Women in Motorsport
we are familiar with the efforts of a growing number of women
and international sportscar racing the
role of the fairer sex goes much deeper into the sport than that.
From marshaling and administration through journalism and PR to
much more ‘hands-on’ roles in race teams, women today
are playing a major role in many different arenas
In her second contribution to the pages of dailysportscar Heather
Binnie caught up with three ladies playing an important role in
the 2006 Le Mans 24 Hours
Magali is one of a growing number of woman mechanics hoping to
be successful in motorsport. She currently works for a Peugeot
factory in China where she is in charge of building and fitting
1.3 and 1.4 liter engines for Peugeot road cars.
In order to keep abreast of current engine technology, Magali
spends the majority of her time in France working with the French
engineers in their factory. She learns from the engineers and then
takes this knowledge and implements the necessary changes to the
factory in China.
Currently, her factory is also undergoing the difficult process
of sourcing parts locally for the first time to increase the economic
efficiency of the Chinese operation.
the ‘day job’ however
Magali has been also been a key part of the WR race team for
the past several years.
Every Saturday that Magali is in France, she works on the WR car
for the Le Mans 24 hours. All the mechanics on the WR team are
volunteers and most hold down jobs for Peugeot outside of the race
that even though she loves her main job working with the Chinese
factory, "racing is my true passion".
She went to engineering school and it was there that she "fell
in love with the atmosphere and environment of motorsport".
In 1996 she experienced Le Mans for the first time when she was
asked to deliver parts to the WR team as part of her job training
program. Seeing the volunteer team in action, she recognized WR
as a big chance to get involved with motorsport.
In 2000 when
Magali had finished engineering school, she convinced a former
team engineer to let her join the team. Over the
next few months Magali worked hard to "prove herself on the
team" and gain respect from her other male mechanics and senior
All of Magali's
and the rest of the WR team’s hard work
paid off in 1996 when the WR team finished second in their class
Since 2000, Magali has been a key player on the WR team and enjoys
learning everything she can about motorsport. During race day she
is in charge of preparing the racecar by making any last minute
changes, and, throughout the race, she plays the vital role of
team manager, speaking with the drivers both on and off the course,
taking lap times, and organizing the other mechanics.
As a result
of being the only woman on the team, Magali "feels
more pressure to do well. I try to follow my line and role as best
says her ability to "think like a man" has
made her transition to motorsport easy and even though she does "lack
the physical strength of a man" her mental capabilities compare
At this years Le Mans 2006, Liz Halliday was the only woman driver
in the field.
Liz of course competed last year too at Le Mans with Intersport
Racing and lead her class but unfortunately the car retired before
the finish due to mechanical problems.
Liz gets her racing roots from her father who is a race instructor.
At the age of 16, her father taught her how to drive a racecar
and since then she has never looked back.
At first Liz's mother was hesitant to let her only child race
cars, but she eventually agreed. Now, both of Liz's parents support
her as she continues her racing career but not everybody has been
as welcoming Liz and her endeavours.
At the beginning,
it was hard for Liz because she felt like she had to earn the
of the male competitors, and once she started
doing well some "even accused me of cheating". However,
she turned the criticism and her frustration into results, she
became the first woman ever to win her class in the British GT
Championship and scored some fine results in both the FIA GT Championship
driving the GT1 Lister Storm and in Grand-Am aboard a TRG Porsche
911 before making the jump to the American Le Mans Series.
“Driving in the ALMS is much more professional, intense,
and requires more focus compared to club racing.” That suits
her fine. She enjoyed being the only woman at Le Mans this year
and perhaps surprisingly says that she "wouldn't ever want
to share a car with another woman or race in a woman only league".
She relishes the competition her male co-drivers and competitors
provide, and of course her status as the only woman driver at Le
Mans this year, did her no harm at all in terms of media attention.
that she probably feels more pressure to do well than other competitor
because "everybody watches every move I make
and when I make a mistake its a huge deal". However, over
the years Liz has gotten used to the pressure and dreams one day
to win Le Mans, and be a paid professional driver.
Boyce is well-known throughout motor racing for her behind the
work in organizing
race teams for whom she "Arranges
doctors and physios for teams and gets anything and anyone else
that they need”.
This year at Le Mans she was operating as co-ordinator for Krohn
Green Racing for whom she arranged team doctors, and arranged hospitality.
In addition she provided support for four other race teams throughout
race week running errands that included ensuring that towels, drinks,
and the other miscellaneous items that keep drivers and mechanics
ticking over are where they need to be when they need to be there.
She is the
go-to person around the track and claims that she just "gets
her job because she "I get stuff done, I work
alongside some fantastic people and I have the freedom to choose
the people with whom I work."
She didn’t always see herself working in motorsport however.
In 1996 she helped a friend out at a racetrack and "got to
know everyone and got involved with a few bits and pieces."
she got offered more jobs lending a helping hand. Organising
doctors to help
the teams is her first priority and she tries her
best to provide moral support for her crew "because I figure
they make way more important decisions than I make". When
someone gets hurt Jules is the first person anyone calls and she
responds by providing the medical team and the supplies they need.
“I’ve always been "a hard-core fan of motor racing
thanks to the Formula 1 race in my hometown of Adelaide, Australia.
I grew up as a tomboy with a capital ‘T’ and came through
university with a reputation for never sleeping, that’s quite
handy for endurance racing!”
Women in motorsport can be overlooked or taken for granted but
their contributions throughout a major event are essential in making
teams (and the event overall) successful. Their numbers are still
fairly small but increasing all the time helped in no small part
by the examples set by women like Liz Halliday, Magali Dessenne,
and Jules Boyce who equal or surpass their male peers.