Charlie was exposed to motorsport at an early age, accompanying a school friend and his dad, who raced a three-wheeled Morgan Aero 3, to the track. Following university, Charlie decided to afford a racing career, and started doing hillclimbs in the UK. Starting in a Peugeot 205, Charlie raced four years in the Pug before moving onto four years in a a Westfield SEiW, and then bought a Formula Renault car, which she now races without a crew - servicing and fixing the car herself between events - in events around France and Switzerland.
Bridget Schuil: What is your first memory of motorsport?
Charlie Martin: I think going to see Thunder Saloons at Mallory Park as I live in Leicestershire, I went with my eldest brother and remember there being some pretty awesome cars with V8's shoehorned into them. I must have been about 8 years old and we took a passenger ride around the circuit in a Golf GTi MkII.
BS What made you decide to pursue hillclimbing as a career?
CM I discovered the sport via a schoolfriend as his dad raced a Morgan 3 wheeler and the championship visited hillclimbs as well as circuits, the atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly plus you were always in the paddock so you felt part of the event unlike circuits where you're far away. After finishing my degree I was determined to start competing (my friend Hamish had joined his dad in his own car) and crucially it was affordable so it seemed like the obvious direction available to me.
BS How do you support your racing habit? Are you mainly sponsor-funded, or do you work alongside racing?
CM Currently a combination of the two, I write and blog for a number of websites & magazines alongside my GoCharlie website and this has helped me generate exposure which in turn has helped attract sponsorship. Doing both is time consuming and I'm lucky that my day job (in a family firm) allows me the flexibility to compete abroad as the schedule is quite demanding - of course my goal is to be able to focus 100% on racing and this is something I'm currently working towards.
BS What do you love about the industry?
CM In terms of hillclimbing I love the fact that it a very welcoming discipline of motorsport, it feels like one huge family and people look out for each other. In a wider sense I think there is a shared connection that you find instantly whenever you meet someone working within this industry - it's a passion that motivates & inspires us and being around people who share this feeling is infectious.
BS Where do you think the sport has room for improvement?
CM Again I'd come back to hillclimbing as it's what I know best, but I want to see the sport become more widely appreciated with better coverage. The level of skill required, the speeds we travel at and scenery we drive through produce some breathtaking footage which I feel is perfect to take to a larger audience - just look at where the World Rallycross Championship has gone once big brands like Monster Energy got involved.
BS What have been the highlights for you thus far?
CM Taking fastest lady and 3rd Formula Renault in class at St. Ursanne les Rangiers in Switzerland last year, it was my first FIA European Hillclimb Championship event and at such a legendary course it felt surreal even to be there. It has the highest average speed of any course in Europe and I drove harder than I thought possible in heavy rain - virtually the whole 5km is 5th & 6th gear! Standing on the podium felt like a fairytale.
BS Who has been the most supportive of your career?
CM It's hard to try and name everyone, I've been lucky to meet some very kind and generous people in the last 10 years - it's true to say that I've worked very hard to be where I am today but there are certainly a number of people who've played a key part in helping me along the way: Paul Buckingham and everyone from Guernsey for showing me how to race in France, Fabien Bouduban for inspiring me and making anything seem possible, Ralph Pinder for helping me get started in my Peugeot, & Richard Hinton for all his advice & connections.
BS What are the biggest challenges you face in racing?
CM This could be a long answer! Until now I've raced entirely on my own and it's a huge undertaking when you're racing abroad, especially when you are writing and blogging between races and working 9-5. I recently had the biggest crash of my career, at 5pm on a Sunday I had a car with no wheels, a Monday morning return flight and no one to fix the car in time for the next race - in moments like that you have to be strong to keep going and think on your feet. Funding is hard to find (the same for all drivers) and I realised two years ago I was quickly reaching the limit of what I could do on my own, so I've been focussing half my energy on raising my media profile in order to raise the budget to join a team and move closer towards my goals. I imagine the obvious question is whether being female has made it harder for me to succeed in motorsport... I wouldn't necessarily say that it has.
BS Have you experienced any sexism in the sport? If so, how do you deal with it?
CM Coming from an engineering environment (my day job) I'd say first that I have thick skin, here I regularly experience sexism - sometimes it a well meaning joke, the other end of the spectrum is not so funny... In France I experience a lot of surprise that I'm a lone English woman competing à l'étranger, but no sexism I'm aware of, in fact I think most people are impressed by what I'm doing and very complimentary. I tend to be a little coy with people away from the track, I give as good as I get so I think part of my defence mechanism is to play with people for my own amusement if they start trying to put me down!
BS In your opinion, what can people in motorsport do to be more queer friendly?
CM It's a big question to try and answer here and I can only speak for myself, but I would say much the same as wider society - give people the space and dignity to be themselves, try to understand them even if you don't identify with them, and remember that we are all individuals and that means we don't all fit in boxes. Although I don't tend to draw attention to being proudly LGBTQ within motorsport (I'm often unsure what reaction I'll get), people who know me personally around the track know my history and I'd like to think that just by being there and being myself I've helped educate and change a few peoples' perceptions within my own sphere. If more people can do this in their own way over time, then I think progress will come.
BS What advice would you give to girls and young women wanting to follow in your footsteps?
CM I think it's important for anyone to follow their heart and instincts in life, if you are interested in motorsport then don't be put off by ageing stereotypes - follow your own path and never stop believing in yourself. On a practical level, reach out to people within the industry whether that's at your local track or on Linkedin - I did a career coaching day recently and was shown how to use it to identify and approach people for advice and direction and it's led to some good connections. Social media and the internet have made the world a smaller place and you need to use this effectively as it's a huge tool, but ultimately you have to be prepared to work hard, meet people face to face and learn from them. If you're keen and highly motivated then that can take you a long way, be sure to communicate that and keep at what you're doing - Rome wasn't built in a day and everyone started somewhere.
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Women Formula One fans should be used to sexist comments by now. We hear them on a regular basis from Ecclestone (there are far too many instances to link to here); Perez, Verstappen, and others have made blatantly sexist remarks; even Susie Wolff has defended one of Ecclestone's whoppers, calling her own feminism into question. So why are the fanwomen getting (to quote one on social media) "salty AF" over this incident?
I asked Prof Daphna Joel what she thought of the video embedded above, and she responded by asking why I was wasting my time over yet another "stupidly sexist" comment from a driver. I'm taking the time to write about this is for three reasons - 1. Vettel is a four-time world champion, and his opinion has credibility both in and out of the sport, and he's held up as a role model to young racers, and 2. Vettel is a repeat offender, regularly treating women as an Ecclestone protégé would, and 3. There is a pernicious mix of fact and opinion, and this needs separating out. So going line by line, we're going to analyse this interview in the context of motorsport culture.
Let's start with Bridget Maasland's question, "Why are women not compatible enough to race at the highest level?" because that's where Prof Joel's objections started. The idea that humans exhibit gender dimorphism to the extent that we can generalise task compatibility for or against an entire gender is considered outdated and parochial by the scientific community. (Sources 1 and 2 of a multitude, if you want to read more but don't want to spring for a copy of Cordelia Fine's "Delusions of Gender".) This notion of the inherent compatibility of one gender over another underlies many of the sexist comments we see in motorsport. In this industry that prides itself on inhabiting the cutting edge of research, it's time to drop the pseudoscience. But give Maasland her due, she was raising an unpopular topic in the public sphere, and she deserves credit for that.
Vettel's initial response to the question, "I don't think there is a reason why we can't have women racing," is valid. Sergio Perez would disagree, having commented that losing to a woman would be a bad thing. This is an opinion echoed by many men in motorsport, albeit largely unexpressed in public fora.
He followed this up with, "...but there's not enough women trying. Simply, if you look at it that way, I think the ratio is very much in favour of boys at that age, in go-karts, and then it's obviously a bit more difficult later on." To quote Prof Michael Kimmel, who also responded to my email blast, "The guy's half right, right?" Kimmel went on to comment "It's empirically true that there are not as many girls as boys coming up through the 'pipeline', but not for the reasons [Vettel] gives. It is not because of girls' motivation as much as it is about discrimination and harassment, girls being told they may not do it, cannot do it, shouldn't want to do it, or aren't capable of doing it."
And there we get to the core of the issue at play. Vettel, despite having a woman on his long-term support staff, and a (seemingly) supportive mum and partner, hasn't noticed the systematic and often subtle discrimination directed at women and girls. Nico Rosberg said he wouldn't take his daughter racing because "go-karting is now more dangerous than F1." While that may have been a simple protective instinct, there seem to be few qualms among the rest of the paddock about taking their sons karting.
In the RTL interview, Vettel continues, "Another reason why I think boys...maybe it's a bit more natural for men to...[gestures vaguely]" Maasland supplies, "To like cars?" Vettel replies, "Yeah, to like cars and go racing." In that statement, he circles back to Maasland's initial assumption about gender being an accurate predictor of preferences and career choices, in the face of scant scientific evidence to support the opinion.
Vettel concludes his answer by saying, "In racing, you have to make decisions very quickly, sometimes not think about them, because you simply don't have the time, and maybe women tend to think about stuff for longer." To those who would say that it's just a joke and therefore doesn't matter, we joke in the context of a culture that believes that things are funny because they're true.
Joel's response to this was, "Women think longer than men? I don’t know of any such study - although this doesn’t mean there isn’t one. There are over 50,000 studies of sex/gender differences; I don’t know them all. But even if there was such a study, I’m sure that if you read it, you’d find that there was an overlap between men and women, as there is for any other psychological variable." I looked on Google Scholar to see if I could find a study to support the assumption underpinning Vettel's joke. The only conclusion I could find regarding gender as a predictor of decision-making was that women tend to make more ethical decisions than men, and even that is a shaky generalisation to make, given Dilma Rousseff's recent corruption scandal.
Kimmel commented, "Most human beings aren't able to make such fast decisions traveling at such high speeds with such possibly tragic consequences. Some of the human beings who are able are male, and some are female. We don't know how many are female because...well, see the answer to there not being enough girls in the pipeline.
"[Vettel's] answer is as logical as this: since testosterone generates aggression, it might cloud the ability of male drivers to make good split-second decisions, as the hormone puts beating the other guy over being safe. Therefore, men are more likely to crash, so maybe we shouldn't let men drive. I don't think either is 'true' of course. But neither is at all logical."
I have no desire to antagonise the gendertrolls, but this lack of logic - and evidence to support conclusions - is typical of the sexist remarks we see in motorsport. From Ecclestone's assertion that women don't want to take responsibility for a large organisation, to sexist jokes about women's abilities to drive race cars, the real reason we see so few women rising through the ranks is because of varying intensities and flavours of misogyny. Until people can recognise that, there will be no change in motorsport.
Fan engagement has been a hot topic in motorsport in recent months. Several entities have run competitions; Formula E has set an exemplary bench-mark for Europe-based series wanting to engage fans; there have even been surveys to find out what the fanbase thinks about the direction of the sport. We want to do something a little bit different.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of creatives in the motorsport audience with no official outlet, no sanctioned avenue to build their brand, or show their portfolios. We want to give them one. We want to start a quarterly art and literary magazine, and will remunerate contributors from profits made during publication. That is, the more you publicise your successful submission to your contact network, the more money will be available to share from mag sales as cost goes down with higher numbers of copies ordered. Thus, we are accepting submissions of art, poetry, and prose.
The magazine logo is still in draft form. We are in discussions with several artists, but if you would like to create a logo for the magazine (use the submission form at the bottom of this post to enter), you will be paid a commission for each issue produced.
We would like creatives to explore the theme of 'motorsport utopia', asking what would a utopian system mean to them.
If your creative form is not listed below (eg. audio, film, animation), but you are inspired by the prompts, please contact us via the submission form for possible publication avenues.
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 15TH SEPTEMBER
Submissions must be in a common image format (eg. *.jpeg, *.png) at a high enough resolution to be printed in A3 or A4 size without graining or distortion (please specify in your covering description). Both paintings/drawings and photographs are welcome. Photographs of sculptures are also welcome.
Submissions must be in a common word-processor format (eg. *.doc, *.odt). Max 1,000 words. In terms of style and form, it does not need to rhyme, but a consistent rhythm/meter is preferred. English language work is preferred; works in other languages require a translation to be provided (no automated translations).
Submissions must be in a common word-processor format (eg. *.doc, *.odt). Max 5,000 words. Original characters only. Style and form are variable, but within modern conventions for creative work. English language work is preferred; works in other languages require a translation to be provided (no automated translations).
While selection will be based primarily on quality and originality of work, we are a woman-forward organisation, and Nyoom! will reflect that. Preference will be given to submissions from women, LGBTQIAP+ folk, people of colour, ethnic/cultural minorities, and people with disability. If you fit into one of these categories, please tell us about it in the 'Minority Status' field.