Dare to be Different have been inspiring young girls and women to pursue careers in Motorsport since it was founded by Ex Williams Test Driver Susie Wolff at the end of 2015. Be that through taster days for young female karters, inspiring young women in engineering to pursue their passion with visits to team factories, or organising visits up to Autosport for young women looking to get into journalism and the media, they’ve been there inspiring and helping young girls and women to pursue a career in a male dominated environment.
One of the biggest ways Dare to be Different helps its community members though is through its networking opportunities, and through Community Connect Events. Special days put on by Dare to be Different aimed at getting community members together to chat about all things motorsports, to inspire members to further their careers, and to give them the opportunities to progress in their specialist fields with informative talk and industry experts on hand as well to guide them. The latest of these events was on the Saturday of the Brazilian Grand Prix at the British Motor Museum, and armed with her OM shirt, her camera, and her encyclopaedic knowledge of motorsport, we sent our Manager and F1 reporter Amanda Smith to explore this event.
I’ve been a member of Dare to be Different since it was founded, and thanks to them I’ve had some amazing opportunities to engage with some spectacular young women, I’ve talked to some fantastic industry experts, and I’ve even had the opportunity to visit Autosport on a couple of occasions. The first was for a taster day in February where I learnt a huge amount of what actually goes on behind the scenes of Autosport. (I personally think I died and went to Motorsport Geek heaven when they let me loose in the archives for the afternoon.) And more recently I visited Autosport again during the Thursday of the Belgian Grand Prix to work with the team up there as they got live information in from the paddock.
Despite this I’ve never been able to make it to a Community Connect Event, until now. So after a hectic morning getting ready and a long car ride later, I finally arrived at the Community Connect Event. The British Motor museum was an amazing place to hold the event, and many of the girls got there in enough time to have a look around the museum, myself included. The museum is host to a great collection of British cars, from road cars to sports cars, Bond cars to racing cars, and there really is a huge number of things for you to see. Personal highlights for me included the 1970 Tyrrell F1 car of Sir Jackie Stewart, the 1988 Le Mans winning Jaguar of Jan Lammers, Johnny Dumfries and Andy Wallace, and the 2004 Jaguar F1 car of Mark Webber.
For me the Jaguar F1 car sticks out in my mind as my favourite car of the day, and not just because I’m a Mark Webber fan. The car was housed in the collection centre of the museum and it was the closest I’d ever been to a modern F1 car like that before. For me having the opportunity to see the car up close and look first hand at the way everything was intricately linked together to produce the Jaguar was something that blew my mind. Seeing just how the aerodynamics worked in sync, working out how the air came off of the front wing and how it was fed round and through the car, was for me something I’ve always loved as a motorsport fan. So, to get the opportunity to look in detail at these aspects really was something that will stick in my mind. What was also interesting was seeing the aerodynamic evolution between the Tyrrell and the Jaguar, as well as things like the evolution in the steering wheels both cars had. By far and away these two cars were my favourite of the day to see, as well as the Le Mans car because I’ve always been a bit of a World Endurance Champion geek too.
It was also nice to see as I went around, the number of girls and young women visiting the museum with their parents, guardians, and partners. A lot of the females wondering around were from Dare to be Different. But after being told for years when I was a kid by my peers in school I was weird for liking a “boys sport,” it was refreshing to see so many women enjoying looking at the cars on display. As well as seeing a lot of genuine passion from them about the exhibits. For me, it’s things like seeing girls and women enjoying days out at motor museums, asking questions, and showing passion and an interest in the exhibits, that I think will help to carry on shifting the stigma of motor racing being seen as a “boys sport.”
After a few hours in the museum spent looking at the exhibits, as well as grabbing a quick bite to eat, it was time for the Community Connect Event to kick off. There was time before the main part of the event to network and talk to some of the attendees about what exactly they’d been up to in their respective fields of motorsport.
One of the girls I got talking to was the wonderful Sophie Gill, a media personality in the making and a racer as well, (her Facebook page can be found here- https://www.facebook.com/SophieGillMotorsport/?hc_location=ufi) I enjoyed talking to Sophie and her friends, who were telling me enthusiastically about their latest escapades on the karting track. Hearing young girls talking so openly and eagerly about their races showed me there is a slow shift taking place, and that it is becoming more common for young girls to take up karting and pursue that as a career. It was also great to see that despite the tag that they may have been taking part in a “boys sport” these young girls didn’t let them affect them. Announcing excitedly to me “there’s nothing stopping a girl from karting and winning just as well as a boy!” There isn’t indeed, and it’s the young girls like Sophie and her friends who are going to be and are challenging, the order of things right now. I wished the girls good luck with their future races before heading off to chat to more people.
Another woman I had a great conversation with was Christine Abbot, chairperson of the Lotus Sevens Club and one of the creators of their monthly magazine (her website can be found here- https://www.lotus7.club ) Christina was a brilliant person to chat to and the pair of us had some pretty in-depth conversations about what exactly we’d been doing with our respective media platforms. Seeing the differences and challenges between putting together a monthly magazine verses a website was definitely a highlight of the conversation for myself. One thing that really stuck out in our conversation for me though was the way Christina wanted to shape and change the longstanding views out there about women in Motorsport. And how it was a personal dream of hers that when her grandchildren said they went around the racetrack with their grandma at the helm of the car, that this would be seen as totally normal thing someday soon.
I also had the opportunity to speak to the wonderful Kathryn Richards, one of the Mercedes Wind Tunnel Test Technicians, briefly about some of the finer points of engineering. Although this is not a subject I particularly excel in (physics was never my strong point) it was still interesting to learn a lot more about the kind of engineering involved in creating a car like the Mercedes.
After some time to network and grab ourselves a drink, it was time to enjoy a talk from a guest speaker. The guest speaker for the event was Annastiina Hintsa, daughter of the famous F1 doctor and creator of the Hinsta program Aki Hintsa. Annastiina was wonderful to listen too, and through sharing some stories about her dad and what he strove for, personal stories about how the Hinsta philosophy helped her, and explaining how we could best optimise and improve the six areas of our lives as recommended by her father, Annastiina was able to create an informative and helpful talk for all of us about how small changes in some of the things we could do, could have a dramatic impact on our lives. The whole room seemed spellbound as we sat there listening to the talk, with many young girls also taking notes for things they could put into practice once they had left the event. Personally, I found the talk eye opening, and I can now see there are some aspects of my own life I can work on the best optimise myself moving forward.
Once Annastiina finished her talk, the floor was then open for us to ask our own questions to Annastiina and Susie Wolff about what we’d just heard as well as ask about areas of our own lives within motorsport and our personal lives we thought could do with some improvement, based on the Hinsta philosophy. Some of the questions included how exactly should we get enough sleep in our hectic lives, when is it best for us to get off of social media which was stopping many of us sleeping, when exactly should we say no to being reachable at all times, and also how exactly does the food we put into our bodies on weekend when were busy engaging in our activities affect us. (I must admit after hearing this bit of conversation I have tried to cut down on the amount of caffeine I put into my body and I have noticed an improvement in myself.) The questions allowed many of us to discuss how something like the Hinsta philosophy could affect and help us improve certain sections of our lives leading to a better wellness for all of us overall.
Following the end of the Q&A session each of the attendees got their free copy of Aki’s book “The Core,” (which has been a fantastic and insightful read so far) there was more time after to devour some of the delicious cupcakes, and network again. Once again, I had some truly fantastic conversations with the women and young girls present at the event. Discussing everything from journalism, to engineering, and talking about people’s racing careers too, as well as what was going on in the Qualifying for Brazil at that moment in time. At the end of the event though just before I left I got an amazing opportunity to talk to the founder of Dare to be Different herself, Susie Wolff.
Susie has been a personal hero of mine for many years, showing that women could compete in Formula 1 after being the first women in twenty-two years to take to the track during an F1 weekend. She’s also been a great champion of getting women and young girls into motorsport by setting up Dare to be Different, and reminding us all if she can do it, there’s no reason we can’t. So having the opportunity to talk to her about what I’d been up too in the world of motorsport, and to grab a selfie too, was definitely something that will stay with me for a long time to come.
Overall my day with Dare to be Different at their Community Connect Event was spectacular and will definitely stick in my mind for a long time to come. The events inspired me even more to succeed in my field and make it in Motorsport. It’s reminded me that I can’t give up, and with such a great network of girls and women around me who push me and inspire me as well with the things they do I know I’m going to succeed. I’d like to thank Dare to be Different once again for putting on the Community Connect Event, the whole thing was a great opportunity and I can say without a shadow of a doubt, I’ll be going along to the next Community Connect Event. So, watch this space!