“Disability doesn’t define us – we are so much more than that,” Anji Silva-Vadgama from Team BRIT
Anji Silva-Vadgama is a racing car driver from Northamptonshire. With an interest in cars and racing since childhood, there was a time when Anji couldn’t imagine her life without cars. That was until 2018 when she received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. With constant pain in her right eye and pins and needles down her legs, Anji found herself in a position where giving up driving seemed like the only option. Luckily, that didn’t last long, and after starting treatment for her condition in 2019, she found herself on the Rookie Development programme at Team BRIT in 2021.
Now a confident race car driver, Anji is showing people that no matter what disability or chronic condition you’re dealing with, you can still achieve your goals.
To find out more, Chapter Z caught up with Anji Silva-Vadgama to find out about her experience with Team BRIT and race car driving with MS.
In Conversation With: Anji Silva-Vadgama
Let’s start at the beginning; when was driving first introduced to you? You only joined Team BRIT last year, but when did cars or racing first become an interest of yours?
Driving has always been in my blood, my grandfather was one of the first rally car champions in Tanzania and my dad was a mechanic and also took part in banger car racing. I’ve grown up with cars and was lucky enough to see all sorts through my dad’s garage.
What is it about racing cars that resonated with you and made you want to pursue it?
I think for me it was more the message that Team BRIT brings to the table and the fact they give disabled individuals like myself a chance to race on a level playing field.
How did your diagnosis of MS influence your decision to join Team BRIT? What about the experience turned you to driving?
I actually stopped driving completely after I got diagnosed with MS. Seeing what Team BRIT has accomplished helped put confidence back into my driving and has allowed me to actually drive not only in the fast lane, but also on a personal level.
Can you give us an idea of what a day in the life of a member of Team BRIT looks like?
I guess it changes depending on what day it is, whether it’s getting ready for a race day or a track day. But I can tell you it’s always fun, yet serious when we’re behind the wheel of the car.
How did becoming a part of Team BRIT change your outlook on life and MS?
My outlook has always been positive but meeting other people through Team BRIT helped to concrete that positivity. I take each day as it comes. Team BRIT is changing motorsport and changing lives.
What advice would you give to someone else who is coming to terms with an MS diagnosis or something similar?
It doesn’t define who you are and it doesn’t cost anything to ask for help. I’m always here if anyone wants to reach out. I’m always there to listen, it’s how I actually got through my diagnosis by talking to a volunteer through the MS Society. That gentleman now refers to me as his adoptive daughter and I see him as my MS Dad.
Why do you think it’s so important for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses to see other people achieving success and with platforms for their voices to be heard?
At the end of the day, we are also human. Hearing things like “you won’t be able to do this”, then proving people wrong just makes you feel good. It shows that our disability doesn’t define us – we are so much more than that.
And, finally, as you’re a rookie driver right now, what are your goals with Team BRIT over the next few years?
The goal is to make it to Le Mans 24hr and be part of the first all- disabled team to get there.