Hazel Southwell: “It’s incredible how much talent is in the motorsport field”

Before she made the switch to motorsport journalism, Hazel covered music, politics and humanitarian issues – a far cry from the Formula E paddock and other motorsport circuses that you’ll find the Londoner following.

If you’ve read any number of motorsport journalism pieces, then there’s a good chance that you’ve read something by Hazel Southwell. Her journalism is exciting, captivating and has you clinging to every word. She writes in a way that allows you to see topics in an entirely different light and explains concepts through original methods.

Why the switch, then? Well, Hazel had reignited her passion for all things fast and furious. Yet, there was an element of despair there. No one was writing the way she wanted them to write. So, she decided to have a go herself.

“In 2016 I took myself to the Marrakech Eprix during what was a pretty terrible period of my life, not really sure what I was doing if I’m perfectly honest,” she says. “I’d never been to Morocco, I’d never gone away totally on my own, and I had never gone overseas to a motorsport event before.

“I wouldn’t say it was trivial – I did things like having to walk from Menara airport across the city to the hostel I was staying in because every hotel, riad and cupboard was full of UN employees there for the COP22 conference. But I did it and I enjoyed it and I thought ‘fuck it, I’m going to do this, I’m actually quite good at this.’”

Hazel is a freelancer now, covering all things motorsport for a number of websites including Drivetribe and RaceFans.net. One of the things that makes her so inspiring is the raw account she gives to the reality of her career. Just because it’s motorsport, it doesn’t mean that it’s glamorous. For the majority of the time, it’s very far from that.

“I hate being forced to write pieces I know are objectively bad or boring,” she says. “Having spent so much money and time and effort barging my way into motorsport, I’m not going to let anyone shove me around. I know I can write, I know I understand digital editorial, I know I understand fans and how to make content for them and I’d loathe anyone breathing down my neck telling me what to do.

“It’s also extraordinarily badly paid. But I can swear in interviews and wear ball gowns at race tracks and to be honest neither of those are movable character traits, for me.”

Hazel documents her travels to all four corners of the world as she flies to cover Formula E. Ryanair and hostels were on the agenda once again, and that’s all part of the freelancer experience.

“I would say it’s really annoying having to pitch everything. I would love an editorial role – but there aren’t many of those and this way I get to write a huge number of pieces for a huge number of places,” she says. “This month I’m writing one for a sci-fi magazine, for instance, which is the sort of thing that having a diverse background gives me an advantage in.”

So why do motorsport journalism? It’s simple. It’s Hazel’s “lifeblood”. When Formula E came along, it quickly meant more to Hazel than it did to most – and that comes across in her beautiful writing.

“I’ve said this a few times but there has never been a moment in the history of motorsport, of any sport, where something so pivotal is happening,” she says. “Formula E’s technology has to transform the automotive industry or there won’t be one and we’ll all be screwed.

“If you’re the same as me or younger, so basically all millennials and post-millennials, then we’ve all been taught since primary school that the world’s ending and a decent chunk of that is down to cars. You’re told it so often it’s almost numbing. And it’s just delivered with this blase, ‘write it down in your copy books, we’re all going to die in about fifty years’ but without an answer.

“Formula E is, to me, for the first time, something that bucks that narrative. This is fast, dangerous, exciting hope. Hitting the streets and proving something in this fantastic dog fight – this sparky little upstart that dares to offer the chance of a future, if we can be brave enough into turn one of history.

“I get all teary-eyed talking about it because I’m a fucking nerd but honestly, I think this is an extraordinary moment and my god I hope it works.”

At the end of 2018, a once unthinkable event took place in Saudi Arabia – Formula E visited the capital for a race. Hazel was openly cynical about the sport she adores going there. She was familiar with their human rights situation, and she knew that – as a female journalist – it was going to be “beyond difficult” to take herself there. But, looking back on it now, she considers it as one of her favourite motorsport events that she’s covered.

“I get that a lot of people said it was a PR exercise but to be honest, it really wasn’t; it’s not like Formula E is the Super Bowl in terms of people suddenly changing their opinion of the country because it hosted us. It also wasn’t a compromised event – like when WWE went and only took male wrestlers and only men could watch.

“It was a mixed event, with the crowds full of teenage girls running around screaming about Jason Derulo (who played a concert, one of the first Western concerts in Saudi Arabia) and families and young men in Ferrari jackets over their traditional clothing. Westernisation isn’t always, by default, a good thing but this was a crowd genuinely enjoying the event and excited by the first event in their country of this type.

“There were so many women there and they’d spot I had a media lanyard and come over and we’d talk to each other through google translate. For the Saudis, it was a huge event – and I was really happy for them. Riyadh isn’t rich (Jeddah is the centre of commerce for Saudi Arabia) and it was just normal people enjoying normal things they’d never had access to. Again, I kind of tear up a bit about the whole thing.”

Hazel believes that we should be optimistic about the future of motorsport journalism and what it has to offer. While she’ll continue to give her readers a unique spin on races and stories, Hazel is adamant that there’s lots out talented writers out there.

“There’s some tremendously interesting stuff being done in new mediums like my friend Stuart, who does great videos explaining F1 as Chainbear,” she says. “I have so many friends who are brilliant this would rapidly turn into a list of shout-outs. But I do think it’s amazing, for a niche sport, it is incredible how much talent is in the motorsport field. Really, I am so proud to be part of it. “

Header photo credit: Lou Johnson

How to break into motorsport journalism

The media industry is a notoriously tough place to break into, and motorsport journalism is not an exception to that rule in the slightest. While there are no set formulas to getting your foot firmly in the Formula 1 paddock, we’ve spoken to a budding Spanish journalist to find out how she managed to get her first couple of FIA accredited races.

Sofia Tera has been determined to call the Formula 1 paddock her home for several years now. Since the age of just seven, she can recall watching racing on the television at home. Back then she preferred two wheels to four, but she says that the tables have turned now.

Writing quickly became a hobby of hers as she entered her teenage years, and it all stemmed from there.

“I cover mainly Formula 1, but one of my favourite motorsport series to cover is Formula 2,” Sofia tells Females in Motorsport. “I have always liked Formula 2. The racing is close and there are a lot of hungry young drivers that could become the future of Formula 1. It’s a very interesting and fun series that deserves attention.”

Sofia writes for a Spanish motorsport and motoring website, where she can be called upon to write anything from in-depth features to breaking news stories. During her time at CarandDriver.es, she has learnt to be versatile in her approach, a skill that she considers key when it comes to motorsport journalism.

 

Credit: Roksana Cwik

 

“It’s a very demanding job,” she says. “You have strange working hours since the racing activities take part mainly during weekends and you need to stay alert during the rest of the week waiting for news to create content. Therefore, you have to be versatile. Motorsport media consumes a lot of time every day and you don’t have a clear departure time because a big story could happen at any hour of the day. Also, you need to take care of your contacts and sources. Networking needs a lot of your time too.”

When looking at the key skills a journalist should have, she feels that it all comes down to being a good listener.

“A journalist needs good communication skills because you need to know how to ask the right questions to receive the answers you are looking for, but you also need to be a good listener,” she says. “People usually focus on how you have to talk, but it’s very important to know how to listen. Good knowledge of what you’re reporting about (motorsport in this case) is essential. Curiosity and interest are two very important features of a journalist too. And this might sound very basic, but a journalist needs to have a passion for the job.”

Being an international member of the press, Sofia strongly recommends being able to speak a second language – it has certainly helped her on her road to success.

“Speaking several languages is crucial in our lives, not only in motorsport,” she says. “Media is essentially all about communication, and you need to know languages to build relationships or simply ask questions. A lot of people think that speaking English is enough, but the need for speaking more than two languages is increasing everywhere. Motorsport is no exception with the big number of nationalities involved in racing all around the world. It has helped me to communicate and be more confident in general.”

 

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Sofia in the Formula 1 paddock

 

With the highs that come from landing your dream job, there are – of course – struggles on the way. Many people who work in the industry describe what a tough and challenging road it can be to getting recognised. But, it is important to not give up on your dreams.

“There were some critical moments where I was close to giving up,” Sofia says. “I felt I had nowhere to go and my situation wasn’t improving at all. I really thought all my effort wasn’t worth it. Media is a very difficult job, especially for young journalists because people usually don’t take us seriously. And I said, motorsport consumes a lot of your time. It’s really tough to make a living from racing. One day, I convinced myself that I had to keep on working. I am fortunate enough to write about something I like so much. Even if it’s demanding, I love motorsport. I can’t see myself having another job. It’s my passion and I really want to be in the motorsport world. I feel like that’s where I belong.”

With Sofia’s role, she has now attended three grand prix as press and two pre-season tests. Her favourite thus far has been the Italian event last year, and she describes the weekend as “magic”.

“The fans are great, the track is amazing and the last race had a lot of action and drama,” she says. I had the chance to see the podium from the media center and it was one of the most beautiful experiences. The fans on track, with all their flags and banners, the drivers celebrating, the atmosphere… It’s unique.”

Sofia has great advice for those wanting to break into the industry. She says that having your own blog is a good place to start. There you can find your own style while writing about things that interest you.

“A blog is good because you are the one who decides what to write about,” she says. “Once you have found and improved your style, you can write for websites as a volunteer. This may create bigger exposure for you as a writer. With hard work, people will begin to recognise your writing which can lead to the chance of writing for bigger websites.”

In order to be constantly improving your writing, Sofia says it’s paramount to read the work of other journalists who are already successful in the field.

“You need to read lots of articles and analyse what structures and tones they’re using,” she says. “You can analyse what works and try to add that to your skills. Of course, don’t copy, but create your own twist on things. I still do this, because your writing skills improve with every piece you read and write. You never stop learning, especially in journalism.”

You can follow Sofia on Twitter here.

The art of motorsport perfume

There are many avenues to find a route into motorsport and designing perfume is no exception. A niche idea created by Katie Forman has seen her brand grow with motorsport fans and enthusiasts.

Females in Motorsport got handed a sample of her work at a Dare To Be Different community event before Christmas. From that moment onwards, we fell in love with Petrolhead, a fragrance that promises – and delivers – to be bold and fearless.

“A couple of years ago, I had just had a hip operation from a sporting injury and was recovering on the sofa thoroughly fed up and decided to google: “how to make your own perfume in the UK”,” Katie tells us. “I came across The Cotswolds Perfumery and fired off an email asking if I could make a perfume, thinking it was a long shot and thought nothing more about it. But I quickly got a reply saying yes they could help and did I want to arrange a meeting. When I was up and driving again I hopped in the car and drove to the Cotswolds thinking I would make my perfume and come home again. How wrong I was!”

 

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The face behind the creation

 

By the time Katie got home from that first meeting, she’d turned a small idea into a plan for a big adventure – a perfume brand with a difference. ByKathryn had been made.

Once her niche idea was created, she set about brainstorming for her first product. Soon enough, Petrolhead was born.

“Our sense of smell is one of our most powerful and it can instantly trigger a memory,” Katie says. “When I wear perfume I am creating those memories and I wanted to create perfumes that were all about the vibe, the mood, the memory. Perfumes with attitude.”

With Petrolhead, Katie knew that she would be pushing the boundaries. It was brave, bold and unique.

“I thought it would be fun to take on one of the biggest stereotypes of them all; and because I am a Formula 1 fan and decided to call my first perfume Petrolhead – which means a car fanatic and is usually associated with men,” she says. “I thought: Why not take this and turn it on its head and create a perfume that was for women who write their own rules! But more than that, I wanted Petrolhead to reflect the motorsport world where men and women can compete together – as Petrolhead has citrus top notes and spicy bottom notes, with jasmine and rose in the middle I created a perfume designed for women but men wear it too. My motto is: if you like it wear it.”

Katie has been following Formula 1 for over a decade now. When she was younger, she used to compete in equestrian events. Surprisingly, she noticed how there were many parallels between the two sports despite them seeming very far apart to the naked eye.

“In equestrian, men and women compete together; gender isn’t an issue,” she says. “Although you were the one in control of the horse you relied on teamwork to get you there and months of dedication and preparation. One tiny thing could go wrong on the day and scupper your chances, but when it all came together and you succeeded the feeling was amazing, but it was more than just about you.

“When I discovered Formula 1 there was so much about it that resonated. The adrenaline, the danger, the quick-mindedness of the driver, the teamwork, the setup of the car, adapting to the weather and the circuit. I loved that motorsport was open to men and women – I was just sad that more women weren’t competing. But in the time since I have been following Formula 1 and started looking at the other classes, more and more talented women are moving up through the ranks. It has been wonderful to see.”

 

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Katie’s two perfumes: Padstow Rocks and Petrolhead

 

Her creation Petrolhead is all about writing your own rules and with that, Katie hopes to play a part in empowering women to achieve their dreams.

“I would like my perfume to inspire women to think “yes I can do that!” if they want to,” she says. “Even if there aren’t many women doing it. To question when someone tells them they can’t and to dig deep and see what they are made of – to dream big! 

“I have always worked and competed in fairly male-dominated worlds, but it has been important to me to keep my identity and femininity. I worked as a groundskeeper for a tree surgeon for a couple of years and I did all the heavy lifting and jobs the boys would do but I had long blonde hair and I wore perfume and makeup – not that it lasted long! I didn’t try to be a boy, I was simply me doing a job. Why make it more complicated?”

In terms of who inspires Katie to be pushing her own boundaries, she says Susie Wolff is an important role model to her.

“I was sad to see her hang up her racing boots but what she did, and indeed is doing with Dare To Be Different, for women in motorsport is brilliant,” she says. “In fact, I have started collaborating with Dare To Be Different and Petrolhead as we have very aligned missions although from very different start points.”

With that in mind, 2019 will see Katie working hard to design a new perfume creation.

You can take a look at Petrolhead and Katie’s other creations here.

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.

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.

 

Jamie Howe: “You have to love it and be prepared for the lifestyle that comes with motorsport”

F1 is hugely popular in Europe and we often hear how the new owners Liberty Media are keen to expand it’s fanbase in North America, however this doesn’t mean they don’t have an interest in motorsport. The USA boasts many championships and series in which drivers from all round the world flock to compete in such as IndyCar and NASCAR. Jamie Howe is one of the America’s most famous motorsport broadcasters and so we spoke to her about US racing culture and her career in the sport.

Many people who now work in the motorsport industry often speak of being brought up watching the sport, but for Jamie, that wasn’t the case. “I didn’t grow up around racing and my family wasn’t into cars when I was young,” Howe told us. It wasn’t until later that she became more familiar with the sport she would go onto work in but did admit “once I was introduced to motorsports, the bug bit me hard!” She had actually grown up intending to work in television, a vital part of her role now, though sports TV was never something she considered, having wanted to work in News. “Being in Atlanta I always thought it would be news-based television as CNN is here and I worked with their student bureau in high school,” she said.

@CapnSteve19
credit: @CapnSteve19

Her first role in motorsport came completely by chance when she was coaching a local swimming team. One of the parents worked in the industry and knowing Howe’s interest in TV offered her an opportunity. “A Dad with kids on the team worked in racing television and knew I was going to school for broadcast television. He hired me as a runner to come and work and see what really happens in TV,” Jamie explained. Starting as a runner, Howe worked extremely hard to impress her bosses and over the years managed to earn promotions and be given more responsibility. “I worked as a runner, then a stage manager, then a field producer, then a feature host, then a tape delayed reporter, then a live-to-tape reporter then eventually a live radio/PA reporter then a live television reporter!” she exclaimed. Jamie is proof that getting your foot in the door is crucial to achieving your dreams, especially if they are big dreams.

The way Howe describes her rise through the ranks may seem easy and straightforward, but it hasn’t always been the case. “The early days were the most challenging,” she described, “I was trying to prove myself as a worker and gain respect, all while trying to better my skills at the same time.” Though this journey has allowed her to experience all areas of the television industry including on-screen, production and content creation. Speaking of some of the roles she most enjoyed, she said: “I love the production side of the field and getting to see a story go from an idea to air, that is very rewarding. But there is nothing quite like live television and finishing a show or race with so much adrenaline,” Jamie told me.

twitterHaving not had an interest in motorsport as a child, throughout her career, Howe has had to learn a lot when it comes to the series she has worked in. To perform her role to the best of her ability she likes to make sure her knowledge is up to a good standard and believes this helps her when interviewing. “I have learned about each series as I have gone. There is so much behind-the-scenes that the viewer never knows but it’s all important to telling the story the right way. It’s an on-going learning process as the rules change and the technology advances,” Jamie explained to us. Learning as she goes helps, but she also has to study and make sure she has all the notes she needs. “I am a good student, I keep my work organized and take notes. I love talking to people and all of that helps me cover different series in the same season. The vernacular (language) is different but being there and being in the moment helps to keep it straight,” she said.

As an interviewer on site at races, many interesting people are competing and attend to watch the live event. Jamie has been able to speak to many interesting people saying: “I’ve truly loved interviewing almost everyone. If I have to narrow it down, I would say two people: Mario Andretti and Patrick Dempsey, both for the same reason: they bring so much notoriety to the sport but their passion is so clearly evident when they talk about racing. They truly love the sport, its people, and what it has done in their own lives. I get to talk to and interview so many interesting people and feel very fortunate for that,” Howe described.

twitter3Having worked her way up from a runner to her centre stage role now, Jamie was keen to share her advice for those hoping to work in the sport. “You have to love it and you have to be prepared for the lifestyle that comes with it,” she advised. “Being on the road is not for everyone and if you don’t think you can handle that or you don’t love it, then move on to another passion you have.” Jamie Howe is one of the US’s leading motorsport reporters despite not having an interest until early in her adult life. She is proof that you can work your way up the career ladder having started from the bottom as a runner. She fell into motorsport but has taken every opportunity and from those a successful career has blossomed. She is an example to everyone that getting your foot in the door can make a world of difference.

(all photo credits, unless specified, @ReporterJamie)

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.