Catie Munnings: “My focus is always on improving.”

At the age of only 18 years old, Catie Munnings became the first British person to win a European rallying title in 49 years when she triumphed in the FIA European Rallying Championship Ladies Trophy in 2016. Since then, she has been shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Sportswoman of the Year, been named a 2017 UK Brand Ambassador for Peugeot and worked alongside Susie Wolff with the initiative ‘Dare to be Different’. We asked her about her career so far and her advice for youngsters looking to follow in her footsteps.

Catie has never been a stranger to motorsport with her father having raced throughout her childhood in rallying. “I used to go to work with him and sit in the rally cars when I was very young,” she told us. “He had a motorsport entertainment company when I was growing up, and I was always involved in that – even though I never drove a rally car until I was 17”.

Having first driven a rally car in her late teens, Munnings’s first experience was in the same year in Morzine, France when she drove in a 208 R2 (rally car) in a Peugeot test. Speaking of it she said she was “straight in at the deep end… with fresh air drops off the side of the road” adding that the feeling of it was “amazing”.

Catie immediately fell in love with all aspects of rallying. “The adrenaline is much more for me in rallying than racing,” she explained. “There is so much spontaneity in the driving and car control to adapt to changing conditions.”

[]AUTO - ERC CYPRUS RALLY 2016 Catie collecting her Ladies Trophy, credit: FIA European Rally Championship[/caption]

In her first year of rallying, Catie won the FIA European Rallying Championship Ladies Trophy which came as a shock even to her, describing it as “phenomenal”. “I never expected a title like that in my first year in the sport,” she said. “I always compare my results to the boys, I was very pleased with my progress that year to get that title”.

The European Rallying Championship works slightly differently to other series of motorsport with a trophy being awarded at the end of the season to the best performing female, hence the Ladies Trophy she won. However, it is clear Munnings has her sight set on the overall title, and beating the boys.

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To further add to Catie’s achievements in 2017, she was also shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Sportswoman of the Year. “It is great to see motorsports up there with mainstream sports, and to be getting the recognition on behalf of the sport is really important,” she said.

“The more we can do individually to promote the sport, the more it will grow, and the more opportunities there will be. The other contenders were very inspirational, it was an amazing night full of dedicated athletes, and it was a real privilege to be there.”

Although she is immensely proud of such awards, Catie must now focus on the future with the aim of always improving from her last event. “This year I have not had a full budget for things like testing and tyres, and in the end, this really makes a difference. But we have been exceeding our, and our team’s expectations in terms of progress, so we will carry this on to next year,” she told us.

Having achieved so much at the age of only 20, Munnings felt it was important to get involved with ‘Dare to be Different’. Asking her how proud she was, she said: “Very proud! It’s a great organisation and I have seen many girls’ mindsets change in just a day, now they have launched in Germany too I really think this will open the eyes of the next generation to the possibilities in the industry, irrespective of your gender.”

“]@catierallye1 Munnings with D2BD founder Susie Wolff, credit @Catierallye1

She also has some advice for those young girls she hopes to inspire with the initiative. “I would say contact your role models and mentors and ask for advice, join your local motor club and start where you can,” she said. “When you are mixing with like-minded people, the opportunities will open up, and your experience will grow. Rallying is all about experience, in every aspect of the sport, not just the driving, so getting as involved as you can will really help…. and dream big!”

Catie Munnings is proving that no matter your age and gender, you can succeed if you have natural talent and the right people around you to guide and advise. With a long career ahead of her, Catie can only go onto bigger and better things and that includes winning the overall European Rally Championships in both the junior and senior categories. She is a brilliant role model for all and through her role with D2BD hopes to inspire the female rally drivers of the future.

(heading picture credit: Redbull.com)

Anna-Maria Gittins: “It is a reality that women can compete with men”

Doing PR for a Formula One team is a tough job with short deadlines and high pressure. But PR and Communications is even harder when you have several races over a weekend with some being in different time zones. This is a reality for Anna-Maria Gittins who works for Theodore Racing. We spoke to her about her career, working with many of Ferrari’s junior drivers, and being a woman in a series outside of F1.

Having only started watching racing in 2012 whilst trying to avoid doing her homework, Anna-Maria had a random story behind her love of the sport. “I was meant to be doing homework for school, and being a typical teenager, I thought ‘oh what’s on TV?’ So, I was watching it and started really enjoying it,” she described. “I really liked Jake Humphrey and he was on the BBC and I wanted his job. I thought it was the coolest job ever, travelling the world and being able to do a job that you enjoy”.

Although it was originally F1 that got her interested in motorsport, Anna-Maria soon found that the lower series provided more entertainment. “It’s not that it’s a lot better,” she explained, “but there’s more action and drama, overtaking and competition in the championship. I started finding that more interesting than F1.”

Now working in PR for Theodore Racing, Gittins started in the way that many others do. “I started emailing loads of people, anyone and everyone in motorsport,” she said. “I was just trying to find someone who I could ask for work experience for the summer after I finished my A-levels in 2014. I didn’t hear anything back and so ended up going to Budapest for GP3 and was trying to find some work experience then and it was quite tricky because not many people were interested.”

Having tried to get work experience, Anna-Maria decided she “couldn’t go into motorsport” until her former boss got in contact. “I was actually in a Tesco car park when my old boss phoned me and asked if I wanted a job,” she told us. “I started off doing an internship, doing everything really, and after 3 months they offered me a job. It was probably a bit of a gamble for them, and I guess maybe I hit it off with them.”

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Her role for Theodore Racing is officially communications and PR, but being in a small team means often she has to do other jobs. “My job is mainly the press side of things but I sometimes end up doing other bits and bobs because it’s not like a massive F1 team,” Anna explained. “It’s quite good because every day is different, which I love, but then sometimes I think I really need to take a step back. It’s a bit crazy, but the craziness and stress are what keeps you going and motivated and if you didn’t enjoy it, you wouldn’t do it.”

Continuing, Anna-Maria described how hectic a race weekend can be for her. “When I look at my calendar, I have about 95 races this year. Some weekends I have double or even triple races, which can be difficult because I do the social media and sometimes it can be in different time zones.”

Working with Theodore Racing and Prema means Gittins works with many of the drivers in the Ferrari Young Driver Academy, all have been selected because the Italian team see them as potential F1 drivers for the Scuderia Ferrari team in the future. We asked Anna-Maria who has impressed her most since she has been working there. “Well, the number one would be Charles Leclerc,” she said. “He was my driver last year and him going to Sauber F1 was quite obvious for us at the team because he’s just got it. He’s got the personality, obviously the driving skill, and really down to earth, he’s probably the most down to earth person I know. It’s quite hard to pinpoint one because all of my drivers are ace.”

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Anna-Maria alongside F2 champion and now Sauber F1 driver, Charles Leclerc

 

“Another driver in the lower categories that is doing a very similar thing is Marcus Armstrong. He’s again, a lovely chap, and probably one that you’d look out for in the future. He’s got the personality and the driving skills, so it will be interesting to see what he does this year in Formula 3. All of my drivers are great. We also have Mick Schumacher who is also good.”

She was very complementary of all her drivers saying: “they all have a joke and are all the same at the track, there’s no arrogance” “they all respect each other and respect me and the whole team, which is always nice”. Continuing, she added: “what is really brilliant is with the Ferrari Academy, they all stay together, they all make friends with each other and they (the academy) make sure they have everyone around them that they need. They are never left on their own to feel homesick.”

Her first love was broadcasting, and was something she always wanted to do, so we asked whether this would be something she would still like to do. “I wouldn’t rule it out,” Gittins told us. “A part of me still wants to go into broadcasting, but I’m quite happy with what I’m doing at the moment. A lot of people tend to go from PR to broadcasting because it’s quite progressive and flows easily because it’s similar in some ways.”

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Anna-Maria is also a proud member of Dare to be Different saying: “I saw it through social media early on when it was starting up and I thought it sounded quite cool. I thought it would be nice to see what other people wanted to do in motorsport and make a community.”

“I think some people would be surprised at how many women work in motorsport, but I think this is why D2BD is great because it showcases all the youngsters as well as all the people who already work in motorsport, and brings them all together to help each other.”

She also had her say on Carmen Jorda’s recent comments. “It’s a shame for someone like her who is a driver herself to make that comment because it’s like ‘why are you bothering then?’ if you don’t think you can achieve that dream. And it’s not a dream, because it is a reality that women can compete with men,” Anna said.

We finished by asking her about the advice she would give to others. “Don’t give up, and there’s always going to be a stereotype, but I think that’s dissolving quite quickly, so you should never give up on your dreams. Ultimately if that’s what you want to do, then definitely go and grab it,” Gittins advised, adding: “networking is such an important feature, and you should definitely not be afraid to email everyone, even though you think you’re spamming their inbox, just do it.”

Anna-Maria Gittins is only at the beginning of what is surely going to be a long career in motorsport. Whether she remains in PR or moves into broadcasting, we will have to wait and see, but her personality and journalism talent would certainly help her on the broadcasting side of the industry. However, for now she is enjoying working with some of the most promising young drivers and really honing her skills.

One to watch: Emily Linscott

At Females in Motorsport we love discovering young girls that are taking their first steps in motorsport. So, when a young lady called Emily Linscott starting following us on Twitter, we quickly realised how much of a star she already was.

Meet Miss Linscott. She’s 15 and already formidably fast, not to mention a multi-award winning racer. Although she only started karting in 2016, by August last year she was making her racing car debut at Rockingham. You can see why she’s had lots of people excited!

“I only starting liking motorsport once I’d started karting,” she told us. “My parents would watch MotoGP and sometimes an F1 race, but then a man called Dan Lee of Race Driver Developments came along and said if I wanted to go further in motorsport, not to go to SuperOne karts but to go straight into cars.

“We went to Snetterton in 2016 to watch and I loved them, from then on I’ve wanted to race them, and I’ve been planning my career ever since.”

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Credit: Jakcob Ebrey

But how did this new-found love of speed begin? A day out at a karting track in Essex was in fact what kickstarted Emily’s passion.

“My dad took me to Lakeside Karting one Sunday with a school friend and I enjoyed it,” she said. “I joined a development club after that and after just two weeks they said I should move up to their karting race academy. I did very well there and once again, Dan Lee (Brentwood Karting) said I should go open wheel to better my skills. Things seemed to be working out pretty good!”

Since that first adventure, Emily has been snapped up by Arden (their founder none other can Red Bull F1 boss Christian Horner) and their Young Racing Driver’s Academy, something she is incredibly proud to be a part of.

“I was totally shocked and surprised to learn they’d scouted me and asked me to join the
YRDA after such a short space of time,” Emily said. “We were asked to the Arden HQ to see their factory. When we got there, it was amazing. There’s three formula cars in their reception, one of them being a Red Bull F1 car! It’s so cool to see them up close, I’d never even seen one in the flesh before. They’re huge!

“Then both Jamie Horner and Steve Hutchinson came out to meet us. They shook our hands and then just spoke directly to me about what I’d done and how I felt about winning my first championship in my first year and things like that. They seemed to know a lot about me. We then got a tour of the building and the cars in the workshop, which was really cool. They then showed me where the drivers practice on their F4 simulators and offered me a go.”

Naturally, Emily was apprehensive but took this in her stride and the nerves played to her advantage.

“I was a bit nervous, as I’d never seen one before, I’d never even driven a computer racing game, so it was all a bit strange,” she said. “I got some awesome coaching and then they left me alone to try what I’d learnt, which went pretty well too. At the end of the session we talked about how fast I’d picked it up the that my lap times showed good speed and handling of the car…then they offered me a position in the YRDA as one of only 15 drivers worldwide!

“I’m just starting my second year with them and the training, the simulator work and the
mental approach is really starting to show through. I’ll be testing in an F4 car a few times this year during the season, so we’ll see where that takes me.”

Despite having achieved an awful lot in such a short space of time, Emily is keeping her options for the future open. She said: “Initially I was aiming for GT or LMP in the WEC, but I’ll wait and see what the F4 tests show. I’m expecting them to be incredible, so who knows, I may go down the Formula route after the Ginetta’s…”

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Emily at Brands Hatch with her Mum Samantha. Credit: Lee Fraser/Mat Acton

It was clear to see Emily’s passion from talking to her. Racing is now a bit part of her life and one of her biggest sources of enjoyment.

“It’s the excitement and thrill of pitting myself against others at speed, the added element of danger and the atmosphere of the paddocks,” she said. “Most of the drivers treat each other with a huge amount of respect off the track, even to the point of making good friends with them too, but when you get out on track, the friendship ends for that period of time and you’re all totally focused on the racing, not the people.”

Emily has already shown maturity in the racing decisions she’s already made. On top of this, she knows that being a girl in the industry still makes you a minority. Yet, she is keen to show that girls can dare to be different too and rightly doesn’t let her gender hold her back.

“If you want to do it, then just get out there and do it!” she said. “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t; you can. If I can do it, then anyone can. I was extremely shy but loved the idea of going fast.

“That’s it really, you have to show others just how much it means to you, in whatever way you can. It doesn’t mean you have to say it, you just have to work hard to prove it means something. It’s crazy expensive and my family aren’t what you’d call rolling in it, so my parents won’t just waste money on a whim, I’ve had to prove it really means something.”

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Credit: Jakob Ebrey

Why Emily is one to watch:

  • Emily won the BMKC Junior Championship in November 2016 having competed in just 6 of the seven rounds, finishing on the podium in every race.
  • Awarded the Buckmore Park Star Pupil 2016 – the first female to win the title in its 16-year history.
  • The Jack Petchey Foundation proudly awarded Emily for ‘Inspiration to young adults’ through her work and commitment to karting.
  • Highly Commended for Karting Magazine’s ‘Rookie of the Year 2016’ award.
  • Competed in her first Ginetta Junior Car Race in August 2017.
  • Finished 5th place rookie at Silverstone in the Ginetta Junior Championship Race September 2017.
  • Highly Commended for Active Essex ‘Young Sports Personality of the Year 2017’ Award from tens of thousands of young athletes.
  • Named as one of the ten finalists of the Downforce UK ‘Henry Surtees Teen Racer of the Year 2017 – awaiting the result any day now.
  • Recognised by ExquisiteConceirge.co.uk who have tipped her as an Essex Sports Start To Watch in 2018 .

 

Jamie Chadwick: “I will have to work as hard as I can to get to the top”

As the first female and youngest person to win the British GT Championship, Jamie Chadwick is fast making a name for herself in the world of motorsport. In 2017 she competed in the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship finishing 9th out 23, and is also known for competing in the Ginetta Junior Championship. We spoke to her about her career so far and her hopes for the future.

Like many racing enthusiasts, Jamie’s love of motorsport started at a young age when she “always liked watching F1 on the TV on Sundays”. Having spent some of her childhood on the Isle of Man she said: “I had petrol in my blood from a young age”, despite this, none of her family had any racing experience. “Although we used to watch it on TV and there was an interest we did not know what we were getting ourselves in to,” she told us. “We were not used to being involved in that environment and taking part”.

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Jamie Chadwick appearing on Sky Sports, credit: SkySports

 

Many drivers start racing from as young as 3 years old, but that was not the case with Chadwick. “I first went go-karting when I was 11 years old,” she explained. “I went down to my local track where my brother had been karting a couple of times before me. He would come home bragging how good he was and how he kicked everyone’s arses so I had to silence him and sibling rivalry kicked in”. The rivalry continued to spur her on until the “adrenaline rush” she got from racing around the track had her hooked, describing it as “the best feeling”.

Although Jamie admits motorsport started as a hobby and was not something that she initially dedicated all her time to, she began missing days of school through her commitment to karting, and at the age of 14, it became more serious. Speaking of this she explained: “it was only in 2012/13 when I won the Ginetta Junior Scholarship which gave me a fully funded season in the Ginetta Junior Championship. To have that fully funded and to work with a manufacturer like Ginetta really showed me that it could be a career and that was the starting point when I knew it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

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Now she has set her heart set on racing, there is only one aim. It “has to be Formula 1 as it is the pinnacle on motorsport,” she informed us. “I know it’s going to be extremely tough to be there and there are a lot of hurdles to overcome and it is a big dream, but I have to aim high and it’s the ultimate goal for any young driver”.

One of Jamie’s proudest achievements is winning the British GT Championship in 2015. “It is a big part of my career so far and a definite stand out point,” she told us. “I didn’t focus on the accolades surrounding it like the youngest driver and first female, I just set my goal on being the best I could be and winning as many races as possible.”

Chadwick admits she and teammate Ross Gunn “weren’t the favourites by any means” due to being so much younger than the other competitors. However, this meant they “went in with no pressure and expectation” allowing them to really focus and do their best, and eventually come out on top. Still a surreal experience, Jamie added: “to do it for a company like Aston Martin was really special.”

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Jamie with teammate Ross Gunn, credit: Aston Martin

 

But that doesn’t mean it’s all been easy. Speaking about the difficulties of racing she said: “there is a lot of disappointment in motorsport and a lot of things can go wrong” but for Jamie, this only makes the good times better. “When you get the perfect lap, it would be like hitting the sweet spot on a tennis ball to a tennis player, there is no better feeling,” she explained. “When you get it right and everything is hooked up and you taste success, there is no feeling like it.”

We finished by asking about the advice she would give to young people. Being only 19 years old herself, she knows what it can be like to grow up racing in a male-dominated sport. “I think the best advice is to go to your local kart track and see if you enjoy it. It is not a sport for everyone, but I loved it from the first time that I sat in the go-kart and the feelings I felt were incredible,” she told us. “I do not think that any other sport can offer that sense of speed and thrill”. She continued by saying: “if you feel the same way as I did then you will fall in love with it. The next important step is to continue working as hard as you can to try and make the dream a reality.”

Jamie Chadwick is a woman on a mission when it comes to succeeding in motorsport. Her addiction to the ‘winning feeling’ means she is immensely dedicated and motivated. She is hoping to be the first female F1 driver to start a race in over 40 years, and possibly the first to win a World Championship in history. She is realistic and realises that it will be a huge challenge, but for every young driver it is always a dream and for some it becomes a reality, so why not for Jamie?

 (heading picture credit: Autocar)

 

 

 

 

 

Pippa Mann: “It’s still a boy’s playground”

Pippa Mann knows first hand what it’s like to be an IndyLights race winner, Indy Car  competitor and, in addition, one of the most successful female racing drivers ever. But, just how does this correlate to create a strong female who is an inspiration to us all? Thick skin is just the beginning of it all…

“For a female of any age coming into motorsport, you do have to understand that you are walking into what still is in general a boy’s playground,” the IndyLights race winner told us. “You have to be able to ignore a certain level of noise and be prepared to work harder to get the same level of recognition.

“There will always be people trying to tear you down, but there will be people out there who want to help you succeed, and who want to help you get there, those are the people you want to pay attention to, and align with. But, for the rest of it, you’ll have to grow pretty thick skin.”

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Credit: Jame Price for Prestige Performance 

Pippa is right to dish out the advice, having experienced paddock life first-hand for a number of years. From karting, Pippa has worked her way up through the ranks and is now a well-established racing driver.

“It’s interesting,” she began, “while my second year in IndyLights in 2010 was obviously a good year, and it did launch me into my first Indy 500 the following season based on my results on the ovals, it was still just a ‘good’ year by another driver in IndyLights.

“Here in the US we’re more accustomed to female athletes having success on the race track, so a girl winning a race, being on the podium, finishing in the top 5 of a championship is not necessarily viewed as a ground-breaking achievement. And perhaps it shouldn’t be? If my name was Phil Mann, we would simply say I had a pretty good year, and leave it at that. That’s a description I’m comfortable with.”

From that, it must be recognised that Pippa has been more than just a racer.

“While I’m proud to be a female athlete, I view my achievements as a racer who hasn’t been full time in a racing car in a long time, and who does the best with the opportunities that come up.

“I have engineers and so on that actively want to work with me when I put opportunities together – that tells me I’m doing something right.”

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Credit: Pippa Mann

But where has this motivation come from? In a competitive world, nothing is ever easy and Pippa knows that all too well. But, as she explained, the determination is in her blood.

“The drive to succeed comes from my mother,” she told Females in Motorsport. “She’s a strong business woman, and I’ve definitely inherited her no-nonsense, get things done attitude and determination. Beyond that, it comes from deep inside me personally. I always want to do better, to run better, to put up a better result.”

Yet, like everyone, Pippa is not a stranger to those days where things can seem impossible. When talking to us, she explained that there’s still a difference between a woman having a bad day, and a man having a bad day. She said: “As a male racer when you have a bad day, you’re just another racer having a rough day. As a female racer when you have a rough day, suddenly a million morons think you represent every single racer of your gender who is currently racing, who has raced, and who will race after you.

In addition, these bad days can turn into bad periods where you begin to doubt much more than just your racing ability.

“Sometimes there are entire bad years,” she said. “There have been occasions in my career where I’ve wondered whether I will be able to keep racing – either whether I’ll be able to find the money to keep going, or when I’ve just rock bottom confidence so I wonder whether it’s worth keeping going.”

Pippa even acknowledged that the off-days have become harder to deal with due to the ever growing popularity of social media where people have the ability to watch your every move.

“Everyone with an opinion now has the ability to reach you, interact with you, and share their opinions with you directly, or simply about you, to as many people as they possibly can. As a female racer, there’s a level of this that someone like me attracts beyond what most male drivers of the same standing get,” she explained. “It’s a tough sport. Having an innate ability to grip your teeth, pick yourself up and stand tall for another round is key to being able to continue to compete, let alone succeed.”

As this is Youth in Motorsport month on our website, it was only right to ask Pippa about the three projects she is currently involved in to help young females get involved in motorsport. Pippa told us that she is the founding member of Team Empower TopKart USA team, which aims to help support female racers under their awning at major kart races in the US.

“The idea is to foster an environment from an earlier age where it’s women encouraging women and we’re helping to lift each other up. We’ve had a couple of racers who were part of that in 2017, and we’re hoping to do more of that in 2018.”

Pippa is also a member of the grant committee on the Lyn St James Women in the Winner’s Circle Project Podium fun: “Lyn was the second female racer to qualify for the Indy 500, and she has been committed to helping other female racers follow in her footsteps,” she said. “Her foundation awards grands each fall to female racer in the US who are showing outstanding talent, and she tries to mentor some of the top recipients personally.”

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Credit: Lucas Oil School of Racing

Finally, since the Autumn she has been involved with the Lucas Oil School of Racing. They set up a Scholarship Pippa’s name for young female racers who want to make the first step from karting to cars.

“I already work there as an instructor,” she said. “The idea is that when we’re running a two-day basic school for people who have never driven an open wheel car before, we try to keep one spot open for a scholarship student.

“These racers are selected by sending us their racing resumes and a cover letter. The panel and I go through them, and we pick racers who we think could use a reg up on the ladder.”

This is perhaps the closest to Pippa’s heart, with it being so personal to her. Since its founding, it has already helped several racers.

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Credit: Pippa Mann

“We have our second recipient coming through later this month, and then two more racers in February, and one more in March,” she said. “We’ll be reviewing the applications again as we head into the summer, and then into the fall as this year’s karting season starts to wind down, looking for the next batch of racers we can help.

“This is designed to help those younger racers understand that as women n this sport, we need to be helping and uplifting one another. We can all play a part in that. The ultimate goal is to help form relationships for these racers so that I can become a resource for them as they move up the ladder.”

 

Isla Mackenzie: “I’m the first woman to work in my department”

Williams are well known for having a large female work force, especially with Claire Williams in the Team Principal role and Sophie Ogg as their Head of Communications. Though some areas of the team have seen fewer female employees than others. Isla Mackenzie spoke to Females in Motorsport about her experience at the Oxfordshire factory.

Although now working with a highly successful Formula One team, the Scot never set out to work in motorsport. “Originally, I just wanted to be an engineer on the oil rigs offshore,” she told us. “I saw that Motorsport Engineering was an actual thing as I didn’t even know you could study that. I thought ‘oh god, that looks really good’. I’ve always had modified cars, so I applied for that and joined in the second year for Motorsport Engineering.”

Even after enrolling into the degree, the plan wasn’t to work for someone else, particularly such a large company. “The original plan was to do that and then do engine tuning and start my own business, which I did do a bit on the side, but everyone else on my course were applying for jobs and I thought ‘oh well I’ll try’ and somehow ended up at Williams!”.

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Photo of Williams’s HQ taken in 2012

 

Nevertheless, Isla still isn’t quite sure how she ended up at one of the most famous racing teams in the world. To add to the unconventional story, Mackenzie never intended to go into F1 if she was to work in the sport. “Well, I really wanted to go into rallying,” she explained, it seems that a series of events lead her to doing her job and now she can’t imagine doing anything else.

As a technician at Williams, Isla Mackenzie works in the Prototype and Test department. Speaking of her job, she said: “it’s basically R&D (research and development) … I’m based at the factory, but I did get to go to Silverstone and Hungary (last year).” Despite Williams’s reputation of having many female employees, this particular department had never hired a woman. “I’m the first female that’s ever worked in the department,” she described. “But they are all really, really nice to me.”

This is not to say Williams isn’t as we thought, as Isla explained. “Williams are very good at taking on ‘grad’ students and they take on quite a lot of apprentices. There’s 3 apprentice women so that’s good (in engineering).” In fact, she was particularly complimentary of the ‘family feeling’ at the factory. “Williams is such a family team, you always see Frank in reception and Claire (Williams) or the drivers in the canteen. Everyone’s just walking about and is really approachable. A lot of people in my department have been there for almost 30 years, so once many people are there, they stay because it’s such a nice company.”

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Team Principal Sir Frank Williams, with his daughter and deputy Claire

 

To go from studying at university to working for a 7-time F1 World Championship winning team may seem unusual, but the 23-year-old puts it down to one thing: “apply for everything,” she said. “Don’t look too much into the job description”. She thinks this is especially important for Uni-leavers, “to be honest everyone’s CVs are basically the same, so it’s about how you actually present yourself. I’m quite outgoing so that must be what caught their eye. Out of my whole class, and there was about 20 of us, I think there’s only 3 or 4 of us who have got jobs, the rest are still applying”.

Her ‘apply for everything’ philosophy proved dividends with her current role. “The job is never really what the description says,” Mackenzie explained. “I saw prototype and test and I thought ‘well I’ll apply for that anyway’ and now I have my role in the factory, I much prefer it to an engineer” showing that persistence and opening your eyes to other opportunities can really pay off.

That’s not her only piece of advice to others though, saying “don’t compare yourself, I was once asked if I thought I would have to work harder because I was female. I don’t want someone to expect me to work harder because I’m female.” Continuing, Isla also heard of a woman previously at Williams who worked her way up to a senior role. “A girl working at reception moved to the stores department, where she then went to be a technician in hydraulics. She worked her way up there and is now apparently in another F1 company’s race team. Teams are more likely to hire internally.” A key insight, this is proof that you cannot always expect to walk into your perfect role, and that getting your ‘foot on the ladder’ can be essential if you have big dreams.

To finish, we asked Isla about ‘Dare to be Different’, an organisation she is proud to be a member of. “It’s a small community,” she said speaking of D2BD, “all my friends at work are men and although they are great, its nice to have some girl support too”, she reiterated the delight at having like-minded females to talk to and who would take her seriously when others outside the sport wouldn’t.

At only 23 years old, and content with working with Williams, in the future we could see Isla Mackenzie herself working her way up to a senior role and continuing Williams commitment to promote women to the most vital positions and to produce excellent role models.

Sophia Floersch: “I want to win against the boys, that’s my motivation”

Germany are known for producing some of the greatest racers in history, boasting F1 world championship winning drivers and constructors. One person hoping to continue this is Sophia Floersch. A 17-year-old with immense determination and hoping to be the first female F1 World Champion, she is becoming a real contender to be the next woman to race in the series since Giovanna Amati in the 1990s. We spoke to her about her career so far and hopes for the future.

Although Sophia may be young, she has been racing since she was very small. “I came into motorsport with my Dad,” she said. “I did my first race when I was 5 (years old) near Munich, after that, I never really stopped. It was like a drug to me, you’re not able to stop it.” Despite starting from a young age, she spoke of how you never stop learning saying: “it’s like being at school because you learn everything. You go from small karts in karting, then in the formulas it just gets bigger and faster.”

As would be expected, there weren’t many girls when Floersch was learning her craft, however it turned out to be a major motivator for the German. “The reason I kept doing the sport was because at the track where I used to go at the weekend there was one older girl, who was 4 years older than me,” she explained. “It was nice because I had a friend there, we drove together and after the sessions we would go out. She was one motivation when I was 5 to 8 years old.” The value of role models and people to look up to is often underestimated but for Sophia, to see another girl also racing gave her the confidence to continue with what she loved.

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Sophia at a Dare to be Different event in 2017, credit: @SophiaFloersch

 

She really wants to be an example for others in the way someone was for her. This year Sophia attended the ‘Dare to be Different’ launch in Germany as a way of helping youngsters. Describing the experience, she said: “I love kids and one main problem with the sport is that there are not enough girls doing it. If I’m going to be in F1 one day, I also want to support little girls and show them that it’s also possible as a girl to be in F1.” It is clear that the highest series of motorsport is her priority, describing it as a “dream come true” if she was to get there, adding “I just need the right people in the right moment, enough sponsors to really make it, and a bit of luck. I really hope it will be as soon as possible.”

Nevertheless, at this moment her focus is on her education, meaning her plan to get to F1 in 2020 has had to be pushed back slightly. “I’m still going to school and I graduate in May next year” she told us. “I have a lot of exams and so we decided to do F4 again next year. If you do F3, you have to do it properly.” Unfortunately, Floersch just doesn’t have the time to commit to all the testing needed for Formula 3 in the 2018 season, though her commitment to education is something that others could learn from and is another reason why she is such a brilliant role model to younger girls.

@GeorgNolte
Sophia on the F4 podium in September 2017, credit: @GeorgNolte

 

Sophia also has some advice for those youngsters she wants to inspire. “Sometimes it’s really difficult as a girl in motorsport because there’s so many guys,” she explained. “You really need to have balls sometimes because there’s so many men who say it’s not possible for women because it’s a man’s sport. It’s all about believing in yourself.” “For me it’s always important to show the guys that I’m not girly on the racetrack but when I get out of the car, I’m a normal girl. I love painting my nails!”

But who are the people the German herself looks up to? Speaking about them she said: “my idol is Lewis Hamilton for racing, not just because he’s world champion! For me, I like his personality because he’s a cool guy, he’s just him. Then when he gets in the car he’s like 2 times faster than Nico Rosberg, I think it shows just how good Lewis is.” Outside of racing, she also looks up to Lindsey Vonn saying “I like her character and how she trains, I think she’s a good sportswoman.”

We finished by asking Sophia about her competitors and who she thought has the most potential to also make it to Formula One. “For sure Lando Norris,” she declared. “I think he’s going to make it, it’s not looking that bad for him. What he’s shown the last few years, especially this year in F3 was amazing. He really deserves it as well.” Continuing she spoke about the “whole package” you must bring including the ability to communicate well with a team, work with the media and perform on the racetrack.

@SophiaFloersch
Floersch alongside Lando Norris and Dan Ticktum, credit: @SophiaFloersch

 

Another driver she believes in destined for big things and who is aggressive in his performance on the racetrack is Dan Ticktum. Speaking of the Brit she said: “he’s very aggressive and he knows what he wants. I’ve known him since we were 12 years old and even then, he knew what he wanted.” She went on to reiterate that there are many good drivers who have the talent to go onto bigger things, though the 2 mentioned were Floersch’s biggest tips for future success.

Sophia Floersch may not be a name you’ve heard before, but she’s certainly a name you will hear more about in the future. Her determination, aggression and skill are what define her as an incredible racer and an exceptional example to other girls. She has already accomplished a lot being the first female to score points in Formula 4 and the youngest person to win a Ginetta Junior race, and she doesn’t plan to stop breaking records there. So F1 drivers, watch your back! The next female driver may not be too far away.

 

You can read more about Sophia on her website: http://sophiafloersch.info

( heading picture credit: motorsport.com)