani said. “Riding without a helmet or safety gear is not cool, appreciated or encouraged in this sport by anyone. Furthermore, doing dangerous stunts on public roads or between cars makes it dangerous for you, for others around you and puts a bad image to motorcycle riders in general,” he stressed.

On the future of motorsport in Pakistan, Ghani said it was necessary for the country to have its own racetrack. “I am more than happy to train, coach and teach riders here and help them get to international events and represent Pakistan. I would also be more than happy to support the cause and help design a track for Pakistan if there are other people interested and happy to explore the potential.”

He further added that one of his other dreams is to see Pakistani women in this sport as well. “I have trained and coached many female riders who now race motorcycles as well – and I’d love to see Pakistani females also putting on a helmet and coming to race on the grid,” he said.

Ghani is gearing up for the next season starting this weekend and aims to defeat his toughest rivals the 6X Champion Mahmud Tannir from Lebanon and Chris Dempsey from the UK. - Agencies