Jess Shanahan on how to get paid to race

Jess Shanahan is the ultimate definition of a female boss. At the age of just 30, she’s run magazines, edited several blogs, ran a successful racing team and – to top it all off – created a brand that is going from strength to strength.

Racing Mentor is a tool that is designed to help people from all backgrounds of motorsport. Whether you’re a budding PR or wanting help with sponsorship, Jess draws on her own experience to deliver you results.

Having gone from writing books at a very young age for fun, Jess now has a work of her very own published.

“I wanted to give drivers a more well-rounded view on what it takes to get sponsorship,” Jess tells Females in Motorsport. “It’s not just about sending a really pretty proposal document to a business that‘s relevant to what you’re into; it’s about building a profile for yourself and creating a status as an influencer.”

‘Get Paid To Race’ is the one-stop guide to become the best marketable racing driver you can become.

“The books starts by showing a driver how to build their profile – mainly by using social media and press coverage,” Jess says. “It then helps you to establish your niche and explains how to develop that. The book then goes into how to identify your sponsors and how to pitch to them.

“It also looks at how to maintain a sponsor, so you can hold onto them so they grow with you. The whole idea is to build such a big brand for yourself so companies eventually come to you.”

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The cover of ‘Get Paid to Race’

With all of her experience working in motorsport media, Jess understands the importance of getting the sponsorship process right. It’s not just about sending a well-designed proposal document; you have to build a reputable brand for yourself.

“When you take that proposal document to someone, they already know who you are, they’re already rooting for you, and they already think that you can do great things for their business,” Jess says. “It’s about teaching racing drivers the same business skills they may use if they were trying to sell a product.”

Racing Mentor was founded just over two years ago with one goal in mind: to help people become the most successful versions of themselves. It all started when Jess was running Turn Eight Racing. She had drivers approaching her asking if she could help them source sponsorship. Having found success for a few people, Jess realised that she couldn’t help everyone.

“I set out to create something that would help more people and teach them the business skills needed for them to pick up that sponsorship,” Jess says. “I just want to have more people think like businesses, get sponsorship, and get on track.”

As Racing Mentor blossoms, Jess has ambitions to run another racing team in the future.

“I want to maybe dip into that in 2019, and then do something bigger the following year,” she says. “I have a big vision of running a multi-car race team where I can subsidise talented drivers with the sponsorship that I’ve brought in and teach them to do the same.

“When they get to the level of where they need to bring in big sponsorship, they’re able to do that. It needs to be a process of the driver looking for sponsorship – however large – and I want the team to be able to do that.”

Jess understands that this is a big project but knows that it could be very successful.

“In the first instance, it would be at a grassroots level to test the concept and bring some sponsorship onboard,” she explains. “From there, we can maybe gain a Racing Mentor foothold higher up the ladder and keep on climbing. It’ll definitely be a progression rather than an all at once thing. I love the idea of the drivers progressing through the ranks and teaching them as they go.”

And the championship she’d like to run a team in? Well, the Citroen C1 series has caught her attention.

“The grids are massive and the cars are cool,” she says. “The Mazda championships generate good racing too. The next year coming is going to be a big research year with me working out what works best with my audience and the drivers.”

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Jess at the Motorsport Days Live event where she launched ‘Get Paid To Race’

Jess is also very knowledgeable when it comes to social media. She’s utilised her own expertise to make sure people in the industry are making the most out of the likes of Twitter.

“You need to get excited about using social media,” Jess says. “So if you only have time for one, then make the most of it and maximise your activity. If a driver knows that their target market is based on Twitter, then you should try there. It all depends on what works for you and how you can utilise each platform.”

While it may sound daunting at first, motorsport is renowned for being a tough industry. That’s why Jess thinks that you should never give up on your dreams.

“Motorsport is an incredibly competitive world, although there are avenues out there that people don’t necessarily look at,” she says. “If there’s a series you want to aim for, never give up and never let anyone tell you no.”

Whatever the future holds, Jess just wants to keep on reading the success stories that have happened.

“It’s amazing that the book is helping people and I can’t wait to see what happens next,” Jess says. “I started this because I wanted to see people succeed. I want to share my knowledge to help people. It’s lovely that I’ve been able to turn it into a business, but the best thing is reading the feedback.”

You can buy the book here.

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky: “Red Bull and my team feel like family”

Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky’s road to success has been full of twists and turns. After a difficult couple of years, a last-minute drive in the 2018 Scandinavian Touring Car Championship – STCC – saw the Swedish driver bounce back. With a race win this season and a top 10 championship finish, Mikaela is more determined than ever to achieve her goals while maintaining a happy and healthy state of mind.

Despite being from a motorsport-orientated family with both of her parents, her grandfather and brother all drivers, Mikaela recalls having no interest in racing when she was growing up. In fact, she “resented it”.

“I didn’t want to go with my brother to the karting races he had or go to the rally in the town where I grew up in Sweden,” she says.

However, this all changed when her brother went to sell his kart.

“As his little sister, I was used to getting his old stuff,” she says. “I remember sitting at the table saying “hey, I should get the kart!” – I don’t know why I said it, but I know that I protested to get it. In the end I got it and went karting. I also liked it, after all!

“I was never pushed or forced to start motorsport, so the passion that I have for it has been founded by me. That’s important.”

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Mikaela and her team via http://www.mikaelaracing.com

Since discovering that she was fast in a kart, Mikaela decided to follow the path that led her to touring cars. While it wasn’t an easy decision for her to make, she felt the cost involved in single-seaters was too high.

“It was quite obvious for me as I knew that if I wanted to go racing I would have to finance it myself with sponsors,” she says. “Looking at the prices in single-seaters going all the way up to being a paid driver is huge. Touring cars are expensive, but it’s not on the same level in my eyes.”

2018 has seen Mikaela flourish with PWR Racing. With one retirement out of 12 starts, she has proven her ability to be consistently quick under race conditions. To top it all off, she won the second race at Sweden’s most prestigious track – Karlskoga Motorstadion.

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All smiles via http://www.mikaelaracing.com

“It’s been my best season to date,” she says. “I wasn’t certain that I was going to race this year and it really was a last-minute call that I would be the fourth car in the team. Up until March, the plans were all up in the air. I’d had two tough years previously, and I just wanted to have some fun this year. If I didn’t enjoy it, I knew that I would stop at the end of 2018.

“I had a fantastic time with my team and we worked with a step-by-step plan for each weekend. I wanted to finish in the top 10 and I finished 10th overall. I do wish that it would’ve been higher. I never dreamed of a win, though.”

After months of uncertainty, Mikaela’s win has been made official. After the race back in August, an appeal was made by another team about the exhaust system on her PWR car. Two weeks ago, the appeal was dropped and Mikaela’s win stands.

“I knew from the start that I deserved that win,” she says. “There was nothing wrong with the exhaust system and I knew that there was no advantage to be gained from it. From my side, I knew that on that day and in that race, I was the quickest. I had the most consistent laps and I didn’t make any mistakes – I had a great race. I’ve always seen myself as a winner in that round, despite what the ruling could’ve said. Now it’s all finalised, it’s relieving and I’m happy that I have the win back.”

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The power of motorsport via http://www.mikaelaracing.com

Although nothing is confirmed for 2019, Mikaela is adamant that she will be back out racing again, with the end goal of making it to the World Touring Car Championship – WTCR – when the cars make the switch to electric powered engines.

“My goal is to continue in the STCC with PWR,” Mikaela says. “In the future, I want to go into the WTCR when they make their switch to electric cars.

“They will be different as they will be rear-wheel driven, but if I continue with PWR then they know what I’m like as a person and how I work so they will support me. If we get a plan together then I’m 100 percent certain that we’ll make it.”

Mikaela headed to Spain a couple of months ago to take part in the first FOA women drivers assessment programme test.

Ran by the FIA Women in Motorsport initiative, Mikaela tested two types of machinery, including a single seater. Accompanying her were 14 other drivers, including Tatiana Calderon, Jamie Chadwick and Christina Neilson.

“I loved how supportive the other girls were,” she says. “We had lots of chats about our experiences as we’re all in different forms of racing and it’s not that often that we’re able to talk to each other. A few of my friends back home try their best to understand what my life is like, but they never get the full picture. It was fun to be able to discuss racing with other girls and exchange our different experiences.”

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Having fun – Mikaela and other drivers at the FIA test via FIA.com

Mikaela also maintains the importance of programmes that the FIA is working on in the bid to try and get more females involved in motorsport.

“The work that they’re doing – in particular the Girls on Track – to get more females into motorsport is so good,” Mikaela says. “I always get asked why there aren’t more girls in motorsport, and media campaigns and initiatives have a big impact. They show that women can be in motorsport and we can be as good as and if not better than the boys.”

However, Mikaela’s opinion is more divided when it comes to the new female-only W Series that will take to the track next year.

“It’s a good way for women to get into motorsport if you don’t have the budget or means to get into a mixed series,” she says. “You can show your potential in a single seater too.

“In my opinion, it won’t solve the problem of getting a female F1 driver. There’s so much more to racing than just winning one race and one championship. That’ll take you one step closer but that isn’t necessarily enough. You need to physically prepare for a big series and you need the full package, equipped with a good mentality and the right contacts.”

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Mikaela and the other ladies at the FIA test day via fia.com

2016 and 2017 were difficult periods for Mikaela, and she isn’t afraid to admit it. A constant source of pressure meant that racing became too much and a step back was needed. However, the 25 year-old has learnt from her past experiences to ensure her mental state is on par with her physical.

“I lost myself during those two difficult years,” she says. “Things got very big in such a short amount of time. I got lots of partners and it all got incredibly serious. It got too much for me to be able to handle. When I got stressed, I lost the joy of what I did. Like in all disciplines, you need the time to rest – I didn’t have this. I was constantly on the go. I’m a lot stronger now and, more importantly, I’m a lot happier.”

Her journey means that she knows motorsport isn’t always an easy ride and, despite the difficult times, she doesn’t want people to “feel sorry” for her and instead wants people to learn that it’s okay to “lose sight of your passion”.

“The road to success isn’t the same for everyone,” she says. “For some people, just having motorsport all of the time is their route. I learnt that this method wasn’t mine as it didn’t work out. For me to succeed, I need the balance and to have down time with friends and family. It’s okay to have a different way of living your life within motorsport. The same method doesn’t work for all of us.”

Now, Mikaela is a member of the Red Bull Family and they work together as a partnership. She speaks highly of them, and describes Red Bull and her team PWR as being a family.

“With Red Bull and my team, it feels like they’re my family,” she says. “I enjoy coming into each race weekend or event because I can be myself. I feel so comfortable. It’s vital to me to have fun otherwise I won’t produce the results. It’s all about balance.

“When I was really down last Autumn, I didn’t think that Red Bull would continue their partnership with me. They told me that they believed in me and my strength and talent. It was Red Bull and PWR who kept me going in those times. Red Bull are doing some amazing things that are really out there. If you have a crazy idea, they listen. They may change some things but they’ll always try and make it happen.”

As her plans for next year get finalised, we look forward to cheering her on!

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The ladies behind the all-female endurance racing team

An all-female racing team will enter the competitive 6 hour Ford Fiesta Endurance race which will take place in Ireland next month. The ladies will represent females in Irish motorsport as they make history and become the first women only team ever to compete in the event at Mondello Park’s international circuit.

Women in Motorsport Racing will be made up of four formidable ladies – Emma Dempsey, Ruth Nugent, Aimee Woods and Nicola Watkins – all of whom have previous racing and motorsport experience.

This event is one of the highlight’s on the Irish motorsport calendar, with ex-Formula 1 drivers among this year’s competitors.

Who are the ladies that will be racing?

Emma Dempsey is no stranger to racing, and has strong motorsport links in her family. Her father was a successful driver – Cliff Dempsey – and now Emma is following in his footsteps, making a name for herself. After a break from competing, Emma returned to the fast lane this year. She works as a mechanic on her father’s racing team, preparing the race winning single seaters.

Ruth Nugent has been a dedicated motorsport marshal for over 12 years now, volunteering at many motorsport events. In her first year of competitive motorsport, she finished in the top 10 of the Irish Ford Zetec Championship, where five rounds were held across Mondello Park and another Irish circuit.

Aimee Woods is a driver instructor at Mondello Park and has competed in various championships throughout her life. Like Emma, she was born into a motorsport family and her father is a successful racing driver.

Completing this highly experienced team is PR manager Nicola Watkins, who has raced in the Irish Ford Zetec Championship since its launch in 2013. Prior to that, Nicola commenced track racing in Irish Strykers.

This racing team will be prominent in the fight to encourage more diversity in the sport.

“To have the very first team of females enter this six hour race means so much to all of us as drivers,” Emma Dempsey told Females in Motorsport. “We are supporting one another on our journey and hoping that this continues into the future. We will be up against some of Ireland’s greatest racing drivers, so know it’s going to be a tough battle, but it all comes down to getting to the end of the race with no drama.

“We all get on really well and have great personalities in our team. We’re out to have fun and to try do our very best.”

With the ladies all familiar with motorsport paddocks, they’ll give their competitors a good run for their money while celebrating the ever-growing number of women that are now competing in motorsport.

The team will showcase their talent at the 6 hour Ford Zetec Endurance Race which takes place on Sunday 4th November at Mondello Park.

Meet one of the world’s fastest female rally drivers

“I love driving a car as fast as possible on a closed road with no oncoming traffic or distractions – there’s no feeling quite like it!” Emma Gilmour, one of the world’s fastest female rally drivers, tells us.

“Add into the challenge of gravel and slippery surfaces and the feeling of dancing a car through acceleration and braking is unbeatable…”

New Zealand-born Emma Gilmour made her rally debut in 2002 at the Targa Bambina. Since then, she has been impressing with her skill and determination to take on some of the toughest rally stages in the world.

Through competing in FIA (the International Governing body for Motorsport) sanctioned events like the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, she has been able to net some excellent results while running her very own car dealership.

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Photo via Emma

In 2009, she finished second in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship and has been recognised as the ‘top female rally driver’ at World Rally Championship events.

“I started co-driving for my sister, and then I finally had a go at driving and was hooked,” she says.”I think people are still surprised when they find out my passion. I think it’s regarded as a dangerous sport, but the horse riding I did before motorsport is much more dangerous.

“Our cars are built very safe and we take a lot of safety precautions. Driving every day is probably more risky!”

Emma has lots of brilliant motorsport memories and she has so “too many great rallies to choose from”. However, the WRC Finland will always hold a place close to her heart for “it’s truly special because of the nature of the roads and the passionate spectators”.

She competed in the Finnish event in 2006, where her and Claire Mole won stages in the Ford Fiesta – it was also the first event that they had ever competed in together.

“It was a very special event and I really hope to compete there again in the future,” she says.

The rally driver also regards desert racing as a favourite of hers, especially competing in Qatar, a place far from her home on the other side of the world.

“Desert racing in Qatar is has to be a highlight,” she says. “It was hugely challenging and so different to what I normally do. I can’t not mention doing the X Games in America as part of the Red Bull Global Rallycross series as a fantastic moment too. It was also hugely special.”

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Credit: Phil Walter

But, like with all sports, rallying can have a downside too. The engineering that goes into the cars is complex and a simple fault can spell out disaster for a competitor.

“Having to rely on a mechanical object to show your true ability is tough,” she says. “It can be so heartbreaking to be having a great event and then for something to break on your car.”

Emma also points out that the smallest of mistakes can lead to big repercussions, as you can pay a “big price for making a tiny error”.

Aside from this, Emma is adamant that women can be as competitive as men when it comes to rallying – Emma herself is a great example of this. “We need more women starting out in motorsport,” she says.

Despite being in the rallying game for over a decade and a half, she’s certain that there’ll be lots more motorsport adventures to come.

“I still want to compete in the WRC again – ideally in an R5 car,” she says. “I know I am a much better driver than the last time I competed in the WRC.”

This year she has been one of only two women competing in the New Zealand Rally Championship, where she is currently sixth in the standings with one weekend to go.

We wish Emma the best of luck!

What it’s like to attend your first Formula 1 race

Since the age of just 10 I had endlessly dreamed of attending a Formula 1 race. I wanted to experience the sounds and smells first hand and, more than anything, I wanted to cheer on my heroes as they put everything on the line. 

This time last year, I was in the midst of experiencing the best weekend of my life. It was everything I had expected and more. Special. Something to cherish forever…

Monza is the temple of speed, the grand prix to attend if you’re looking for an electric atmosphere – fast corners, long straights, and the formidable Tifosi, it has it all.

A bold statement I’ll admit, but I am not exaggerating here. As an avid Formula 1 fan, it was everything I had ever hoped for and more. Even now I can’t stop smiling, reflecting on my time in Italy. Besides, it’s no secret that Monza was my first ever live grand prix. And what a weekend it was!

I attended with my dad – a lifelong F1 fan – on general admission tickets, and we based ourselves at the second Lesmo on the Saturday and Sunday. The views were better than I had expected, considering we hadn’t paid the extra for a grandstand seat.

Saturday morning came and we left our apartment near the city centre early – 0530 early – and already it was raining. The day was tough, but came with rewarding results.

The weather forecast said the rain would stop by mid-morning. Unfortunately, it didn’t. This resulted in very little on-track action and the Formula 1 qualifying being postponed continuously.

I was frustrated, and I couldn’t cover that up. I had been looking forward to the event for so long and was met with a torrential downpour which resulted in everyone being soaked through, with no race cars.

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Dad and I, absolutely frozen and just a tad damp

By half past three in the afternoon, the majority of people that were sat on our stand had packed up and gone home for the day. I was tempted too, but I hadn’t come all that way for nothing. I was going to stand with wet everything until a decision to delay qualifying until Sunday morning was made.

I am so happy that we stuck it out. Watching the cars run in the wet is something that will stick with me for a long time. The spray coming off of them was unbelievable – the skill those drivers have is undeniable. I was in awe. This is when the drivers earn their money.

So, as we stood in the now eased off rain, getting sprayed by Lewis Hamilton’s ferocious path, I was more content with the day had ended up. Having walked 10 miles that day, and now being the very proud owner of several blisters, I was very thankful when we reached the warmth of our apartment. But, rest assured, I was damn exciting to do it all again the next day. Just right after I’d had a pizza.

We were at the track by half past seven the next morning and already the queues to enter the gates were long. The atmosphere was fantastic, a sea of red waiting in line to access the autodrome. We got talking to a young couple from Ireland who were somewhat grand prix veterans (already). I was sad not to get their name as they were so friendly, making me excited for my race weekend adventures to come!

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Our stand early Sunday morning

At  0800 we were in our seats, to the left of the big TV screen at the second Lesmo. Again, the view was spectacular for the tickets we had. I was expecting to only get glimpses of the cars through the trees, but no. We had a view of the cars as they came out of the first Lesmo and down the straight and then the entrance to the second Lesmo.

The rest of the day was like a dream. A utopia.

The GP3 race was enthralling – I wasn’t expecting the cars to sound as good in person. Being a part of Dare To Be Different, it was wonderful to see fellow a member of Susie Wolff’s initiative –  Tatiana Calderon – have an excellent race.

The wait for Formula 2 zoomed past (pardon the pun). We chatted to a couple from the States who were also attending their first grand prix. With them was their five-year-old son who was absolutely dumbstruck at the racing cars. He especially liked the safety car which he called the saviour car. A year on and I’m still certain that the name could stick!

Alas, F2 was brilliant. My dad who hadn’t even followed it until now remarked upon how exciting te racing was. And that’s a fact you can’t deny – the racing the series provides in fantastic.

Thankfully, we weren’t the only ones watching. The crowds in the surrounding seating areas were beginning to get into it, which is good to see. By this point, the everywhere was rammed.

By the time the F1 came around, I was nervous. I was scared that I wouldn’t enjoy it as much as what I did watching it in my living room. What if I didn’t like it as much? What if this, what if that.

Now, I can’t believe for a second that I doubted myself.

The sounds and the smells, the vibrations and the atmosphere all left me tingling. I had a buzz inside of me; F1 is a part of me. I smiled throughout the whole race (except when Max Verstappen picked up a puncture in front of us) when I was, truthfully, lost for words.

They were my heroes pushing everything to the limit, right in front of me. I still regularly think about it now – the feeling of elation watching the battles unfold right in front of you. The exact sensation is hard to pinpoint, yet all I know is that you feel exhilarated.

I couldn’t believe it when the race came to an end. I struggled to process that 90 minutes had passed. Immediately, I wanted to rewind and watch it all again.

When we left our stand I was physically shaking. It was the adrenaline, all of the excitement I had been feeling. But, it wasn’t over.

 

We took advantage of the open track post-race and walked anti-clockwise back to the Parabolica. It was hot, sweaty, but I savoured every second and every step. The track itself was immensely busy with fans and it now had a carnival-like atmosphere. People played music, celebrated and took endless photos.

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Walking the track post-race

I left that track having covered 23 miles in two days. I had blisters on blisters, sunburn and hat hair, but I knew that I had just had the best 48-hours of my life. I said to my dad that I was emotional and he understood. He knows what a massive part of my life F1 is.

Being an avid fan that weekend was phenomenal. I cheered, I wore merchandise and never wanted the experience to end.

So, thank you F1 and thank you Monza. You have made a million memories that I’ll have forever more.

 

Claire Williams: “We’ll keep fighting until we get there”

Growing up, Claire Williams – deputy team principal of Williams Racing Formula 1 team –  spent her weekends knocking the pens from the stationery cupboard at the Williams factory, her father’s place of work. Her and her brother would swing from the chains suspended from the ceilings in the race bays, creating a zip wire from one end to the other. Little did she realise that she would be running the very same team a couple of decades later…

“My dad was very clear that nepotism wasn’t a word in his vocabulary,” Claire says, thinking back to her childhood. “I had no thoughts about even coming into Williams or Formula 1. It was very much my dad’s world and so my parents made that very clear to their children. It wasn’t on my radar that I would end up having a career in motorsport.”

Claire grew up in a world that was heavily orientated around Formula 1, with her father, Sir Frank Williams, being the owner of one of the most successful F1 teams in history. Subsequently, she grew up around the driver, although was still starstruck by Ayrton Senna.

“When I was in my teens, dad decided that I could choose one race a year to go to by myself with him, which was such a treat,” she says. “I chose Hungary and I’d gone into my dad’s room in the hotel one night to say goodnight to him. I was in my pajamas and Ayrton Senna was standing in the room.

“First off, I was horrified because I had a major crush on him. Secondly, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I rather embarrassedly said goodnight to my dad and scuttled off out. I’ve had a number of experiences fairly similar to that and I am very lucky to have grown up in the world that I have grown up in.”

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Claire and her father, Sir Frank Williams. Credit: RaceFans.net

After studying politics at university, Claire was stuck with what to do. A meeting with the CEO of Silverstone Circuit proved successful and Claire secured a job as a junior press officer. After a period there, she joined the Williams team where she has remained ever since. After managing the communications department, she has now been the deputy team principal since 2013.

In that time, the team has had its ups and downs and Claire isn’t afraid to talk about the situation that they’re in at that moment. She isn’t proud of it – that is evident – but she is optimistic that they will recover.

“I think people feel a state of shock as to what has happened and how and why it’s happened,” she says. “But, there is still a really strong fighting spirit within this team. We’re very lucky in that we’ve got some very clever and hard working individuals here, that all have that Williams spirit – continuing to fight and push, and not letting what is happening on the race track stop their hard work or downplay their determination to turn things around.

“We have to remember that yes we’re in a pretty terrible position right now, but last year we were fifth, the year before that fifth and before that we came third two years in a row. Sports teams go through troughs. If we allow ourselves the pity party of feeling sorry for ourselves, then we aren’t going to get out of this. We have to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and have an absolute focus and determination to resolve the situation that we’re in at the moment.”

Regardless of the results this season, Claire is adamant that the highs make all of the lows worthwhile. In 2014, the team had some of its best success in recent years, and finished third in the constructor’s standings.

“We did an enormous amount of work in 2013 when the team was in really bad shape to turn things around and we left no stone unturned to do it,” Claire says. “And that was my first year in that role, and for whatever reason, it all miraculously came to us. We were going to the podium regularly and celebrating, seeing Valtteri and Felipe up there and that was fantastic. We ended the season on the double points scoring race in Abu Dhabi, where we were still fighting with Ferrari for that third.”

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Claire signing autographs for fans

Claire was one of the team principals who voted in favour of the double points scoring system  at the last race of the season, a decision that fills her with mixed emotions.

“When I got on the plane, and for weeks before, I was like why on earth did I vote for that now that we’re in the situation?” she says. “If we weren’t in that situation, we would have taken P3 at the race prior to that one.”

“I remember the nerves, I remember feeling sick that we could lose this – P3 is a massive achievement from P9. It was a really big deal for us and we did it. It will only be usurped by a championship win, a race win as well, but that seems very far off these days. I try and keep that in my memory, so that it reminds me how success feels and why you need to keep working towards it.”

While the team aren’t where they’d like to be out on track, they are working hard to ensure that they are supporting females in motorsport.

“When I first started 16 years ago at Williams, there was only literally a handful of us,” Claire says. “Even in the jobs that are traditionally thought of as jobs for girls, a lot of blokes were doing them. Now, we have a hundred or so of our staff, which is a seventh of our team, as female. That’s a significant turn around in what’s been a very short period of time.”

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Credit: Motorsport.com

Williams run a number of successful apprenticeship schemes and placement opportunities, and last year, the number of female applications outweighed the number of male applicants they received.

“The only way to keep achieving that, and to keep inspiring those people, is to have role models across all different disciplines within Formula 1 and our team,” Claire says. “We have ambassadors within Williams that go out and talk to girls in school, secondary schools and in tertiary education to try and encourage them to take the STEM subjects required to go to university and then to take the engineering degrees. We take our role in that really seriously.

One of the initiatives that I’m involved in is Dare To Be Different, which is a fantastic campaign that Susie Wolff set up with the MSA. it specifically targets females and tries to inspire them to think about motorsport as a career. That’s important. We are seeing a lot of success from the initiative. A lot of girls are now seeing and thinking seriously about motorsport as a career.”

In 2014, D2BD founder Susie Wolff made history for Williams when she became the first female to participate in a grand prix weekend since 1992. This was a moment that filled Claire with pride, despite the criticism that the team had received for their decision.

“I actually shed a tear which is very unlike me; I felt really proud,” Claire says. “We had people suggesting that it was a marketing ploy. I’m very clear on that: motorsport is dangerous and we’ve lost drivers in this team. We take our driver safety extremely seriously. I would not put a driver in our race car that I didn’t feel was competent at driving it and driving it safely. That would just be lunacy.

“Women are risk averse, so I am the last person to make that kind of decision. I was enormously proud and I think that she did a fantastic job. Susie is a real trailblazer for women in motorsport.”

If the opportunity came up again for a woman to fill a Williams race seat, Claire “wouldn’t think twice if the woman had the track record”.

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Susie Wolff, Felipe Massa and Claire Williams. Credit Keith Barnes Photography

Ending on the future for the team, Claire knows the hard work required to get Williams back to their heydays.

“You don’t get to 10th in the championship without having a lot of issues to address,” she says. “We are slowly and methodically working through them to make sure that we repair the weaknesses that we have in the team. We still have huge ambitions within Formula 1. We have to get the team back to where we need it to be and where we want it to be – that’s winning races again and that’s not the work of a moment. We are all realistic.

“Formula 1 is a very different environment to even two to three years ago. It is very difficult to win these days. To get us back to that level underneath the top teams of Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes, that’s our ambition for the next two to three years. It’s going to be a hard piece of work to get us there. But we will, because we won’t give up. We’ll keep fighting until we do.”

Amna Al Qubaisi: “I feel so proud to be the first female driver from my country”

Written by Giulia Scalerandi

Amna Al Qubaisi. This name be beginning to sound familiar, for a number of reason.

Not only is the 18-year-old making a name for herself on the race track, but Amna holds the accolade of breaking down stereotypes as the first female competitive driver from the United Arab Emirates. 

Currently, Amna races in the prestigious Italian Formula 4 Championship for the prestigious Prema Powerteam. This is her first championship in racing cars after karting and she is already racking up impressive results.

At the latest round at the infamous Monza, Amna secured a P16 and a P17 after starting 27th on the grid in both races, showing her speed and ability to overtake.

Females in Motorsport caught up with her to see how she was fairing in her first season of cars and where her drive comes from.

Amna, how are you preparing for the rest of the season?

Unfortunately, I didn’t race at Paul Ricard, however I’m always ready. I do lots of training in the gym. Then there’s some testing at my home track (Yas Marina Circuit) to keep the rhythm and the feeling of the car fresh in my mind.

Before taking to the Italian F4 grid, Amna raced in the second round of the UAE X30 category Seniors and in the Dubai O-Plate category Shifters finishing in third and fifth position in the races.

The 2016/17 season saw Amna competing in various countries and in various categories of karting: Italy, Arab Emirates and Germany. Amna scored a spectacular podium in the 5th round of IAME X30 and in 11th round of UAE RMC in Yas Marina Northern Circuit. 

Back to cars, Andria was her first round competing in a single-seater.

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Credit: Prema

Adria was your first race in the Italian series. You had a 12th and a 16th place finish with over 26 cars on the grid, how did you find the weekend?

The race weekend was very good since I had the pace and I was forth in Rookies and second before I ran out into the run off area at a fast corner. However, I was on the podium too. It wasn’t expected, but Adria’s results gave me an extra boost, experience and confidence for the next one.

You come from karting: how it’s been difficult to drive a kart, then a racing car?

Comparing the kart to the car, it took me a while to adapt to the car, because it’s a whole new world. Moving up from karting to single seater is a natural shift in motorsport and I’m enjoying every moment behind the Formula 4 wheel.

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Credit: Prema

Why did you choose an Italian championship as your first car experience? You are driving for Prema PowerTeam: how did the agreement come about?

Choosing the Italian championship was a big decision, since it has the biggest grid, but it came naturally. Italian F4 visits some of the most prestigious circuits, so it’s brilliant to race there.

Abu Dhabi Racing and Kaspersky Lab have a long term partnership and I would like here to thank Kaspersky Lab for giving me the opportunity to make it from karting into Formula 4. Prema is the best team in the championship and I am so blessed and honored to have the chance to drive for the team.

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Credit: Prema

Although you’re the only girl in the championship, what is the relationship like with your male colleagues?

It’s quite normal to be fair and I haven’t been treated differently. We get along very well and I’ve got used to being the only girl in a race track.

You’re also the first female driver of your country: how do you feel about that?

It’s never happened before so I feel so proud and I’m completely satisfied and happy to make this step as the first and hopefully not the last.

Where does your passion for racing come from?

It’s all come from my dad, supporting him in his races, hearing him talk about different race tracks around the globe and meeting different drivers was a complete awe inspiring to me. Now I live and breathe it!

Final question for you, what is the goal for this season?

The goal is to always keep the pace since it’s my first time and to always finish in a good position.