Gemma Trotter has been given a drive with Berkshire-based Team BRIT, who have secured several class wins in the Britcar Dunlop MSA British Endurance Championship. The team are eyeing endurance opportunities with a view to entering the Le Mans 24-Hour race in 2018. With this goal in mind, they have added Trotter to their existing driver line-up, joining Mark Allen, Martyn Compton, and Cameron McDonnell. They plan to join the Creventic 24 Hours Series in 2016. Trotter debuted for Team BRIT in the 3-hour Johnny Herbert Karting Challenge in December.
"I've been given an opportunity of a lifetime to achieve something beyond my wildest dreams,' she said of the opportunity. "I'm going to show the world what can be achieved when you set your aims firmly on a goal."
Team founder and CEO, Dave Player said, "After hearing about her history, it's clear she has racing in the blood. Even though Gemma is not an injured veteran, we feel inspired to do something."
Trotter was given the opportunity to race with Team BRIT through her ambassadorship for the Douglas Bader Foundation. The team took an instant liking to her, and decided to incorporate her in their outfit as they move towards their Le Mans goal. She will begin her training schedule at iZone at Silverstone in order to prepare for the coming season.
Erica Ortiz is a drag racer from the United States. She started racing as a teenager, and hasn't looked back since. She did, however grow tired of people commenting on how she dressed outside the racing arena and founded Horsepower & Heels, an organisation to support women in racing. Horsepower & Heels has been growing slowly over the past decade with her dedicated work to make women feel welcome in racing. Instead of burning bras for her feminism, she burns rubber.
BS What's your first memory of motorsport?
EO I didn't come from a racing family or background, so my first memory of motorsports came during high school. I always had this unexplained love and fascination with hot rods, and a few classmates had fathers and siblings who were into drag racing. I was dating a boy in high school who had a brother that raced, and when they talked about going to the races over the weekend, I really wanted to go. I think he thought I was just trying to be a clingy girlfriend, and wasn't really interested in the cars, so he never invited me along, but I did run into them a few years later as I pulled my car beside their at the track.
BS What made you pursue a career in motorsport?
EO I always have been drawn to automotive and motorsports, and poured myself into learning everything I could about them. I didn't just want to drive, I wanted to understand the cars, the technology and to be involved in pushing the limits of these mechanical marvels on the track. It has always been my love and passion, even when life pushed me to the sidelines.
BS When did you first start racing?
EO My first time on the track was shortly after graduating high school. I bought my first car, a 1990 Mustang GT, and took it to the local test and tune night. I was hooked instantly.
BS What do you love about the industry?
EO Everything. For me, the cars and technology are fascinating, and I love seeing the connection between (wo)man and machine. But the biggest part is the people, racing is a lifestyle and so much more than just a sport. You can be the most intense of rivals on the track, but the racing community as a whole is one big family that you travel across the country with from week to week, all sharing this one driving passion that fuels your soul (pun cheesily intended).
BS How do you deal with the sexism you encounter?
EO I've been around long enough to have run the full spectrum regarding sexism in motorsports, and through Horsepower & Heels, I've been able to talk to countless women who have shared a similar story about their own careers and experiences. What I've found, is that many of us go through cycles/stages in regards to this topic.
You start off as a young naive girl, with a big dream and lots of passion and fearless determination. Early on, you are met with the blatant sexist roadblocks of some really old school misogynistic men who will belittle you and try to undermine your confidence and resolve in motorsports. For me, I had comments thrown my way early on "Honey, do you even know where the gas pedal is on that thing?" and just really ridiculous statements that felt so unexpected in today's society. It was very surprising to learn that these type of opinions still existed, and that they were more prevalent that you'd ever think. Not only is your performance under a micro-scope that judges on a ruthless and unmatched benchmark, but so are your personal relationships, your dedication, your achievements - because they look for any reason to discredit your success as anything other than your own. "It must be her boyfriend's car"; "She must have slept her way into that driving position"; "She hasn't won a race yet as a rookie- she must not be able to cut it"
For many girls, this is the point where they develop a bit of a "Chip on the Shoulder" - or the overcompensating response that makes them feel they have to go out of their way to prove they are "one of the boys" and worthy of racing beside them. The tendency to denounce being a girl in favour of just being a racer, having to have this overly aggressive, tough-guy exterior all the time, and the general harsh attitude that many women adopt to be taken seriously in their sport.
I saw this in myself to a degree early in my career, and it led me to really stop and question what I was doing...because I really didn't understand why I felt this need all of a sudden to apologize for being a woman. And I certainly didn't feel like I should be forced to choose between being feminine and being a fierce competitor. Thus the idea: who says Horsepower & Heels don't mix?
When I stopped trying to be one of the boys just to compete with them, and instead embraced being a great racer AND being a proud woman - it really opened my doors to so much more. In racing and in life, too many women think that to succeed in a man's world, they have to become one of the boys. But embracing who I was - a powerful woman and competitive racer - and reaching out to other women sharing the unique experiences that being a woman in a male dominated sport, was much more rewarding and powerful than all of the time I wasted trying to "be one of the boys" to fit in. In business, they talk about the concept of "women leaning in" and I believe in motorsports, that same idea is key.
The long and hard-fought struggles are not without their battle scars though, as many of the women who have been in the sport for any length of time often cycle to a place of jadedness and burnout - myself included. Dealing with the public scrutiny, the very harsh catch-22 situations that don't afford women the opportunities they need to gain the experience necessary to compete with their male counterparts, and the ugly side that isn't discussed publicly - where people with bad intentions manipulate and prey on young ladies trying only to chase their dreams takes its toll. Much of it comes from the lack of a strong network of support for women- who could share their experiences and lessen the struggles for other young ladies entering the sport. That is the area I am so passionate about changing, because if the next young ladies can in any way benefit from my experiences and go father, then its a win for ALL women in motorsports.
BS Do you think the US is doing better than Europe in recruiting women racers?
EO I definitely think drag racing here in the US is, and I believe that may trump ALL other genres of motorsports in gender equality across the globe. Where other forms of motorsports are still awaiting their first female competitors in the top tier ranks, drag racing has elite women winning, and winning BIG in ALL of its ranks.
But, I have noticed more support and professionalism for women in motorsports internationally than I've seen or experienced here in the US at times. I've been really impressed with the organizations I've had the pleasure of connecting with and their initiatives to not just call for equality, but put measures in place to achieve it. The programs, the funding efforts, all seem to be more aligned with supporting women as a whole from the earliest stages. And that path, ultimately, may prove to be wildly more successful for the long term.
BS What can we expect to see from Horsepower Heels next year?
EO Horsepower & Heels is steadily growing, and working towards the ultimate mission of being a place that celebrates and promotes women in motorsports, and provides tools, education, opportunity and connections to help support females in the industry.
Next year, we hope to provide more and more coverage of the success of women in our sport, showcasing the talent and abilities of women. When you search "Women in Racing", my goal is to make stories like Erica Enders' dominant back-to-back championship season or Amy Ruman's record setting championship be the top results, and not all of the hottest women in racing lists that currently appear.
We plan to launch a Horsepower & Heels Power Hour webinar series that focuses on personal and professional development to help women in motorsports, where we bring in expert speakers to teach their best-practice strategies.
We also are working on a long-term plan to develop financial and sponsorship support for women in the sport, trusted services and providers that want to see and be a part of the success of women in racing.
BS Who will your workshops/webinars be open to?
EO Workshops and webinars will be open to female racers, crew members, and professionals in the industry or those aspiring to be in the industry.
BS What advice would you give to girls and women looking to pursue a career in motorsport?
EO Do one small thing, every day that gets you closer to your goal. Reach out to people you admire and ask them for their advice. The road to success isn't traveled alone, and enlisting the support of people you look up to will only help you better navigate your own path.
The Motorsport Sisterhood was officially founded on 15th September, 2015. It was a concept for far longer than that, but 15th September was when we got an official facebook page. Dory (the writer and social media mastermind) and I have discussed this at length and decided that I should document our way through the start-up process. The suggested format was a CEO's blog.
We want to play an open hand with everyone in the Sisterhood, so you know what we've done, what we plan to do, and where we're headed. We've got some exciting things planned over the next year, and a blog is the best way we know how to keep y'all up-to-date. Hence, I'm here, writing this to you to keep you in the loop about what's happening here at Sisterhood HQ.
PROGRESS MADE THIS QUARTER
Set up the webpage and social media presence
These days, nothing is a thing without a webpage. It took a while to wrangle Arvixe (our web host...big up to them, they're amazing) into submission. Since neither Dory nor I have mad coding skillz, we opted to go with Weebly as a design package. It's a great drag-and-drop interface that saves us paying an official designer to do the work for us (read: more money left over to sponsor). Neither of us have worked out how to use Arvixe's webmail interface, so if you email us at our @motorsportsisterhood.org addresses, it gets forwarded to our Gmail accounts and replied from there. We are working on this.
We have a Facebook page, a Twitter, a Tumblr, and a Pinterest. We apologise for the low rate of activity on the accounts; I'm juggling Sisterhood with a full-time job, a burgeoning art career, and a second degree; Dory is juggling a full-time job, and a book that is taking far more energy and mental health than she had anticipated.
Began set-up of the scholarship and sponsorship funds
We have made contact with a sponsorship agency to provide introductions for drivers until we have enough money to sponsor them ourselves. Contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or one of our social media outlets if you're seeking sponsorship. We'll do our best to hook you up.
We are in discussions with an entity to broker scholarships for women in motorsports. That entity cover the UK, so we are negotiating for scholarships to South African universities to start our scholarship program off (and increase the number of women of colour in the industry, since motorsport is, at present, almost a complete white-wash).
Started the Woman of the Week series
We interview a different woman each week with the goal of providing positive female role models to girls/women aspiring to work in motorsport. Studies have shown that having positive role models decreases stereotype threat (which manifests in motorsport and STEM fields as "women are bad at driving/maths/science" and negatively affects women's performance at work). We want to further women's careers by highlighting how great they are, and there's the simultaneous benefit of decreasing stereotype threat. Win-win.
WHERE WE'RE GOING IN THE NEXT QUARTER
Scholarship and sponsorship fund
We hope to have applications open for the scholarships before March. We're also pushing for more sponsorship opportunities. What would y'all think of a series featuring women racers seeking sponsorship (Sponsor-Seeking Saturdays)? Email email@example.com, post in the comments, or get in touch with one of our social media accounts if you'd like to be featured as part of this.
Promoting our followers
If you're a woman in motorsport, and you'd like us to big up your internet presence, get in touch! We'd love to pin pics/articles of you on our Pinterest, retweet you, reblog you, share your posts, etc. We'd love to feature you as a Woman of the Week, or on Sponsor-Seeking Saturday. This was set up to be a community that supported each other. If you want support, reach out!
I did one edition of Soulcare Sundays a few months back. My current degree is in theology, and I often feel like there's a complete dearth of content on this theme in the industry. The response was, as Katherine Legge would put it, "crickets". Literally nobody clicked the link within a week of my posting it.
Since then, people have been searching the tag (yay Weebly's click tracker software!), so we're thinking of resurrecting this idea. What sorts of topics would y'all like to hear about? As above, email/tweet/FB/tumblr chat me with your topic requests.
Soft skills/personal development courses
Further to my suspicion that motorsport would be far healthier if we taught people soft skills (handling rejection, taking criticism like a pro, constructive conflict resolution, bringing humour to sexist attacks, etc.), we'd like to run a six-week course on these topics.
I know several drivers who have totally fallen apart after losing their drives; I'd like to armour our community with skills for dealing with these situations that are inevitable if you're in the industry for long enough. We will be offering a handful of financial hardship scholarships, so get in touch if you want to learn these skills but don't have £100 to hand in the short term.
Technically, this will be happening in the summer, not before March, but best to get the word out while there's still time for everyone to apply for leave and save those pennies. We are in discussions to book out a camp site, have a glamping and catering company do the hard work so our attendees don't need to drag tents and cooking equipment across Europe, and have negotiated a 10% discount in both grandstand tickets and VIP tickets for the Blancpain Spa 24Hr. We are also in discussions with several hair and beauty practitioners to provide massages, mani-pedis, facials, etc. to make the Spa Weekend a spa weekend in all senses of the word.
See you in the comments, on Twitter/FB/Tumblr/Pinterest!
BS When did issues of motorsport and more specifically Formula 1 find their way onto your agenda?
AD I was elected in May 2014 to represent the South East of England, which covers a good portion of so-called 'Motorsport Valley', that part of the West Midlands and Oxfordshire where many motorsport jobs are based. I knew that some of the smaller teams were having problems but when both Marussia and Caterham entered into severe financial difficulties it seemed like the right time to act.
BS What prompted your speaking about Formula 1's unequitable distribution of funds to the European Parliament?
One of the roles the European Union performs is to ensure that there is fair competition in the European economy, whether we are talking about dishwashers or formula one teams. I felt that, with many small teams closing and new governance arrangements having been adopted in the sport, it was time for the EU to investigate whether competition was really fair within Formula 1.
BS In your opinion, is two teams pursuing the matter sufficient to raise the issue with the Competition Commissioner?
AD The Competition Commissioner can take up a case on the basis of just one interested party complaining, that is enough. The Commissioner follows a strict process to investigate whether there has been a breach of competition rules, and they apply this process regardless of the nature of the industry being investigated and how much media or public concern there is about the subject. So I think that there certainly are grounds for the Competition Commissioner to look into what is happening to the sport.
BS While nobody is arguing that change needs to come, do you see the case succeeding?
AD I'm not sure it's the case that no-one feels change is necessary. There have been significant alterations in the governance of F1 which mean that some teams are guaranteed substantial support, regardless of where they end up at the end of the race, whereas others do not get this support. There may well be reasons for that arrangement but from the outside it looks peculiar and the Competition Commissioner needs to investigate this as well as other issues.
BS Do you see any other factors potentially helping your case? What are these?
AD We have unfortunately seen viewing figures for F1 go down, as I understand it, over recent months. I think this indicates that the audience for motorsport wants to know they are watching a genuinely competitive sport where skill and technological innovation are still important, as well as size.
BS What do you see as an ideal outcome for the investigation?
AD For the investigation to have been conducted thoroughly and professionally, and to be recognised as such by all parties.
BS Is there a legal basis for the EU to insist that the FIA sells its 1% stake in F1?
AD Certainly the Competition Commissioner can require restructuring of an industry dependent on her investigation, but I wouldn't want to comment on any specifics; the outcome is up to her.
BS Would there be any avenues for EU support of a scholarship program for European women - particularly women of colour, and/or women of LGBTQ+ identities, although all applicants will be treated with fairness and equality - to pursue degree and postgraduate programs in motorsport-relevant fields?
AD There is already the 'Erasmus+' programme which is focused on helping people to study and undertake apprenticeships in different European countries. You can find out details about it here: https://erasmusplus.org.uk/what-can-i-do
As far as I know there is not a specific element of it focused on motorsport, but you can set up your own programme either as an education or training institution or a youth group. So there would be potential there, but it would need to involve some kind of cross-border element; i.e., British apprentices going to work in Germany or similar.
Beth Paretta started her career working in the alpine skiing industry. She moved into the automotive industry with Audi as a Certified Brand Specialist. She then moved on to Volkswagen as a Business Development Manager. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles took notice of her partnership-building skills, and hired her as Director of Marketing and Operations for Motorsports and the SRT (Street Racing Technology) division. She accumulated three titles in her tenure with them before forming Grace Autosports, an all-woman racing team.
BS What is your first memory of motorsport?
BP Watching any kind of racing on television (Formula One to NASCAR) and being mesmerized by it. First memory of being at a race was being at Lime Rock Park with my Dad and watching races from the infield hill.
BS What inspired you to pursue a career in motorsport?
BP It wasn't conscious. I pursued a career in the automotive industry which led to professional roles in racing. I've always been interested in continuous education so learning the business of racing appealed to me.
BS What do you love about the industry?
BP I love the challenge and the competition. Also, the family. It's a close network of people.
BS Have you encountered much sexism in motorsport?
BP In attitude from some of the old guard, yes. But they are slowly going away. Not from anyone who really matters.
BS How do you handle the sexist attitudes you encounter?
BP Well, you have to realize that it is just their ignorance and likely a bit of fear, and it's really their problem and not yours. I've had to deal with some people who didn't understand or like some of the ways that the business has evolved. They may have equated the presence of more women with other things that were changing and they just didn't like change. It's best to just do your job and know that in time, their weaknesses will reveal themselves. This train is rolling whether they are on board or not. There are so many great people with educated and welcoming attitudes and it's best to just align with them as mentors and colleagues.
BS How do you hope Grace Autosport will change the industry?
BP We hope that over time more girls and women will be interested in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) and consider pursuing careers in those related fields. By showcasing a team of women we hope to provide real examples of dedication and teamwork. Kids start to be influenced toward a potential career path as early as 4th and 5th grade, so our visible campaign and outreach activities may inspire them. It's not about working in racing directly; there are so many exciting industries they can be part of: automotive, aerospace, etc.
BS Where do you hope to see Grace Autosport in five years' time?
BP We'd love to be running two cars full time in the IndyCar series and maybe running in another racing series as well.
BS What advice would you give to girls/women looking to build a career in motorsport?
BP Don't be afraid of taking any entry level job. There are many roles on the team so do your research, ask questions, and be ok with working weekends. And during the week. Actually, don't plan on having a day off from about March through October. Or later.