In a welcomed break from the norm, OM spent the day at Buckmore Park Karting track in Kent with Dare to be Different helping out with the organisations first schools event of the year.
Back in 2017 my wife and I welcomed our first child, baby Florence. Her arrival inspired me to write an article exploring the opportunities girls have in motorsport at a grass roots level and the result was a great conversation with Dare to be Different (D2BD) exploring how the orgainsation works and how it spreads its message of female talent in motorsport.
As a follow up to this, I contacted D2BD senior account manager Jenny about coming down to help volunteer at Buckmore Park Karting track in Kent for their first schools event of the year. So the F3 desk dusted down the “out to lunch sign” and spent a lovely sunny day on the go-kart track.
For those who don’t know, D2BD is a charity that focuses on getting girls aged between 8 and 11 into motorsport and introducing them to possible careers in that field. It was set up in 2016 by former Williams test and development driver Susie Wolff. It has been a great success up and down the country and, more recently, Germany and Australia.
Buckmore Park is the first of their headline school events for the year. They contact primary schools within a radius of the karting circuit, and invite 10 schools to each bring along 10 Key Stage 2 girls to the event, totaling 100 participants at each event. These taster days aim to open the girls’ eyes to the possible careers within motorsport that they could pursue when they are older.
Today’s event was as popular as ever, with girls from all backgrounds and walks of life, some with karting and motorsport experience, some experiencing this for the first time, but all with the hunger and enthusiasm to get stuck in and it was brilliant to see!
With the schools arriving for a 9am start, there was just time for a quick safety briefing from the track manager before the girls were let loose!
Going round in their groups they got to take part in a karting session out on the track, perform a Pirelli Pitstop challenge, test their reactions on a Batak reaction game, learn about first aid from a motorsport doctor, demonstrate their journalistic skills by working with a motorsports presenter performing a piece to camera, and work with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) Ambassador on building a giant hoverboard! The ultimate aim: to take the girls out of their comfort zone, try something different and not be afraid to have a go at a new experience.
In a new collaboration with D2BD, F1 in Schools was also in attendance. F1 in Schools is a non profit organisation, with the aim of providing a fun and hands-on initiative that demonstrates many different levels of Science and Engineering, in a positive and attractive light. This gives participants the opportunity to develop key skills such as communication, presenting, and team working.
The processes the participants and their teams follow are the same as those a real Formula One team follow: from creating their initial business plan, to designing, making and racing their car. They use Computer Aided Design (CAD) software and analyse their designs using CFD and drag calculation software. They will then use Computerised Numerical Control (CNC) machinery to manufacture their car, before testing it in wind and smoke tunnels. Finally, they will race their car on 20 meter F1 in Schools racetrack, to see who has designed and manufactured the fastest car.
The event at Buckmore Park was lead by D2BD ambassador, motorsport consultant, and PHD researcher Cristiana Pace. Other STEM ambassadors were also on hand to help the girls produce cars, marketing strategies and promotional materials for their team, along with talking to other girls taking part in the scheme in the hope it inspires them to take part.
I was helping out with fitness and reactions and along with D2BD’s resident fitness instructor, we got the girls warmed up with some simple exercises before getting them to try their hand at the Batak reaction game. Again for those who don’t know what this is, it is a reaction test all Formula One drivers practice and the idea is to press the numbers when they light up as many times as possible over a 30 second period.
One by one the girls game up to the Batak to set a score over the 30 seconds and to get a taster of how it works. They then went back again to see if they could beat their score, with a prize for the top score over the entire day. It was great to see the girls improving their score on their second attempt and their competitive spirit coming out. The top score was a very impressive 37 hits in 30 seconds. I got 34, but my racing driver excuse is that it was at the end of the day…
With lunch at midday it was a great chance to have good look at a Williams F1 car and as always I’m always honored to be able to get such a good look at these machines.
It’s a nice thought that we might see one of these girls working on one of these cars in the future and – who knows – even drive one!
Lunch over, it was back to the Batak game and the competitive spirit was just as strong in the afternoon as it was in the morning. As we headed towards the end of the day, I headed out to watch some of the girls out on the go-kart track and hopefully getting a taste for something they might want to pursue in the future.
I also had a look in on the presenting skills workshop with the girls receiving expert advice from BBC F1 reporter, Jennie Gow, and Mercedes – AMG Petronas Motorsport and Formula One Management reporter, Rosanna Tennant. I was very jealous of the groups as they look part in a mock piece to the camera and I wish I’d had a go!
As the day came to a close, it was time for presentations and Jennie and Rosanna were on hand to present the girls with their medals and to answer some very good questions about how they got into the business. It’s such a great opportunity for these young people to ask questions and be in the room with such great role models and D2BD has such a great wealth of strong female ambassadors to show the girls it’s not just “boys and their toys”.
It was great to see Susie herself down for the day, getting stuck in with the girls and they were thrilled to have a Formula 1 driver in their presence. Along with Jennie, Rosanna and Cristiana another ambassador taking part was Clare Morden, Chief Medical Officer at Brands Hatch.
Sadly the day had to come to an end, and as the schools departed and we finished packing up, I reflected on what a great day it had been. As I sat in my car, I was impressed with the dedication and passion that everyone who works for or volunteers with D2BD has, encouraging and inspiring these young girls. I really hope we see these girls go on to pursue careers in motorsport and break the mould and having the determination to pursue whatever they want in life, regardless of the stereotypes society puts in place.
For more information on Dare to be Different visit www.daretobedifferent.org
For more information on F1 in Schools visit www.f1inschools.co.uk