Suzi Perry: “You can be saying hello and welcome and the whole show changes in your ear”

“I’ve loved motorsport since I was a child,” says Suzi Perry, reminiscing on how her passion first evolved. “It was always on at the weekends at home and I loved it. The passion for getting involved came in my early twenties when I took my bike license and my friends at the time were all bikers.”

Suzi Perry is a household name as far as presenting motorsports go. Her impeccable knowledge and love for all things two and four wheeled has enabled her to work in the MotoGP and Formula 1 paddocks for well over a decade.

“We used to go to British Superbike races and we used to watch it obsessively on TV,” she says. “It became ‘why don’t we do this’ and ‘why don’t we do that ‘and my friends would say ‘why don’t you go on television and do it yourself!’.”

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Photograph credit: SuziPerry.com

And that is how it happened. Having discovered this immense love, Suzi acted on it and made a phone call of a lifetime. “I called Sky, who at the time had the rights to the World Superbike Championship,” she says. “I called them for a chat, ended up going in and walked out with a reporter’s job in 1997. It was an extraordinary start to a career!”

Like anyone who has landed their dream job, Suzi remembers the immense feeling of joy and excitement.

“I remember walking out of the Sky offices in Middlesex and I just couldn’t wait to get on the phone and ring my parents,” she says. “I was beside myself with ecstasy. I just couldn’t believe that they’d offered me a job and that I would be working with bikes and on television. It was like someone had just told me that I’d won the lottery, but it was better than that. It’s gone on for 22 plus years.”

Since then, Suzi’s career has gone from strength to strength and even meant her hosting the most popular motorsport in the world for BBC 1.

“The moment I got a call asking me to do F1 was another defining moment,” she says. “It’s an enduring love that will never go away. It’s hard work, bloody hard work, but I love it. A lot of energy and work goes into a broadcast, despite talking about something you love.”

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Suzi with Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard, her two co-presenters for BBC F1. Photo credit: BBC

Although Suzi has worked in motorsport for over 22 years, the rush of excitement never disappears and that is the “beauty of live sport”, according to the presenter .

“It’s a combination of, I wouldn’t say nerves because I’ve done it for a long time, but there’s certainly excitement before and few deep breaths before the ‘hello and welcome’,” she says. “It’s great to have that buzz. I never turn up thinking ‘oh gosh, here we go again’. It’s always my life.”

One of the highlights for Suzi now is presenting with friends, which is a dream scenario for most people

“I’m at a stage where I’m working with my friends, the guys that I interviewed twenty years ago,” she says. “It’s heaven, it really is. No one has an agenda. I can honestly say that I’m in a team that pulls together, instead of one that pulls apart.”

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Photograph credit: Peter Fox

But, of course, there is always the tricky moments live on air. As Suzi explains, live broadcasts rarely run as planned despite rehearsal.

“You can be saying hello and welcome and the whole show changes in your ear,” she says. “Sometimes you haven’t even got to the end of your sentence and something has happened. That’s the beauty of live sport.”

Suzi compares her job to news broadcasting, because of its ever changing nature: “There’s nothing like doing live sport, except, now this might sound strange, but news broadcasting. You have to be instinctive and have your wits completely about you and be a hundred percent. You try to be completely switched on all of the time when you’re broadcasting because anything can happen.”

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Photograph credit: Mike Lawn

One of the most spectacular MotoGP races to date was in Argentina which took place in April. Although Suzi wasn’t there that weekend, she watched it unfold on television. Races this that are the ones where you bring all of your previous knowledge together to make a seamless broadcast for the viewers at home.

“It was something you don’t see very often, so you have to pull on all of your knowledge and wisdom,” she says. “As a presenter it’s not your job to give opinion, it’s your job to ask the right questions to your experts who are standing next to you. In some ways, it doesn’t matter what you feel, you just have to contain the passion in those situations and ask the right questions. That can be tricky sometimes, but when you’re surrounded by the right people, it’s good. It’s a wonderful job and I love it, but there are times when it’s quite difficult. “

Ellie McLaren: “I remember telling my Dad that I’d be one of those people that wore overalls in the pit lane”

Behind the scenes of every Formula One team there are hundreds of employees working night and day to ensure their team perform to their greatest potential. Even once the season begins, there is no rest for those back at the factory who are continuously working on new updates and developments to improve their team’s cars, and therefore their chances of podium and points finishes. Ellie McLaren is a Production Planner at Renault Sport F1 and having worked for Force India has a lot of experience in the paddock, so I spoke to her about working in F1 and how she started working at Enstone.

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Having loved motorsport as a child, Ellie even raced, following in the footsteps of other members of her family. “When I was 11 years old I started racing a Short Oval Junior Rod, following my brothers, father and grandad. I grew up around race cars and most weekends were spent at a race track. I remember telling my Dad that one day I’d be one of those people that wore overalls in the pit lane when watching an F1 race one Sunday afternoon,” McLaren told me. Although the sport had been part of her life for a long time and having always said she would work in it, it wasn’t until her early teens that she actually decided how she planned to do this. “I wanted to be a vet until I found out that motorsport college was an actual thing! I googled ‘Motorsport College’ for fun and I found Oxford and Cherwell Valley college in Bicester, Oxfordshire. I showed my parents and at first, they weren’t keen on the idea of me being so far away, but nevertheless my mum took me to an open day and I started in September 2009,” she said.

After studying for a BTEC National Diploma in Motorsport, and failing to find an apprenticeship in F1, she decided to begin a Foundation Degree in Motorsport at Oxford Brookes University. In her first year she needed to complete 40 hours in a work placement and after contacting many teams, managed to secure work at Sahara Force India. “It was a great experience,” Ellie explained, “I worked in various departments learning about the different procedures. In June 2012, I applied for a Trainee Composite Technician role that became available at the team and I got the job! I chose to leave university and start a full time working career at Force India.” McLaren spent 5 years working with the team, graduating from Trainee Composite Technician to Race Team Composite Support and spending over a year travelling the world with the team. “I travelled for 18 months, visited several races and finally got to wear my overalls in the pit lane! This was a proud moment for me, I’d achieved everything I wanted,” Ellie described.

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Wanting to progress further in her career, McLaren left Force India to join Lotus F1. Although the they were struggling financially at the time, she still decided to take a chance on the team. “In September 2015 I became a Production Planner. It was more responsibility and I felt there could be more opportunities for me to progress my career here. This all paid off in January 2016 when it was announced Renault were going to take over and we would become a works team,” Ellie told me.

“I am responsible for planning the manufacturing schedules for new design releases for the car. My main areas of focus are the front and rear brake drums, the fuel system, the hydraulic system and the engine and exhausts. I process a new drawing and progress that part to ensure build and development targets are reached. I enjoy working to tight deadlines and its rewarding when new parts get to the circuit on time. After an event, I manage the turnaround for my parts, brake drums will need repairing or replacing so orders need to be raised and any race team usages will need to be actioned to ensure they aren’t short for the next event. Every day brings a new challenge and that’s what I enjoy.”

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McLaren’s role no longer allows her to travel with the team, however she hopes this will change saying: “my role as a planner is completely factory based, however I have recently started my engineering degree again so there may be more opportunities in the future.” But for the moment, Ellie’s role as a Production Planner means she is based in Enstone with the off-season being her busiest time of year. “Car build is the busiest period in the whole F1 calendar! My working hours can be demanding and the number of new drawing releases and orders can double in comparison with during the season. The deadlines become harder to achieve, but when the car performs well in winter testing and reaches the track in Australia it makes it all worth it,” Ellie explained.

But as she says, when the team is successful it makes the hard work worthwhile, and during her time at Force India they had a fair amount of success, achieving multiple podiums. “Bahrain 2014 (was my best moment). It was my second race with Force India so still very exciting. Sergio Perez finished the race in 3rd place and the whole experience was so surreal! I can’t explain how happy and proud I was of everyone in the team. Being under the podium having a driver wave and thank you all was something I’ll never forget,” she described.

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Having worked for several years in F1, never giving up is what Ellie believes has helped her to reach her dream roles. “It was a big decision to leave home at a young age and progress to working in a male orientated industry but I don’t regret it at all,” McLaren explained, “some days were difficult but you have enough good days to outweigh this. I don’t get treated any differently to anybody else and feel very well respected in my job.” Having left Force India for Renault, wanting to continue progressing in her career, it is clear that Ellie McLaren has a hunger to get better and improve. She has now returned to her university studies with the aim of completing the engineering degree she left behind when joining Force India, so who knows which job she may end up doing in the future?

Charlotte Phelps: Behind the scenes with an F1 engineer

Deciding what career path to take can be tricky, especially when there are so many roles out there to choose from. At Females in Motorsport, we’ve decided to showcase as many different careers as possible, to help you decide where you want to go in the future.

For this feature, we spoke to Charlotte Phelps, a graduate Electronic Engineer with Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains. Charlotte is the first female ever employed by Mercedes HPP in her department, but that doesn’t stop her from thriving!

Can you describe your role?

Charlotte: I’m a graduate Electronic Engineer with Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains, working on the design, manufacture and test of the Mercedes F1 Hybrid System. As part of their graduate programme I will rotate through the various departments in the company, getting to experience every aspect of the engineering product chain – from design through to testing, as well as working with colleagues to solve any problems encountered trackside. This rotation enables me to find the place in the company most suited to my skill set, as well as where I most enjoy working. This gives me the chance to experience areas of engineering that I may not have had chance to experience as part of my university degree, but may excel at and enjoy.

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Charlotte at a BWRDC event

What was the path you took to get you where you are?

Initially, I never wanted to be an engineer. Coming from a family of engineers, I decided that I didn’t want to be like my parents and wanted to do something different. I hated maths at the age of 14, and vowed that I would never carry it on past GCSE. But with encouragement from both my mother and my teachers at school, I learned to love it, and found that actually it was a strength of mine. At A level I did Maths, Further Maths and Physics, leading me to conclude that engineering was probably the only realistic path.  This led me to York University, the only university in the country to offer and Electronic Engineering degree with Music Technology.

Once there I discovered an interest in the application of musical theories to other industries, resulting in me carrying out an industrial placement year here at Mercedes AMG HPP, in the hope of one day applying that interest to my other passion, motorsport. As a Speed Racer myself and, having helped to both build and prepare previous race cars with my father and brother, this seemed like an ideal solution. Once I completed my year in industry I was lucky enough to be offered a place on their graduate program upon my graduation.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time? Is this your dream job?

I am still very early in my career, with much to learn and experience. In 10 years, I would hope to still be working in motorsport, and as an engineer, but in what capacity I could not say. I’ve only really been in the real world for 6 months, and that seems far too soon to tie myself down to something specific, in a vast industry with so much to offer, much of which has not even been thought of yet!

Have you always had a passion for motorsport? Where did your love for it come from?

I have always had an interest in cars and motorsport, growing up with a father and brother like mine. When I was nine years old, the first kit car chassis appeared in the garage, ready to be built into a full car. When I was around 14, my brother and father began competing in speed events. At that age I was an avid dancer, attending theatre school every Saturday, but would still go to events with them whenever I could. When I was 17, I joined them on the race track, starting in a Fiat 500, and winning my first championship at the age of 18.

At 19 I stepped up to a Aries Locost, winning two more consecutive championships, before proceeding to a bike engined Westfield Megabusa for the 2016 season. This Westfield is the car that I continue to compete in, having just had a new, more powerful engine for the 2018 season! Maintaining and preparing these cars is a family affair, and motorsport is very much the main focus of my life.

In 2016 I became a member of the British Women Racing Drivers Club (BWRDC), and in 2017 joined their committee. This club aims to promote and encourage all women currently involved in motorsport, as well as provide role models for women and girls looking to enter the sport. This has fuelled my passion for motorsport even more, as a way of empowering young people and providing a place for them to share their passions with like-minded souls.

How many girls are in your department, what about on your uni course?

I was the first woman to be employed in the Electronic Engineering team at Mercedes AMG HPP, and the only female graduate from this year’s intake and in total less than 10% of the workforce is female.  

My university course was a little unique when it comes to women in engineering, as the music technology side of the course perhaps provided a little more appeal to the girls. There were, I think, around 30 girls who started with me, out of a cohort of around 200, and about half of those were on the Music Technology stream. This is still a depressingly small number of female students in a relatively large cohort, around 15%.

Is that number increasing?

When I discuss these numbers with my mother, who is an electronic engineer herself, we realise that actually these figures have changed very little in the last 30 years. However, there is much more being done in recent years to try and encourage girls and young women into this industry. For example the growth of the STEM ambassadors group, as well as the creation of Dare to be Different and the development of science fairs and shows such as ‘The Big Bang Fair’. Hopefully in the years to come we will see girls more confident to enter the world of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, without the constraint of societal norms.

Do your female colleagues know of organisations and groups they can join such as those you are a part of?

I think most women are aware of the professional institutions, such as the IET and the IMechE, with most engineers being a member of the appropriate institution. But there are other organisations, such as Women’s Engineering Society and STEM Ambassadors that some people may not be aware of. These societies work to both support the female engineers in industry, and encourage and inspire the next generation of engineers.
How has being a part of these groups helped you?

I do feel these organisations could be doing more to support women in a male dominated industry, and help them to maintain their self-confidence in an environment which is often tough and disparaging for women in its current state. The Women’s Engineering Society aims to help in this, but if the environment is to change, the men need to change more than the women do!

STEM ambassadors aim to go into schools and promote science and engineering to young children, but I think more needs to be done by society in general to remove the attitude that female engineers are special or different, and should instead promote the idea of anyone carrying out whatever occupation they wish.

I think groups, such as the BWRDC, are doing a lot to change people’s perception of women in motorsport, by showing that we’re not special or different; we are simply doing what we enjoy the same as any man would, and competing on an equal footing both in work and in racing.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

I would say don’t worry so much about what people think of you. If you are doing what makes you happy, then you will find friends who share your passions and who you can enjoy those passions with. People who do not allow you to be happy doing what you love, are not worth your time.

 

Lydia Walmsley: “gender doesn’t categorise you into good or bad”

Karting has always been a popular hobby amongst young boys, but there is a growing number of young girls also taking up the sport and being extremely successful. Among this new wave of female talent is 16-year-old Lydia Walmsley. 2018 will see her graduate to competing in an adult formula for the first time, so we spoke to her about her past successes and hopes for the future.

As with many young people who race, often their love of the sport comes from a member of their family. “My dad successfully raced for many years which meant I was always around a race track,” she said. “I started showing an interest so he popped me in a bambino kart at 7 years old and that’s where it all began.” Her first karting session in this particular kart came at Buckmore Park in Kent where the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button also started their careers. The fact that these British legends also began at the same track, was very exciting for Lydia with her saying: “it was special for me to begin my journey at Buckmore because Lewis and Jenson all kicked off their careers there too!”

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However, it wasn’t until a few years later that Walmsley decided she wanted karting to be more than a hobby. “I competed at Anglia Indoor Kart Centre and our local outdoor track, Ellough Park in corporate racing but it became more serious on Christmas Day 2011 when I received my very own cadet kart,” Lydia told us. That’s not to say she hadn’t been competing before this though, having finished second in her first year. “My first trophy was as vice champion for my first year of racing – losing the championship by a single point at 8 years old! I stood on the podium and puffed my chest out surrounded by much bigger boys – that’s when I truly got the bug,” she explained of her early success.

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We are all aware of the dangers posed when racing in championships such as Formula One and its feeder series’, but karting also has its risks, something Walmsley is well aware of. She broke her leg during a race leading to many months sat track-side, but that didn’t discourage her from pursuing her dream. “I was a little apprehensive to step back into the kart again. It was difficult for me because I had been out for so long due to complications with my broken leg and then having surgery on my eye to remove pieces of rubber from the tyre wall which were imbedded upon impact,” she described. Though it didn’t take long for the nerves to disappear and the adrenalin involved in racing to return, with Lydia saying: “after a few laps, I was back to enjoying the thrill of karting again!”

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Walmsley has had her fair share of success winning both the Minimax and Junior Rotax Championships. “I was the Minimax Champion so it was a natural progression to compete in the Junior Rotax championship,” she said, “however, this meant I would be racing against people who were a lot older than me. The step from a Minimax engine to a Junior Rotax engine is quite large and everyone told me it would take me at least a year until I was up to speed. Despite this, I qualified second on the grid on the first race meeting!” Lydia then went on to win the Championship in her first season, making her Champion in consecutive seasons.

This year will be a new experience for Lydia as she will be competing in an adult formula for the first time when she drives in the Mini Challenge. “I am really excited to race this year! I know I will be one of the youngest on the grid as I have only just turned 16. Obviously, most of my competitors will have a lot more experience in car racing than me, but why should that be a problem? Age is just a number – it’s about who’s fastest that really matters! I know with my fantastic team and my sponsors behind me, we can do really well this year,” Walmsley explained. Although immediate success won’t be expected of her, Lydia is keen to start as she means to go on and impress those more experienced in the category.

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To reach her dream series, Walmsley will have to continue her previous success. Speaking of her desired championship, she said: “I would love to make it to the British Touring Car Championship! I have watched the races since I was very young and have always liked the competitiveness of it. I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to attend the BTCC Snetterton race meeting last year in the hospitality of Laser Tools Racing and Aiden Moffat. It was an amazing experience with a fantastic atmosphere – it made me realise how much I wanted to get to the top!” She is well aware that it will not be easy, but it is clear that she has the determination and fight to try and reach her goals.

Despite her aiming to race touring cars, Lydia’s racing role model would be a driver from a very different series. “I feel Jenson Button is very professional and positive in whatever situation he’s in and conducts himself well, both on and off the track,” she told us. “I think he’s a great role model for anyone in motorsport,” Walmsley said of the former British F1 World Champion. Although still early in her career, Lydia has had to overcome many challenges and so is looked up to by many of the younger drivers and racers she knows. Her advice for them would be: “don’t worry about being in a sport which is predominantly male because gender doesn’t categorise you into ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Get to your local track and have a go!”

Having had success in several categories at an early age, it is clear Lydia Walmsley has immense talent. However, this season will be very telling for the young racer as she will compete in an adult series for the first time. She won’t be expected to have the immediate success she has had previously, but this will mean she goes into the season with little expectation on her shoulders, allowing her to concentrate on her own race, and possibly surprise everyone.

(all photo credits: Lydia Walmsley)

Flick Haigh: “When you put the helmet on there is no difference between men and women”

Flick Haigh made headlines recently when she became the first woman to win an outright British GT race. Her success in the first round at Oulton Park proved significant for the 31-year-old who started racing by sheer chance 11 years earlier. The rising star has a degree in International Equine and Agricultural Business Management but one thing is clear: her heart lies with competing and, more importantly, racing.

We caught up with her fresh from her amazing win to see what she had to say. One thing was for certain – Flick was still in shock!

“I’m just amazed,” says Flick. “It wasn’t expected. I was very proud of the team. I’ve worked with Optimum Motorsport for four years now and the last two years with the Audi was failure after failure, either the car or driver error or something went wrong. You feel for the guys who put in all of that time and effort when you don’t get a reward for it, so to win, I was just pleased for everyone involved.”

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Number 1! Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography

The win came after securing pole position, which came as a surprise also. Flick said that she was “sat in her room, telling herself not to lose her head”.

Going into the first round of the season, Flick and her team-mate Jonny Adam had limited testing and so had no idea where their pace would be compared to the rest of the field. “We didn’t do media day and we haven’t done tests with any of the other competitors,” says Flick. “Therefore, we didn’t really know where we were in the field going into the first weekend.”

“It was a shock as, although I thought that we would be competitive, I didn’t think that we would come out with the result that we did. It wasn’t expected – we just prepared as much as we could have done. To have turned up and be where we were – amazing.”

Flick has had successful campaigns in a number of championships, including long endurance races like the Dubai 24 Hours and Mugello 12 Hours but she insists that British GT is more demanding for different reasons.

The series takes place at race tracks across the UK and heads across to the world-famous Spa-Francorchamps in August before returning for the closing rounds.

“I did two years previously in an Audi, but I had actually struggled in that car,” Flick tells us. “I could never really get the results that we should have done. The team struggled with the set up and it wasn’t great in the wet. We just had lots of issues so from that experience, I was thinking that it could be a two year thing to get to know the car and to get everything to where we want it to be.”

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Credit: Flick Haigh

After the win, Flick even had to seek advice from her team-mate Jonny Adam on how to use social media: “I had to text Jonny on Tuesday – he’d asked me to tag all of these people in a photo but I didn’t know how to do it! I’ve only ever retweeted things so it’s been interesting to see that social media comes with the package of racing.”

When thinking ahead to the next rounds, Flick knows that it’s important to take each race as it comes. She was eager to describe the challenges of British GT, having only driven her current championship car a handful of times before their first win. As if that wasn’t already demanding enough, Flick pointed out that there is a huge difference between the type of mental strength needed for long endurance racing, and for the shorter races that she’s competed in, like British GT.

“The hardest thing is to maintain your focus in a British GT race,” she says. “In a 24 hour race, you can kind of just sit there putting 80 percent in because you’re sitting comfortably and it’s just about maintaining that and that’s fine. The hardest thing in British GT will be to keep putting in excellent lap times while the tyres are going off and not losing positions because of that. Jonny said that at Rockingham it’ll all be about managing tyres and he is completely right,” she adds.

With that in mind, Flick is going to the Rockingham rounds next weekend with an open mind, yet still with one eye on the prize.

“At Rockingham we will start with a clean slate and we’ll just put the same effort in: all the prep work and simulator work that Johnny and I have done, the gym, training…we’ll just do everything the same and hopefully we’ll get more success,” says Flick. “It’s not an easy championship to walk into and just get pole position and win every weekend. You have to focus entirely.”

“I’m putting in some extra simulator sessions with Jonny as I haven’t raced in the UK for four years and don’t really know Rockingham as well. I’m having to remind myself of all the braking points as I haven’t done many at all in a GT3 car. Rockingham is renowned for tyre degradation, so managing tyres over the two hour race will be vital. We’ve had a test day where we did long runs so I could get used to the car and how it felt at the end of the stint, as it feels very different.”
As mentioned, Flick’s recent success makes her the only woman to have ever won a GT3 class race. Jamie Chadwick is the only other female to have won in the series, although she was competing in a GT4 car.  

Flick’s success meant that she and Jonny crossed the line first overall. But, does being the only woman in the series, let alone a clear minority in the paddock, impact Flick? No, she says. As far as she is concerned she is “just the same”.

“Even when I started 11 years ago, I’ve always felt like just a driver – not a woman or whatever,” says Flick. “When you put the helmet on, there is no difference. It’s not strength related; it isn’t a contact sport. Motorsport is all mental.” 

“If you have the right mentality when you get in the car, that’s what wins you races. It’s nothing to do with gender; it’s all to do with mindset. I’ve never been treated any differently and I’ve never had anyone say anything derogatory. I don’t know if I’ve just been lucky, but I’ve always felt accepted.”

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Flick racing her Caterham Credit: Flick Haigh

Flick does however wish that she had found racing at a younger age. The Caterham. Champion longs to have jumped in a go-kart at the age of six or seven, like most racing drivers do. But, we feel that the limited racing experience just makes Flick’s talent even more special.

“Just go for it if you want to race,” says Flick. “If anyone is in doubt about whether they should go for it or not, just do it. I wish that I had started karting a six years old. I wasn’t aware of it and my family weren’t into motorsport.

“It just shows you that you can start whenever. There is no time limit and there’s no restrictions. You should just go and do what you want to do – go to circuits and meet teams and speak to people. There’s so many different avenues to get into it. Caterham is a great place to start.”

Why we adore motorsport and what it means to us

Motorsport is adored by millions, that’s a given. But, just why do we love it? Well, to do something a little different, Females in Motorsport asked the Twitter community to write a couple of paragraphs on why the sport means so much to them. The results are pretty uplifting to read!

Josie

I’ve loved motorsports since I the age of six, when I was able to understand the sheer brilliance of Michael Schumacher – him as a driver and his determination to win.

My first racing memory was asking my dad why he liked it because ‘the red man always wins’ but the German/Italian national anthems and seeing the passion from Ferrari after a win made me carry on watching (even if I did fall asleep sometimes).

Race weekends became ‘daddy/daughter time’. Racing brought me closer to my dad as it was a passion we both shared even if we ended up supporting different teams/drivers and I didn’t follow the aerodynamics career pathway into F1 he was hoping I’d take (sorry dad).

Racing hasn’t just brought me closer to my family but it’s also introduced me to many new friends and new opportunities. The confidence I’ve gained from meeting likeminded people, such as the Dare To Be Different community, has allowed me to start blogging about both MotoGP and F1 and to consider pursuing my dream career as a reporter in the motorsports world.

At six years old, I never thought racing would mean so much to me or would give so much back to me.

Marlon

I remember and, have being told that when I was a little girl, I was always watching races together with my father. When I got older I got more and more interested in the sport and started to learn more myself.

First it was mostly Formula 1 and DTM, as my father used to go to the DTM races in Zandvoort every year. In 2012 he took me with him, and it was amazing! This was my first live race.

I started watching junior series as well, which I really like. It’s s different to Formula 1. One thing I really like about it, is to follow the younger drivers and see them grow over the years.

I love the tension you get before the lights go out on Sunday. I still get goosebumps every time. This sport is so much more than just fast cars. It’s everything around it. It means the world to me.

Also, because I am sick, this is the one thing I can still do. It is a relief and joy for me. My goal now is to be working in this world, and I am determined to reach that.

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Oprah 

Motorsport is my life. And when I say it’s my life, that means something I can not live without. It’s a passion, It is a deep-rooted engagement between fans, teams, and drivers.

What made me love Motorsport has so many reasons. It motivates me to excel and makes me so special as an Arabian girl. I love It because it brings people from around the world to watch it together no matter of their backgrounds and beliefs. It puts me in a thrill and spellbinds my soul.

On the other hand, the sound of the engines is a heavenly sound to my ears. 2010, was my first ever circuit to attend was the Malaysian Sepang International Circuit I still remember the goosebumps all around my body and the joyful tears when I heard the engine sounds roaring from the parking area Today, as a motorsport editor under the wing of Motorlat, I met and interviewed a number of champions from Formula One, World Rally, Rallycross, IndyCar, and NASCAR at the ROC event, where they compete against each other.

Motorsport is my beautiful culture.

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Maddie

To discover what motorsport means to me we need to rewind about eight years.

I used to be a very sporty person but then I was diagnosed with acute plantar fasciitis. Long story short it messed me up for about a year and I was taken off every sport team.

Six months later I was in car crash, I had severe whiplash which would result in almost fortnightly hospital trips for three years.

It was towards the end of those three years that I discovered Formula 1.

It may sound silly to some but I truly believe that F1 and my passion that came from it played a big part in pulling me out of a dark pace.

In fact, without that passion I wouldn’t be where I am now.

I love motorsport because it has opened up a world to me that I never thought I’d be in. I love the excitement, the strategy and how it can evolve with the times.

Thanks to motorsport I have met some truly incredible and inspiring people, from a double amputee racing driver to the first female to drive in an F1 weekend for 22 years.

As I finish my final year of my Sports Journalism degree I cannot wait to see where it takes me next.

Helen

Some people think that F1 is boring, but not me. Sure the racing may be a bit dull sometimes, but behind the scenes there is still so much going on!

I love F1 because of the teamwork that goes into it. In some cases more than 1,000 people in a team with one goal of winning the Constructor’s World Championship and maybe along the way a Driver’s Championship as well.

When you look behind the racing, at the science, that’s when things really grip hold of me. The cutting edge technology and materials they use and what the engineers can do with them is mind blowing! And the fact that these complex pieces of machinery function, for the most part perfectly, really is just amazing.

Then there are the drivers and their ability to push these machines. I recall an interview with Eddie Irvine who was talking about how Michael Schumacher could leave the pits at Spa and drive through Eau Rouge flat out on a full tank of fuel. Eddie admitted that this is something he could not do. Some drivers have this ability to push harder than others and that’s why they are the World Champions.

Lastly an F1 weekend is not just about the on track action, but also what is going on off the track as well and I love this glamour and intrigue almost as much as what’s happening on the track.

Dakota Jane: “I lived and breathed motorsport, before I even really acknowledged that I was.”

Working as a journalist and pitlane reporter in F1 can be hard work but that’s nothing compared to what their equivalents do in other series of motorsport. Dakota Jane predominately works in the Blancpain GT series and spends her weekends running up and down the pitlane and leaves the track in the evening filthy after getting up close with the drivers, teams and cars. So, I asked her about her role in the series and the reasons behind her passion for motorsport.

Having grown up in Monaco, Dakota said she “lived and breathed motorsport” before she even acknowledged her ambition to work in the field. Her parents being fond motorsport fans, but not actually in the business, attended many Grands Prix and Rallies with her as a child, meaning her first experience of the sport was at a very young age.

But the story behind how she actually ended up working in the sport is quite an unusual one in that she applied for a job that didn’t exist. “I knew my now-boss ran the television production for SRO motorsport. I took a stab in the dark and I sent him a video interview of myself,” she explained. “I shared with him my passion for cars and all things motorsport as well as my upbringing and ambitions.” He replied, saying ‘come for a race to see what it would be like’. As instructed, Dakota attended her first Blancpain GT race at Brands Hatch in 2016. She described how she was thrown in the deep end of live TV and after her first live interview with circuit owner Jonathan Palmer, she became a part of the television crew. “Since that day, I have worked there ever since.”

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@DakotaJane11, twitter

The Blancpain GT series may be unknown to some, so I asked her how she would describe it. “Well, I would say it’s the highest level of GT racing in the world,” Dakota said. “We have four classes, PRO, PRO-AM, AM and Silver Cup, all classes are as competitive as the other. We have 10 races a season, spilt into endurance and sprint races”. She not only works on Blancpain GT but also for the support races such as Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Blancpain GT sports club (for gentlemen drivers).

Although her job may sound similar to F1 Presenters, she was keen to explain the differences. “I don’t just do the presenting for the series, but I also help produce the entire program from top stories to all the action in the pitlane,” she told me. “When I am not interviewing on the grid or at parc fermé, I floor manage for my co-presenter/commentator John Watson. This consists of setting up the next interview with the drivers, cars and teams so that the live programme can run smoothly.” This is quite different to F1 as Dakota helps out in all areas of the production.

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@DakotaJane11 Instagram

Another reason Dakota Jane loves her role with Blancpain GT so much is the high level of competition between a broad range of manufacturers and drivers. “What makes me want to go back every season is the nail biting competition. There are so many good drivers in the series, the Blancpain GT grid is truly spectacular,” she said, adding: “in qualifying it’s not surprising to have 1st to 20th place within 0.5 of a second!”

Many of those who start working in motorsport have an ultimate aim of moving up the series to Formula One. Although she said she would love to work in the series, Dakota really enjoys the freedom and cars in GT racing. “There’s so much action and I don’t really like how in F1 there are so many rules. Her ambition is to work at some of the other big GT Racing events such as the Le Mans 24 hours, Daytona 24hours, FIA Macau GT World Cup and the Super GT series in Japan. She also explained how she would like to one day branch out and present in other global sports such as the Olympics and Para-Olympics, as well as Red Bull events.

Unlike some others in the same field, she also likes to race herself saying: “I would like to get more involved in the driving part of the sport. I love driving, there’s a secret racing driver inside, but its not really a secret. Before I do a race, I do all the sim (simulator) work for that track. I learn all the corners, breaking points and stats. I think it helps me when I’m interviewing, I can really put myself in the driver’s shoes. I have a lot of respect for them and what they go through on a race weekend.”

As a female working in motorsport, Dakota Jane felt it was important to be a part of the initiative ‘Dare to be Different’. Talking about the number of women in the series she explained: “in my television team, I work with a majority of men and occasionally another female, I don’t mind at all, the men do not segregate me but include me as part of the team like anyone else. In Blancpain GT there are other women who work in the offices, pitlane, grid, garages and with the teams. This is not a huge amount really, it is definitely male dominated but this fact shouldn’t discourage women from joining the sport.”

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Instagram

However, Dakota wanted to be honest with her opinion of the organisation saying: “I wanted to join Dare to Be Different because I thought it was going to be a way that I could connect with other women in motorsport. I thought they could use me as an ambassador to encourage other women.” She felt disappointed that this was not the case, adding: “the reality is, they haven’t used me at all. It’s been a great way to connect with other girls in motorsport but I just don’t really feel a part of the community, although I still value the concepts they are trying to encourage.”

To finish, she gave her advice for those females wanting to work in the industry. “Don’t be discouraged by men,” Dakota advised. “To any woman who is trying to pursue a career in motorsport, I would say you have just as fair chance as the men do, go for it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! I don’t really feel like it comes down to the gender most of the time. I just personally don’t think there are as many women who are in general interested in motorsport, but maybe with organisations such as ‘Dare to be Different’, this will change.”

Being young and already working in a prestigious series of motorsport means Dakota Jane has her eyes firmly set on the future. Working in the Blancpain GT series means she has to deal with constantly changing situations, a part of the job that she loves. She has had a passion and ambition to work in motorsport since her youth, and hopes this desire and success will continue long into the future.

(heading picture credit: Blancpain GT series)