A racing car school just for women is set to launch in Sydney’s west to help fuel the ranks of motorsports drivers.
Race Chix Race School – the first of its kind in Sydney – offers women-only courses on the track and teaches aspiring female drivers the theory behind competitive racing.
Although motorsport is one of the only sports where men and women can compete together with no age barriers, female participation remains low at only 11 per cent.
Race Chix Motorsport owner Rachelle Stirling, who is launching the new school at Sydney Motorsport Park, Eastern Creek, on November 3, says a stumbling block for women is knowing how to get started.
“It’s not general knowledge for both men and women on how to get started in motorsport. Through school we know how to get into footy and soccer, but motorsport isn’t one of those, unless you know someone in the sport, it can be quite daunting to get involved,” she told Hatch.
“I was a Supercars fan for 15 years before I knew I could take my road-registered car to the track.”
Rachelle competed in super sprints and hill climbs in her WRX track car ‘Giggles’ before creating and running the Women’s Motorsport Development Program four years ago for the NSW Road Racing Club, but insists women are not wanting gender specific events.
“We don’t want our own races or categories. We want to play with the guys, but we need that confidence first, we want to be able to play and just be a driver,” she told Hatch.
“It’s not just about that top 1 per cent that get to be professional racing drivers, it about broadening the base and getting more women involved.
“We want to be part of the solution in increasing female participation in the sport, up to that magic number of 50 per cent, there’s not just one answer, but Race Chix Race School is part of the answer to breaking down those barriers.”
Overall participation rates of women in the automotive industry is believed to be as low as 23 per cent and of those, 3.3 per cent of technicians in the field are female. Gender-based stereotypes around a perceived lack of strength are often sighted as reasons why women are not involved in the industry.
To combat these statistics, the Australian Women in Motorsport Commission was set up last year to help encourage female involvement, as well as understand the challenges facing women in the sport.
Professional categories, like Supercars and TCR, are also eager to promote opportunities for females in motorsport, such as World Champion Rally driver Molly Taylor and ex-Supercars racer Simona de Silvestro, but a lack of numbers coming through the ranks is undoubtedly hindering their efforts.
“If there were more women in the sport in general, than the pressure wouldn’t be on them on as much,” Rachelle said.
“TCR [Touring Car Series Australia] did a fantastic job promoting Molly Taylor, Alexandra Whitely and Chelsea Angelo last year and Supercars did a great job when Simona de Silvestro was involved. I think they promote when women are involved at the professional level, it’s just that we need more.”
Backed by the Australian Racing Drivers’ Club, Race Chix Race School’s Motorsport 101 course is aimed at dispelling the motorsport jargon for new entrants as well as what race gear to wear, understanding the flags, car preparation and maintenance.
After the theory is done, the women head out to the wet skid pan to learn the capability and limits of their car and advanced driving techniques before competing in a fun slalom shootout.
“Females tend to learn a bit differently [to men] in a high-risk environment. it’s all about building confidence for us, we tend to go in increments as our confidence builds,” Rachelle said.
“That’s why we help women learn the capabilities and constraints of their car before they get out on to the track, so you are confident in what your car can and can’t do before you start pelting down the main straight.”