On this edition of Woman of the Week, we are featuring Danielle Crespo, marketing and media relations manager at TRG-Aston Martin Racing in California. Danielle got her start in motorsport when she founded Suite Pass - a booking service for hotels, VIP function suites, and high-end transportation in Austin, Texas - to provide for the influx of Formula 1 tourism at the Austin Grand Prix. While in Austin, she also worked for Longhorn Racing, marketing and managing their supercar experience days. She later diversified into writing for eRacing Magazine, and a number of other motorsport and motoring publications, before going full-time with TRG-AMR.
Bridget Schil:What was your first memory of motorsport?
Danielle Crespo: My dad had a Datsun 280z when I was really small. I was too short to see out of the car window, so really the only thing of interest to look at on car rides was the car's shifter boot. I didn't really know what that was for, but as he's an aggressive driver, it did know that it was really fun every time he moved the shift stick as we dove into a turn. This isn't specifically motorsports, but it created that thrill for speed that eventually manifested itself in to motorsports later in life.
BS When did you decide to pursue a career in motorsport?
DC This all started back in 2010, when F1 was announced in Austin. I had been to the Circuit de Catalunya outside of Barcelona for test days, and then started following the series. In May of 2010, by chance, I had just returned from Monaco as it was being set up for the Grand Prix. When the race was announced in Austin, I identified the bizarre juxtaposition right away. I knew I wanted to be involved in helping Austin understand F1 and vice versa. It was a secretive announcement, so I didn't know who to go to in order to find out about a job with the future race circuit, so I just started my own little news website that was a placeholder for a hotels website. I had no idea what I was doing but I was willing to learn as much as I could, and Twitter interactions helped greatly with that. After I started gaining traction on my little website and twitter presence, which then converted in to me landing an actual Formula 1 team hotel booking, I realized I could really make something out of this idea.
BS How did you transition from entrepreneur/webpreneur to being a full-time team member?
DC This is still new, but it was from one connection leading to another leading to another. I met the team I'm with now, TRG-Aston Martin Racing, while in Austin covering the Pirelli World Challenge race for E-Racing Magazine. I interviewed two of their drivers and kept in touch afterwards. When I randomly saw that they were hiring later on in the year, I immediately applied and got a call back in an hour. After a long interview process, we decided I was the right match for the job and I left everything behind to move to California.
BS Who have you found to be the most supportive of your career?
DC First off, I'm realizing how incredibly important it is to have support in this field - it's extremely intense and can be very time consuming, and I don't even drive the cars! Over all, my mom has been the most supportive - she's been encouraging me without fail from day 1 to be involved and try different ways of engaging with the industry. For something that I wasn't making much money off of, but was spending a lot of time on, it was really great to know that she saw my passion for this field was too great to discourage. Secondly, it's been difficult to date guys who either don't understand what I'm doing or are intimidated that I'm more involved in racing than they are, so I'm really lucky I found a guy who works for a racing team which is headquartered not far from mine. And, we don't race in the same series - so we're careful about not spilling potential "speed secrets" but we don't have some weird tension as competitors!
BS What has been the most exciting moment of your time in motorsport?
DC I think I could write a novel in which I try to pinpoint an exact moment. I can't choose one - maybe meeting Allen McNish on the balcony of the Hotel de Paris at the Monaco Grand Prix? Going in to the Force India garages for a private tour on the Friday before the inaugural US Grand Prix? My first big Suite sale? In reality, I could list a dozen things that seem like I'm just bragging, but these are treasured life experiences that are only possible because of the incredible people I've met. I have to acknowledge motorsports artist Kevin Paige for not only supporting me in my business, but inviting me to join him on many of his own race track adventures. He knows everyone in multiple race series and is a pro at what he does, so he's led the way for a lot of my "exciting moments in motorsports" to come to fruition.
BS What do you think is the biggest struggle facing women in the industry?
There is a segregation between women's roles and men's roles in the industry, whether people want to admit it or not. Now that I'm "known" in the paddock and have a team-branded polo, there's no problem for me to hop in and out of places on the track with no questions. Before, when I was just walking around paddocks in "plainclothes," I would be asked if I was there with my boyfriend or husband, if I've ever been to a race before, etc. There's this expectation that if you're not working either for a team or as a grid girl, you have no legitimate purpose of being in the paddock on your own. Guys will try and argue this with me but without experiencing these subtle expectations, you can't really empathize with a woman's reality. I do sometimes wish I was working on team strategy or was an aerodynamacist just to skew the numbers (and also because those roles seem fairly badass).
BS What do you love about the industry?
DC We're supporting people who are truly, truly doing what they love. Drivers get to experience their state of flow, while the rest of us get a visceral experience as the engines roar around the track, enveloped in beautiful machinery. There's a gladiatorial experience (have you seen the Pirelli World Challenge this year? Brutal!) and a travel component. There's new tech combined with old tricks and rivalries. There's business going down trackside - serious, multi-million-dollar deals get done over a race weekend. It's as if us transients in racing fly from city to city and form our own mobile country with our hugely diverse range of skills when we land at a track for the weekend.
BS What advice do you have for girls/women wanting to carve out a career for themselves in motorsport?
DC Get informed, show up, and be assertive. If you're there to get a job done, get it done. Remember that hardly anyone has a static role in motorsports - the person you see doing grunt work for some no-name team could easily be someone you have to answer to within a race series in just a few years. Or, the person you rely on for help could move on by the next season. It's best to make good connections and friends across a whole spectrum of roles but also know that you need to be self-reliant at the end of the day.