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.