As a child, did you ever sit and think my dream is to become a racing driver? Well, I assume it may be every little boy's dream, but imagine being a little girl with the same dream! I could only imagine being a driver when I was little. There was never any indication that girls could be racing drivers too. Sitting here now in 2021, with 5 years of rallying experience under my belt, I can only look back on my dreams and say why wasn't I sure they could become a reality.
I studied at New Hall from Year 2 to Year 12. During these years, I was certain that I would end up in business or finance. However, that was before I turned 15 and had the chance to drive a rally car! As a child, I used to go to rallying events with my dad. I loved the atmosphere of events and was always captivated by my dad's stories about how he and my grandfather competed in Kenya. I was a third-generation rally driver, and even then we didn't see it as a potential career path for me!
Sat behind the wheel, that's when it hit me: the speed, the feeling of being in control, the adrenaline. That's when I knew that racing was for me. I was hooked. However, when I told my parents that I wanted to start rallying, they laughed at me, and my mum said no to letting me compete. I wasn't letting it go, so we made a deal.
The deal was that I had to get a degree, so I enrolled at the American University in Washington DC, and got the business degree I always knew I would. During my studies, I didn't even train, my mother had made it clear I was to park the car (quite literally) and focus on my studies. I decided to make the most of my university time, I studied all a wide variety of different topics, interned with companies, participated in events and competition, joined clubs, and studied abroad in Germany. But I never lost sight of my goal. As soon as I graduated, I handed my mum the degree and started my professional rallying career!
I was 21 when I started driving. I rushed to get my license, learnt as much as possible, and entered small single venue events to raise my license grade and compete at a higher level. 2016 was a baptism of fire for me, as I threw everything I had at it and went straight into the British Rally Championship. Despite being completely out of my depth, I learned that you can achieve anything if you have the drive and determination.
2016 was the year that I had my first crash (sadly it's part of the sport, there is a saying that if you're not crashing, you aren't trying hard enough). This was a moment of reflection for me, and afterwards my parents had asked me if this was something that I still wanted to do. Little did they know that I knew as soon as I stepped out of the car that day, that there was no chance I was giving this up! There will always be challenges in anything you do, and setbacks like this are a part of the game that you face both in a mental and physical capacity. They helped me to realise that failure is the key the success. With this, I mean that you cannot let your losses hurt you, but you need to learn from them to become a stronger person and make the changes you need to make.
Another huge challenge that I have come across in the world of motorsport is financing. You have to work extremely hard to find partners who can provide sponsorship to compete. This can deter many people. I have seen it myself, where an individual doesn't really like asking for help, or doesn't feel confident to do so. Therefore, it becomes impossible to continue to compete. This is one thing that you need to let go of early on because you cannot make it anywhere without asking for someone's guidance and assistance to get you to where you need to go. This is also a very time-consuming part of the process and requires a lot of effort to ensure you can provide the sponsors with what they need.
When I started, I worked with smaller companies who were happy to support me and really wanted to have success as one of the very few females in the sport, so I was fortunate. As time has gone on, it has become more difficult, you need to be marketable, as well as talented, and sometimes marketability is the more important tool! This is where my business degree came in useful. I am one of the very few drivers who went to university and studied before competing. The degree has helped me understand what companies are looking for, and what will help their bottom line. I also did a few internships and spent a couple of years in sports marketing, which really helped.
People often ask if being female in a male-dominated sport is a hurdle. But from my personal experience, I haven't really ever seen it. There is a lot of support and opportunities to professionally develop, if you grab them with both hands and invest in yourself, you will make tracks.
You will always face several stumbling blocks in any field that you choose, and you, therefore, have two ways of looking at it. The first is letting it bother you, saying I can't do this and try to take the easy route. The second is to step back and question yourself, to say 'right this isn't going the way I expected. What can I do differently or work on in order to keep moving forward?' It won't be easy, but if you take the second option you will find the right answer and end up where you want to be!
Following this second approach, I decided to continue competing and am now a two-time British Ladies Champion. I also have had the chance to compete in World Rally Championships, where I have placed third in my class and had the opportunity to travel around Europe. I am very lucky to be in the position I am. I have had a lot of support over my career, from my family, friends, partners, team, engineers, mechanics, and everyone else that has been involved in getting us to where we need to be. Motorsport has given me a lot, and I know that even when I stop driving there are other avenues for me.
The world has changed so much since I was little, and it has become clear to me that you can do almost anything you want to, provided you work hard for it, and know that nothing will ever come easy. It will take every ounce of yourself to reach those goals, and you will, of course, face tough challenges along the way, regardless of the path that you choose. But don't let that deter you, keep setting your goals high and don't stop until you get there!