Bia Figueiredo has had a glittering career in motorsports that spans from Indy Lights to Brazilian Stock Cars. As the first woman to win an Indy Lights series race and the first woman to win at a race car event at the Iowa Speedway, she defined motorsport history and inspired women around the world with her positive attitude and impressive racing. For this International Women’s Day, Bia answered a few of our questions on her career and what it’s like to kick the trend in motorsports. Because this girl can!
Jade du Preez: How did you get into karting when you were young?
Bia Figueiredo: Since 3 years old I’ve shown passion for cars and speed. I would stay in my dad’s car turning the wheel for hours. I would ask for mini cars together with dolls. My parents decided to take me to a go-kart track and I loved it. I was lucky enough that they had an open mind by that time and supported me in the sport.
JdP: When did you start to think that you could make a career out of racing?
BF: When you are a kid you are sure you will make it easily to the top. Growing up I’ve realized that it wouldn’t be that easy. Because of that I started to focus on racing and left to the side my teen life with friends, boyfriends and parties. So, by 16 I decided to do that and put all my energy into racing and finishing school.
JdP: How do you think motorsports has changed for women since your breakthrough season in 2009?
BF: Actually I believe 2008 was THE year for women in Racing as I won in Indy Lights, Simona da Silvestro won in Atlantic and Danica Patrick won in IndyCar. On 2010 I made it to Indy 500 with the record of 5 women. So I believe it brought attention to other female drivers working hard to get to a top series.
JdP: You’ve had a few issues with funding over the years, and as a result had to miss races, do you think this would be an issue if you were a man?
BF: Funding is the biggest problem in racing for male or female racers. At the beginning of my career in karting people wouldn’t support me because they thought a girl would never reach Indy Car. But after winning so many races it has changed a lot.
JdP: And how do you think the issue of female drivers struggling to get funding can be solved?
BF: There are not many women around the globe that are passionate for racing and speed. And not all of them have the support to move up. I believe if you start winning, things will start to change. Funding was always a problem when I struggled to get good results. So I started to work harder to do things different from guys like working better with social media , TV and others. And kept working hard to win races.
JdP: You’ve had such an incredible career, what is the highlight for you?
BF: The highlight is to be able to live from racing. I had support from so many people that believed in me and it is good to know that winning so many races, reaching the top and live from what I love to do make them all proud.
JP: And looking forward, what goals do you still want to reach?
BF: I moved from open wheel to V8 Cars in 2014 and feel that adapting wasn’t easy. In Brazilian Stock Car where 30 cars can be in the same second I was able to reach a top 5 and many top 10. But for me the target still is a podium and a win. The same in IMSA where I should run a few races with Heinricher Racing/ Michael Shank with amazing drivers like Katherine Legge and Christina Nielsen. I can’t thank Jackie Heinricher and Michael Shank enough for giving me a new chance in the USA.