Women in motorsport

More than 40 people attended the Eastern Southland Car Club’s 'Fun Day' event in Balclutha, which was aimed at attracting more women and young people into motorsport.

The Eastern Southland Car Club (ESCC) recently ran its second of two events aimed at encouraging more women into motorsport, which has prompted other clubs to consider holding similar events of their own. 

Following on from its successful ‘Have a Go Ladies’ grass autocross in March, the ESSC hosted a follow-up meeting in Balclutha at the end of October. Organiser Roger Laird said that it was a great event, and several women are now competing in the club’s autocross series.

 “Everyone really enjoyed the first one; there were ear-to-ear grins. This time we introduced a boys and girls under-18 category,” said Laird. “Both events have led to more women getting involved in the sport, and there was also a big crossover between the field at the fun day and one of our autocross rounds a week later, which is encouraging.”

Laird said he had spoken to a number of people in other clubs, who were keen to put on similar events to grow their own numbers.

 “There are a lot of women involved in the sport as volunteers, co-drivers, or just partners of drivers,” he said. “Getting them behind the wheel is a good way to grow the sport – it’s just a matter of getting people over that hurdle of having a drive for the first time.”

All up, more than 40 competitors took part in the second fun day, with nine girls and 12 boys in the U18 categories, 14 ‘new entrants’, and 11 in the ‘experienced’ category for those who’d competed at previous club events.   

Laird said that it had also brought out a sense of camaraderie within the club, as people donated equipment for beginners to use, while senior club members put on driving lessons.

He said that the events were a great way for people to overcome any nerves they may have about getting involved in motorsport.

 One of the best

Dunedin rally driver and former Red Bull Global Rallycross Championship competitor Emma Gilmour was recently named winner (read full story) of the joint FIA Women in Motorsport and Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) cross-country rally selection programme, which featured 18 of the world’s best female drivers and co-drivers.

Gilmour’s success sees her join the programme’s top co-driver, the Nehterlands’ Lisette Bakker, on a fully-funded drive in the 2016 Sealine Cross Country Rally in Qatar next year (17-22 April).

She believes that to attract more women to motorsport in New Zealand, it’s important to have female role models in the sport, and doesn’t see a ‘glass ceiling’ that would prevent them from competing.

“If you look right across the sport, there are a lot of women involved from karting to co-driving, and in official positions and volunteering as well. Motorsport here is really accessible; you don’t need huge amounts of money to compete at the club level.”

Asked whether or not there should be women-only classes in motorsport, Gilmour was torn.

“If it was proven that more women would take up the sport as a result, I’d be supportive of that. However, I also used to do horse riding, where you ride with men, and I’ve never seen gender as a barrier to competing. Personally, I just love the thrill of going fast and getting out and competing.”  

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