Shining a light on women in motorsports by Caitlyn Gordon

Motorsports has always been a male-dominated sport, with only one woman in history competing in Formula One. Throughout other racing categories and championships, the number of women is still extremely low, they make up just under 9% of all racers. Knockhill has been trying to break that barrier down and hopefully bring in a new generation of women to race. Within the past decade, there has been an increase in women in the sport, not only in the racing aspect but also behind the scenes.

At the opening weekend of the Scottish Championship Car Racing event last weekend, there were six talented women who were going to be heading out onto the track. The youngest was 16-year-old Sophie Kinghorn, who was participating in the Fiesta ST Championship for the first time.

After competing in karting championships for the past 10 years, she became the Mini Rotax Max 2019 Scottish Champion, which she mentioned was one of the proudest moments in her career so far. Three years later she decided to take the next step and enter into car racing. It was her firstweekend racing in Knockhill, and she had only been in her car four times prior to this event. She stated how she was feeling nervous before qualifying but was ready to get out onto the track. After learning about her past in the sport she gave her thoughts on how it feels to compete as a young woman and what she hopes for the future in terms of having more representation in the sport. “It feels amazing to be a woman in motorsport, basically paving a path for more women to get into the sport. There are constantly more women coming in and I hope one day that a girl can get into F1.”

As the Fiesta ST contenders headed out onto the track, Sophie qualified in 13th position and in race one she moved up a position to 12th. She had a brilliant battle against Stuart Mackie, and she crossed the line just a few hundredths of a second behind him. Following her first race, she said how she’s got to learn more about the car. After getting the opportunity to compete against more experienced drivers she has picked up a few skills that she will be looking to use in the next meeting. On the other side of the paddock, the KMSC Modsports championship was preparing for its first qualifying session.

Two young women were competing in this event, Natalie Cowie and Louise Strachan. Natalie is 22 years old and this is her third-year racing at Knockhill. Natalie Cowie on track. She first started out when she was 19 and competed in Super Lap Scotland before moving over to the modified cars series. In 2020 she won the Modsports Championship in her debut year. It was the first event she had ever won and an experience that she will remember forever. Natalie also gave some personal insight on how she feels being a woman racer and what she hopes can happen for women in the future of the sport.

‘Personally, I think motorsports is the one sport where men and women can compete equally. I don’t think there is any restriction as I can get into my car and no one knows if I’m a girl or boy, I’m just a driver and equal to everybody else. I have just as much right to be here. In terms of the future, I hope it can be like that and we can get more women in bigger championships like F1.’

Heading out onto the track, she qualified 9th just two-hundredths of a second behind Adam Kindness. She mentioned how she wasn’t quite where she wanted to be in qualifying but was going to put in some hard work to gain positions.

In race 2 she started 11th and fought her way up to 5 th after having some incredible overtaking moments on the track. She finished first in her class out of the 8 opponents in class G. However, her success didn’t end there, it continued in race 3 where she started in 5 th. Her incredible racing skills were on show all throughout the 17 laps and as she crossed the finish line in 4th, she went to the top of her class again. As well as the amazing women on the track there are some inspirational women off track.

Suzanne Buist is just one of the names who work hard behind the scenes. She is a driver rep for Modsports and has also raced herself. She has an important role, as she is the voice of the drivers. If there has been an altercation or dispute, she will gather the driver’s opinions and take it to either the race or events coordinator to make sure both parties are happy, and the issue is resolved. Suzanne has had experience on and off track making her knowledgeable about what it is like to be a woman in the sport.

“One of the good things about being a woman in motorsport is we are treated equally. It is one of the few sports where women and men can compete at the same level. We aren’t separated like rugby and football are, I think that it’s important to not be separated as it creates a divide. It’s not about strength or the size of a person, it’s about who you are.”

Lynn and Zoe Pike were part of the marshalling team on Saturday. These are some of the most important people in the racing world, ensuring that the race runs smoothly and safely. Both were tasked with correctly putting the cars in their positions on the grid and ensuring the pitlane was organised and clear. It was the first time they have experienced working as a marshal, and they loved every second of it. Lynn mentioned how online websites and writers are noticing the hard work women do and making sure it doesn’t get overlooked. It’s drawing more attention to the lesser-known roles in the sport that doesn’t get a lot of thought and letting people know how important these roles are. Women of all ages behind-the-wheel and off-track have become such an inspiration to others looking for a way to break into this sport. They are showing that this is not just primarily for men, and in the coming years there can hopefully be even more women in the paddock.

Knockhill has become a great example of representation for women and continues to campaign and encourage more women to get involved to show off their unique abilities.

Caitlyn Gordon