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.

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.”

 

Why Females in Motorsport

We – Helena Hicks and Georgia Allen – thought that it would be nice to share some thoughts on what inspired us to create this site, and why we are so passionate about motorsport.

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Last year I got to walk the track in Monaco!

I grew up in a family that watched it; Sundays meant that F1 was on in the house and my dad would spend some rare time sitting down to watch it. I quickly fell in love with it and that’s why I am here today.

But, like with many things in this word, there is a question of equality. While there are more females in the paddocks and behind the scenes than ever before, there is still this divide.

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As a fan, this is my favourite moment: getting to meet Daniel Ricciardo back in 2015. Things have changed a bit!

We want to share with you the talents and the fans of our beloved motorsport. We would love to inspire you, help you and show you that anything is possible!

I witnessed Dare To Be Different be launched at the 2016 Autosport International show. From then on, I have been a member and have heard and met many admirable people. In fact without Susie Wolff and D2BD, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

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One of my idols: Susie Wolff

In motorsport I have many idols: Sophie Ogg (Head of Communications at Williams), Lee McKenzie and Jennie Gow to name just a few.

As an aspiring PR/Events person myself, I want to create something unique with this site. Hopefully, we can.

www.twitter.com/_helenahicks 

Now over to Georgia…

Firstly, I should explain who I am. My name is Georgia and, along with Helena, I am one of the creators of this site. I am an aspiring Formula One journalist and broadcaster hoping to one day make it to Formula One.

As a ‘Dare to be Different’ community member, I am passionate about encouraging women in motorsport and showing that we are just as capable as anyone else. Another thing that is important to me, is raising the profile of the sport to younger people and expanding the fan base to people like myself.

As a young woman, I feel I bring a different perspective to those currently working in the industry and want to represent the new ideas and opinions of the younger generation.

I’m really looking forward to getting started and hopefully interviewing as many interesting women as possible. However, for me this is not just about females, I also hope to speak to young people involved in motorsport.

We are seeing drivers enter F1 at younger ages and so I hope to meet some of the young racers hoping to be the next big thing. I particularly love interviewing as I enjoy coming away having found out something I didn’t know before. But this doesn’t mean it’s all about racing, as Females in Motorsport aims to also give an insight into the lives and personalities of the real people who work in one of the world’s most popular sports.

I admire many people when it comes to motorsport, mainly because they do the jobs that I would love to do in the future. Lee Mckenzie and Jennie Gow are two strong women who have had lasting careers in F1 TV coverage, which I also hope to have. There are also those who have been pioneers such as Monisha Kaltenborn and Susie Wolff.

When it comes to F1, I’m a big supporter of British drivers as well as those with great personalities. Unsurprisingl,y from what I’ve already said, I love seeing the younger drivers succeed as well as our older, more experienced favourites!