Drifting is one of the fastest growing extreme motorsports around the world and Danielle Murphy is one of very few successful female Drift competitors in Europe with Pro-level status. She won the first ever Queen of Europe Championship in 2013, was runner up in 2014 and Champion again in 2015 - and also secured 5th place 2015 Championship finish in the King of Europe Street Legal Class.
She has big plans for 2016: make a bigger impact - not only across Europe, but around the World as both a competitor and ambassador. She intends to upgrade the engine in her car, along with major fabrication improvements to be more competitive against the bigger European Teams and have a better chance to beat them.
Fresh of her 3rd place finish in Battlemania New Zealand at Bruce McLaren motorsport park, she spoke to Bunmi Ade about her love for motorsport, her career so far, challenges she has faced, and her future career plans.
Bunmi Ade: What is your first memory of motorsport?
Danielle Murphy: My first memory of Motorsport was of my dad and his brothers racing Stock cars during the 80’s, I attended my first race when I was just 2weeks old! I’m not sure which my earliest memory of them times were but I do remember some particular instances like my dad winning a race with 3 wheels after losing one 5 laps from the finish! Or the tensions and arguments between the competitors, it was a pretty rough game! My dad won the Championship 3 times during the 1980’s but stopped soon after I was born to pursue a Haulage business which also went on to be successful.
BA What inspired you to pursue a career in motorsport and specifically Drifting? What is a typical route into the sport?
DM I never planned to have a career in Motorsport to be honest, I was always lucky that with my parents Haulage business, I was able to drive performance and powerful cars from when I was 18 (Legal limit to drive in Ireland is 17) I was always interested in power over looks of a car. I got involved in the Tuning Scene and attended Car Shows across the Country and the UK. It was at these shows that I seen stunt drivers go around in circles and raising smoke from burning the tyres (in a confined and safe area), the crowd love it. It wasn’t my thing as I thought, “anyone can do that!” So I challenged myself to get involved with these shows which then led to me being recognised as a girl. Drifting then started in Ireland a few years later, which was a bigger challenge and required a lot more car control. It was unknown for any women competing at this time, I knew I could do it and I wanted to be the first woman to make a name in a man’s World. I always wanted to Rally but I could never afford it, when Drifting started it was easy to start on a small budget. As the years went on my “hobby” started to progress with results across Ireland & the UK. Then I wanted more challenges and went to Europe, and presently now chasing worldwide recognition. But I think the word “career” is a little strong at the moment as I am not receiving any financial support, as much success I have achieved to date, the daily struggle is still very evident.
BA Have you encountered sexism in motorsport? If so, how do you deal with it?
DM Yes, as I started going up the ranks and achieving results in the early days I found a lot of jealousy, be it from competing in the UK with some Irish competitors talking, or competing in the UK and dealing with severe harassment and bullying, either way it all seemed to stem from the one thing, jealousy. I’m a woman who can drive as well as any man, even when my car was not up to proper competition specifications, I did all my own mechanics, drove my own truck and had my own business. It is hard to ignore it but it was always the better option. My mother always told me to Smile, regardless if inside I was screaming, because behind a smile, no-one can see what you are really thinking or feeling. The extremeness of the bullying and damage I experienced in the UK back those few years ago was what actually pushed me to Europe, I was ready to quit and walk away, but my mother literally picked me up from my negative mindset, she told me that she would get behind me 100% and emotionally support me to compete in Europe, “We will give it one good year, if it doesn’t work out, you know you tried your best and will never have any regrets”. Those words, I will never forget, since my first competition in Europe, I have never looked back, I grew back to the strong, confident woman I was before, I’m living my dreams and the true hunger to succeed after I realised I could is making me thrive to this day and beyond. It is because of this experience you will often see me use the hashtag in my social media posts #NeverGiveUp #FightForYourDreams
BA What advice would you give to women starting out a motorsport career? What sort of ambassador role would you like to perform?
DM Just do it! Women tend to overthink and analyze things! I’m so grateful to have had some women contact me in a variety of circumstances previous, 90% were not encouraged by friends or loved ones as they wished to try get into Motorsport, be it Competing, Marshalling or Photography. They follow my Social Media and see me constantly overcome many challenging obstacles, be it mechanical, financial or transport issues, I have experienced them all on a major scale! But even when all options seem to be explored, I somehow find the energy to keep looking and believing that giving up is never an option (for me anyway) and I find a way. I decided to open this element of my life through my Social Media so everyone can see what goes on behind the scenes, the reality & the struggles. This first started among my friends but then I started getting messages from people around the World telling me how much of an inspiration I was to them and that because of me they have overcome professional, personal and even health challenges.
That is the role I want to continue to perform. For me, I’m not here to get rich, I’m doing what I love doing all while sharing my story with whoever wants to follow it, and by my story I want not only women but men & children to always believe that absolutely anything in this World is possible once you believe in it and have the support of loved ones along the way, I am proof of this. Make achievable goals while working towards your ultimate goal, and piece by piece the road will fall at your feet.
BA What is your most memorable event in your career so far?
DM There is a lot within these past few years, but ultimately, the first ever Queen of Europe Event was held in Bulgaria in June 2013. One week before the event I decided to make the trip, but it was impossible to take my car due to the distance and finance of logistics, that and I was pretty scared of driving in some of the Eastern Europe Countries from stories carried through Trucker friends. The organiser of the event was able to hire a car for me, the only thing I knew was the car was brown, the same model of my own and required 18” tyres! Literally at the final hour, my only option to make it to the event on time (with financial help from friends and family) I got the ferry to the UK from Dublin with my mam, a friend drove from Peterborough to Holyhead to collect us, take us to gatwick within 5 hours to make a flight to Sofia, Bulgaria! It was my first event properly outside of Ireland and the UK and I was nervous, I ended up winning this event then on to claiming the Championship that year. It was that event and journey into the unknown, being brave and taking on a challenge, that I realised I did actually have potential and the ability as a driver, and after that moment the past was left behind, I used the past to fuel my future, and now personally, it’s pretty surreal to see how far I have come since that one event. I regularly look back on the video documentary of that trip and it inspires me