Woman of the Week Nicole Drought was born and raised in Roscrea, Ireland. Her father was a keen rally driver throughout her childhood, and eventually moved to the Irish Touring Car Championship. Nicole joined alongside him on the ITCCstarting grid when she twenty. She spent two years in that championship before moving up to do selected rounds of the Global GT Lights series and was subsequently invited to Paul Ricard to test a Porsche GT3 with the Sean Edwards Foundation. Nicole is currently looking to join a British-based sports car championship for her 2018 campaign and has organised for a French test in a Mitjet later this year.
Bridget Schuil: What is your first memory of motorsport?
Nicole Drought: I was always into cars and motorsport when I was growing up but when I was about 11 ,my dad and I, as huge rally fans, took a trip to Kilkenny to have a look at a rally car, a Honda Civic. We took it for a test drive as soon as we arrived, with me in the passenger seat! Very exciting! After that I followed him to every rally to support him. That was probably my first memory of motorsport.
BS What do you love most about the sport?
ND I’d have to say the adrenaline rush. For years, I watched my dad compete and that, itself was a huge rush. I remember the morning of his rallies, standing in service with him, the smell of fuel, the sound of the engines and watching people running around frantically to get the last of the preparations done. That was so exciting for me. And when he’d leave for the first stage, I was almost nervous for him! When he’d pass me on a stage, I’d get such a rush! Then when I got the chance to actually drive a racing car, I found a whole new level of passion for the sport. The speed and rush I get from driving fast is like no other feeling, it’s amazing.
BS Who has been the most supportive of your career?
ND Oh, it’s hard to pick just one. My family and friends are so supportive of my racing, along with everyone in my home town. I never thought I’d get such support and I can’t believe the amount of people who really are behind me and want me to do well.
BS What has been your biggest struggle in your career thus far?
ND I think every racing driver will agree that funding is the biggest struggle in this sport.
BS That’s a common response to that question! Do you have any advice to give others in the same boat?
ND Yeah, start young! I started relatively late in motorsport andI never realised how important seat time is in a racing car until I started. Perhaps getting started in karting is the best advice I could give. In terms of sponsorship, it has to be seen as a commercial transaction, as opposed to the common perception of assistance. A sponsor should have a quantifiable return on their investment.
BS So what was it that tipped you over the edge from spectator to participant?
ND I grew up around cars and motorsport, so since I can remember, I always wanted to be a driver!
BS What have been some of the highlights of your career thus far?
ND My first ever racing weekend, in the Irish Touring Car Championship, I qualified second on the grid, which I couldn’t believe! Winning my first race, being nominated as the Irish Dunlop Young Racing Driver of the month September 2016, being invited to test a Porsche GT3 at the famous Paul Ricard and qualifying 2nd on my debut in the Global GT Lights Series in Anglesey!
BS What do you think can be done to encourage more women into the sport?
ND I think more awareness. For girls to know that this is a sport which they can be involved in and love also!
BS Have you ever experienced sexism in motorsport, and if so, how did/do you deal with it?
ND I didn’t think I was any different when I came to the track for the first time with my racing car. I grew up with this being my favourite sport. But I did notice that people did point out that I was going to be on the ITCC grid that year and that I was female! It didn’t bother me though, I was ready to put on my helmet and join the grid like every other person!
BS I recently re-read a paper by Pflugfelder (2009), and he said that because the narratives around women in motorsport are still sexist, you’re still marked as a woman because they know what your car looks like.
ND As I spend more time in this sport, I do notice that women are slightly singled out if they are on the grid, but I think it’s for a good reason. It’s important for women, especially young girls, to know that motorsport isn’t just for boys! I was lucky to grow up in a motorsport family but I would like to see more girls introduced to the sport. In recent times, there are many organisations being set up for awareness of women in motorsport and it is clear, especially in Ireland anyhow, that there is a greater presence of girls coming through in karting.
BS What advice would you give to young women wanting a career in racing?
ND I think you should just go for it! I wish, looking back that I had started out a little earlier. But I have done very well in a short space of time and I hope to continue that success and I hope, in some way I can be a role model to younger girls in the sport.