Luné Snyman Strydom, a South African driver from Bethal, is our Woman of the week. Luné’s rally career started in 2016, when she realised a life-long dream to buy a rally car. She was raised watching and spectating rally and motorsport racing events with her dad, and that infected her with enthusiasm for the sport. She says it’s been a journey that has taught her a lot – even in such a short time-frame –in terms of both driving, and the practical mechanical and logistical side.
In southern Africa, most rallies are navigational rallies, so co-drivers are referred to as navigators
Bridget Schuil What was your first memory of motorsport?
Me and my dad started with spectating at the Sasol rallies in Sabie falling under the NRC (National Rally Championships), and watched a lot of drifting at Zwartkops Raceway. I started with action photography at the rallies but had way more interest in driving a rally car myself. Their driving skills fascinated me and soon victimised me with sleepless nights. From there I knew that I am in charge of making my own dream coming true.
How did you get into rallying?
After growing up watching it on TV and me and dad touring to the rally events to spectate, and time after time we dreamed together of participating in the sport. We realised that this is a very expensive sport out of our league. So I went out and asked people what it would cost to buy a car and participate. After months of struggling and frights, I said to my father ‘I want to buy a car. I’m going to get the money and start this rally career.’ He encouraged me and said, ‘Go for it!’ He didn’t try to hold me back, which I appreciate.
We bought the car, and started rebuilding it, which took about six or eight months. It was tough. We didn’t know anything about rally cars, and the car had a lot of damage and needed a lot of repairs. It was a steep learning curve. But eventually, we did our first regional rally (NRC) last year in Heidelberg. So that was our first event and it was an unforgettable experience.
We have been doing better than we thought we would. We had two third places, and one second place in six rallies. The last one in Secunda was our sixth official rally. We are humbled by the results but we still want to stay focused on our main goal: to grow into the sport with time and experience because remaining patient will build a stable platform to compete in future when bigger sponsors open doors for our team.
To be fair, rallying in South Africa has been taking a knock the last few years. Ford isn’t sponsoring anymore, neither is Castrol, or Volkswagen. Some of them who played a big role have pulled out. Even Sasol (South African fuel producer) in Secunda. It’s difficult for drivers to progress in their dreams and careers if they don’t have external help. We’re really relying on sponsors. Most people can’t afford to do it out of their own pockets. High pressure rises in finding sponsors in a small community that we live in.
Obviously, my dad and I do everything ourselves. Sometimes we receive help from others in the service area, but my father does most of the mechanical work, and he’s navigating, and he’s my mentor. (Laughs.) He actually has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. I think we’re actually doing a great job for a fresh team with few sponsors, no service crew or mechanics.
BS Who would you say has been most supportive of your racing?
LS My husband has been supportive since day one. We got married four months ago, so he’s been great since the beginning before we got married. It helps a lot that he’s on board. But my father is one of the only people in my life that shares the same dream without any questions asked. He is driven and passionate about this sport and a driving force behind this team. Other support that made this dream possible is my mother, family, friends and the people at work.
Two years back, I ran into Jaco Baker one of the first rally drivers I met at the Sasol rally. He was spectating the day before he was racing , so I went up to him and said, ‘Wow, I think it’s great what you’re doing!’ and we started an interesting motivational rally conversation. He gave me his contact details and said I can call him anytime when we needed help and advice. I think a year went past before I called him, but he remembered me. I told him I wanted to buy a rally car, and would need some help. He’s helped us through everything via phone calls. Then we made contact with Greg Godrich (navigator for 21 years) giving us a lot of rally info. Both of them opened a lot of doors for our rally career.
BS How have you found the sponsorship search?
LS Ugh, it’s difficult! It’s really difficult, because in South Africa our economy is taking punches at the moment. It’s hard to ask for sponsorship and to understand the economic strain what they’re going through when they decline a sponsorship. We are targeting some bigger brands, but it’s tricky at this stage in my career. Maybe it’s because I’m a woman driver and not yet an established driver. They want someone with a known reputation and a lot of experience. The people who’re supporting us now are warm-hearted local businesses from my home town and surrounding area. They’ve been really helpful and supportive and made our progress possible.
BS What have been your biggest struggles in rallying?
LS Definitely the financial planning and sponsorhip. And time! Rallying is very time-consuming. My dad and I both work full-time. In the evening after work we prep the car and prepare for the next race. With every event, we take two or three days leave from work in order to prep the car and travel to the event. The other factor is learning to handle the car without any rally experience. Every rally is a learning curve for my driving skills.
BS And what have been the biggest benefits?
LS The adrenaline. The adrenaline for sure. It’s heart-pumping, and there is no greater feeling when you have the possibility to follow your biggest dream. And it’s been great doing this with my father. It’s a big dream coming true for both of us.
BS Have you ever experienced sexist treatment, and how have you dealt with it?
LS Not really. I think the rally men by now know me as someone to treat equally and with respect. There shouldn’t be a difference between a female and a male rally driver. Both of them share the same passion and joy and all remain a rally family.
The sport in South Africa is taking shots from lack of funding, so if someone can raise the money to be in the race, they have earned their place in the competition. Woman or man, black or white, it shouldn’t matter to the organisers or fans, as long as they’re there and get the results. If they have the passion, they should be given a chance and be appreciated for taking that step.
What advice would you give to younger women wanting to start rallying?
Well, try and follow my motto in life: JUST DO IT! Obviously, it’s never that easy, but it is actually easier than you think. It’s difficult if you don’t have the financial backing and all of that, but just take the leap of faith and buy a car. it’s going to take a few months getting the car and yourself to start racing, except if you have the finances to get everything done without you lifting a finger. But it’s a good foundation to start on. Just buy a car and learn from the struggling process. You’re going to have a lot of tears; it’s not going to be easy at all. But when you start building the car and get in contact with people for advice and sponsorship, that’s the greatest platform to grow into the sport. Take that first important step and believe in yourself.
Follow Luné on Facebook at Lunetic Bethal Rally Team.
This is the first episode of RotM. We're hoping to introduce you to people, particularly early career researchers, whose work is relevant to questions and issues motorsport.
May's Researcher of the Month is Dr Christine Wegner. Dr Wegner is an assistant professor in University of Florida's Department of Tourism, Recreation, and Sports Management. She did her PhD work on an organisation called Black Girls Run!, which promotes running as a way to fitness among African American women. Her research focus is on the use of sporting identity - both as fans and participants - as a catalyst for social change. The social media project on the response to Danny Watts' coming out announcement was a test run for a larger project we're doing with Christine.
Bridget Schuil: You mentioned in the introduction to one of your papers how some sports are seen as 'white'. Can we talk about the whiteness of motorsport? We see very few athletes of colour, particularly black athletes; we see a similar pattern on the technical/support side. How much work (and what kind of work) do individuals in motorsport need to do to become a more racially diverse sport?
Christine Wegner: One of the things I talk a lot about in my next manuscript (which I’m preparing for submission) is the idea of “identity modeling.” It’s important for any group to see people like them, especially children (i.e. the next generation of participants). This is what made Black Girls Run! so successful—Black women were able to see other Black women like them participating. It obviously won’t be possible initially to model an entire community. But it really takes a few strong individuals to begin the cycle of empowerment (if you look at Serena and Venus Williams in tennis for example—now we see the next generation of African American women playing on the circuit, all of whom had Venus and Serena to look up to growing up). With that in mind, exposure is also important. If people of colour are not watching F1 and other motorsports, they are not going to even have an opportunity to see someone like them participating.
At the same time, as I’m sure you know, it’s important not to create an expectation the individuals of colour need to speak for their race. So there is a fine line of course. But I think any interventions need to include people of colour already in the sport, in whatever capacity they participate (so intravention, vs. intervention).
BS Can social identity theory be applied to women in motorsport? That is, is the current lack of women in high-level motorsport due to a historic lack of role models, and now that we see women coming up into the sport, can we expect a change? How important is diversity of women represented in the sport to this process? Are successful, visible women like Danika Patrick and Simona De Silvestro going to spawn a generation of their own?
CW Social identity theory and role identity (a complementary theory that I also research) can both certainly be applied here. I think what makes motorsport an interesting/difficult case, is that it’s not just the racing that is not diverse, it is the entire community—those working on the cars, those developing the cars, etc. Some sports, even though they are gender segregated, we do see women in other roles (e.g. an athletic trainer for an American football team), and this creates additional touch points for women into the sport. But, from my experience, many of the other roles played in the sport also have strong masculine identities….its the reason we don’t see a lot of female mechanics, engineers, etc.
But that is why women who are in roles other than racers are super important, because they allow diversity to grow in different ways.
BS Is there scope in social change for maximising stereotypes as catalysts for change? For example, there is a stereotype that women's brains are just wired for better communication - when we know from the data that these are socialised skills - so can we teach women in motorsport to take advantage of these perceptions in order to bring social change?
CW Maximizing stereotypes can be a catalyst for sure, but it’s always dangerous. One of the things I have been thinking about lately is the way we look at womens VS. mens sports. There is always an inherent comparison. One conversation that some female analysts have tried to have in basketball, for example, is pointing out the ways that the women’s game excels, rather than comparing it to how high they jump, how they can’t dunk, how they don’t move as fast. I think that admitting that there are differences between the sexes is good, but it’s really difficult for that not to be accompanied by a particular value judgement about those differences.
BS Is the pull of a unique identity peculiar to the early adopters of a trend, or is a broader group willing to 'try on' that identity quite readily if they see it benefitting others in their peer group?
CW Optimal distinctiveness theory tells us that individuals are constantly trying to balance their need to be different and their need to feel a sense of belonging, and I don’t think it’s only for early adopters. As a niche activity, I think motorsport would draw certain kinds of people. As it becomes more mainstream, it would attract those whose balanced sense of identity requires more of a collective. It’s difficult for some to do something that different—and I think this is where we see role identity theory again: the masculine associations in motorsport make it difficult for many women who don’t want to be so unique…and the same thing is true I think for race.
BS What is the role of the IKEA effect (a cognitive bias that causes us to prefer items we played a role in making to those items made by others) in identifying with participatory organisations? Did you find that the volunteer leaders stayed in the group longer? Rated themselves as more loyal?
CW I’ve always loved the IKEA effect! I have to be honest, I haven’t thought about it in this context, but I think it is super important. One of the great things about BGR! is that, in many ways, all the women are volunteers (although some have more official roles as run leads or ambassadors for sure). When they first join, they use current members as identity modelers…then, as time goes on, they become the modelers…in essence, they become the organization. And this cycle continues through new members.
BS How can Motorsport Sisterhood support and promote the involvement of women of colour in motorsport? (Bear in mind, we have a mostly-white core staff, although our contributors and people from whom we commission work are more racially diverse, and we intentionally feature as many women of colour as are willing for our 'woman of the week' series.)
CW I think the two most important words to focus on are “support” and “promote.” One of the hard realities about being “inclusive,” is that it often invites individuals into a group with the requirement of assimilation. Identity construction can become the same slippery slope, as while we form particular attitudes and behaviors associated with an identity, we simultaneously reject others. The identities that we create around an activity, founded in particular social values, can be at odds with an individual’s other salient identities, like race, gender, and sexuality. So one aspect of a diversity problem, then of course, is to highlight and promote identity modelers…people of color who are in the sport who can serve as examples for others. At the same time, we need to leave a space open for these same people and those who follow to create their own identity surrounding an activity: diverse individuals need to be able to create and practice their own diverse meanings of what it means to “be” something.
A couple of weeks ago, I finally voiced my opinions on behalf of myself and the female racing community. The reason behind it was that I was tired of the sexist remarks and unnecessary quips. In fact, they aren’t quips; they are sexual harassment.
,The post was not a dig at anyone in particular, it was more of a ‘this is what is happening and women in racing should not have to put up with it’. I am a blogger, a journalist and try my hand at PR. I know motorsport isn’t a nice world 24/7, but I know women deserve more than being called everything under the sun. Of course, it was going to be a controversial post, all opinion posts are. However, I was astounded by one particular response.
Kindly, a BTCC fan shared the article on Facebook. It created quite an amount of traffic to the post itself and generated a couple of comments. It was the one below that stood out. Not particularly because of what he had said, but the fact that he had completely missed the point of the blog post and proceeded to ‘rant’ about it. Despite the fact he had entirely misinterpreted it.
'But it’s easy to be a woman in motorsport, just look at Sarah Moore,' is something I have heard far too frequently. Need I say that his comments reveal some explicit and common themes in sexism.
In fact, the Snapchat message from the F1 is pretty bog standard for how men in motorsport treat women, including the ones who are barely legal age-wise. Officially, it is know as sexual harassment. I do wish that the picture I attached on my article was it, but sadly not. The Social Media Manager send a number of topless pictures to me, without warning or any instigation on my behalf. Yes, I could have blocked the team, but that would mean that I would not get to see any of the professional things they were documenting. I genuinely thought they contacted me because they liked my blog and wanted me to write for them, not because one employee wanted to take advantage of his status and call me ‘sexy’ repeatedly.
My blog was the only way of reporting the reality of sexual harassment. It is the only avenue open to me. Nobody is going to take me seriously if I file a formal complaint. And then there is the possibility that it'll ruin my career and nobody will talk to me in interviews. I did talk to HR about the happenings at the team, but I had little evidence to back up my case - as the harassment happened over Snapchat, I couldn’t save the images that were sent to me - so I found myself with a lack of proof. Thus, my argument was effectively meaningless. No action could be taken, sadly.
I am going to go as far to say that the sport is heading for some sexual harassment suits if they're not a bit more careful in how their male staff treat women. Saward commented in his piece on equality that women 'get asked out a lot'...for a traditionalist like Saward to notice it, it must be more common than just every woman in motorsport that I've spoken to about how they get treated by men.
My commenter completely misses this point. This only leaves me to believe that he either didn't read more than the lead paragraph, or he doesn't think that kind of thing is inappropriate (and likely does it himself). He went straight to what he assumed were pain points instead of arguing against my points. This is typical behaviour of online sadists.
‘Probably an I am bored out of my tiny mind post’
Wrong. He is so very wrong there. I was not bored; if anything, I was bored of the comments that many women in motorsport were receiving. I had put it to the back of my mind for as long as I could manage, but I had reached boiling point. Also, I have anything but a tiny mind. I go to a grammar school, am off to university in September - a tiny mind is something I do not have. I may be young, but I am not uneducated. Please, do not underestimate us ladies!
It is also obvious that he didn't click around my website before attacking me. He's relying on stereotypes in his attempt to discredit me. While understandable in this world of over-stimulation, it's still an annoying habit of sexists.
Secondly, what does it make him for having to write that comment. Is HE bored out of his mind?
‘Sad and pathetic life’
Wrong, again. My life is pretty fantastic - the only thing that isn’t brilliant is the cat calls when I walk out of my house in a Red Bull Racing t-shirt. I don’t want to be whistled at or called a sexy racing lady, thank you.
‘Women in all walks of motorsport’’
Oh, I am not denying that. I am so thrilled to see many women who grace the motorsport paddocks, donning on racing overalls, becoming engineers. I am not for a second doubting the femme racing community - I am part of it. Some of my closest female friends are those in motorsport. I campaign for more women to be involved in the sport. I am not blind to that. My post was not about that. If he had taken a look at my blog before passing judgement, he would have seen many posts and interviews with woman drivers, journalists, presenters and so on. This is what puzzles me, how did he interpret what I had written to mean that?
By simply pointing out a couple of women in the sport, does he hope to deter away from his sexist dogma? Is he hoping that he’ll disguise himself to be the perfect advocate for women in the sport. Look at me, I can name one woman racer! I am not sexist! He is almost certainly trying to divert the argument onto a topic where he feels comfortable. This is a standard tactic.
‘Silly silly woman’
See point 1 and 2. I am not a silly silly woman. Thank you, but no thank you for that part of your comment. You are part of the sexist group that I targeted my original post at.
His comment is him trying to discredit me on account of my gender and not shoddy work or a poorly-argued point. This is another feature of motorsport sexism; this must be eradicated also.
‘Read a book or two first’
What does this have to do with what I published? I don’t think Orwell’s 1984 would have come in so handy here. He is in fact right that equality was better when the baby boomers were racing, yet that doesn't change that there is work to be done now.
‘Give the dumb blond some intelligence’
This is the part that made me laugh the most. This particular sentence is so irrelevant to the initial argument I put forward. Stereotyping an entire gender as stupid is where a segment of the issue stems from. So sure it is easy to be a woman in motorsport, as long as you can stomach men like him and their comments and digs.
It truly is a shame that in the 21st century, women have to defend their opinions. I understand that he may feel I was ranting; I am passionate about what I write about. I do not put pen to paper for an unnecessary reason. What I write about has true meaning and intent behind it. Perhaps it is fair to say that this man feels threatened. Maybe he feels as if he has been caught out and his male white fragility felt guilty. A guilty conscience.
It isn’t all negative, however. Some of the male community stand up and applaud women in motorsport. If I was to name someone, then Sam Rideal is who stands out. He encourages women to write for his website, giving those opportunities who perhaps wouldn’t have had otherwise.
I am not saying that all men are sexist, that all men are like that one I described in my blog because that is not the case. Some are supportive and the gender lines are blurred for them - in motorsport, everyone is equal. There needs to be more of those men.