International Women’s Day 2020: Interview with Sophia Flörsch

  Sophia Flörsch has what promises to be an exciting season ahead of her. The German racer is making the step up to FIA Formula 3 with Campos Racing, as well as entering several races in the European Le Mans series, including the 24h of Le Mans. She’ll be part of an all-female line-up, sharing the car with Katherine Legge and Tatiana Calderon. We asked Sophia her views on the season ahead, as well as talking budgets and her aims for the future.

Alison Finlay: An exciting year ahead for you Sophia, with an all-female Le Mans entry and Formula 3. What are you most looking forward to this season?
Sophia Flörsch: I’m looking forward to each single race I am able to do to be honest. There is no difference for me between a FIA Formula 3 race or an ELMS race. For me it was really important to be racing FIA F3 this year. The F3 car is great and all 30 drivers are one of the best in junior formula classes. The complete starting grid is very close together. It will be a great season with a lot of learning and fighting for me. Each race weekend has something special. It’s always on F1 weekends which is something new to me. The tracks are great and some are even new to me, like Bahrain or Sochi, for example. As the Red Bull Ring is one of my favourite tracks, I am looking forward to that one in particular. The atmosphere in Austria is one of the best. On the other hand I am going to do ELMS in an LMP2 with Richard Mille Racing and 24h of LE MANS! It will be a new and different challenge for me as it’s endurance racing but it’s going to be great. Of course Le Mans will be amazing. I am really thankful to be able to race there this year. That’s definitely a dream come true. 100 million TV viewers worldwide – wow. This one week will for sure be one which I will never forget.

AF: You’ve tweeted recently about the costs of the junior series. Can you describe the barrier this creates for young drivers?
SF: Well, I think everyone knows that motorsport is really expensive. Even in F1 you see teams having different budgets performing differently just because they do not have the same possibilities. That’s pretty much the same in junior classes. If you are lucky, and your parents can afford the yearly budgets between 1-2m, without any problems, and even pay for you to go testing or keep racing during the winter period, then that’s amazing. You are a privileged driver because of more and better testing and possibilities. But if your family is not able to afford it, you need people to believe in you and support you. Already when you start with F4 people spend up to 800k per year. That’s a big bunch of money. The higher you get, the more expensive it gets. F2 is more than 2m a year, F3 in a top team more than 1.3 to 1.5m. The most expensive cockpit I heard this year is 1.9m – don’t know if it’s true. The [team’s] experience, their race engineers and so on – the better it is, the more expensive it is. So there is a reason why parents are paying the highest price. The struggle is that not having the money you need to perform well [means having] to find people to give you money to race. But to perform well you should be able to go testing as much as the others, or at least drive in a team where you can do good races just because the car is quick enough. But for that you need money… so it’s kind of a circle which you need to try to get out of by having good races, fighting, showing people that it really is your dream and that they are the ones making it possible to live my dream and achieve my goal.

credit © Dutch Photo Agency

AF: How are you preparing for the 24 hours of Le Mans? And how exciting is it to be part of an all-female entry?
SF: Well, we are racing the ELMS as well which will be two race weekends before Le Mans already. It’s just going to be 4h races but of course that’s already going to help to get a feeling for endurance racing. I will for sure do a lot of simulator preparation to get into the rhythm and focus on long stints. Watching videos and some 24h races from the years before to learn. A lot of contact with the team and the other two women. It’s an huge honour to be racing 24h of Le Mans and also with an all women line up is super cool. We want to perform – that’s our goal to 100%! To get the possibility thanks to Richard Mille and FIA Women In Motorsport is amazing and we will make the best out of it. Of course in an endurance race everything can happen and there are more things you have to take in account, but the luck will be on our side.

AF: Are you happy with your performance in the F3 test? What are your aims for the season?
SF: I am only happy when I am winning a race or I am P1. That’s 100% sure. But to be realistic it was the first time for me back in a formula car again since Macau 2019. Not a single test day during the winter season. No experience on new tyres. And to understand the Pirelli tyres is really important. In those three test days at Bahrain my main goal was to develop myself, work together with the team and get in a rhythm with the car again. I think I ticked those boxes in Bahrain. In testing you never know where you really stand because everyone is doing different tyre strategies and everyone tries different stuff. Free practice and quali will be the sessions when we really realise where we are. As it’s my first season in F3 and as I did not prepare during the winter in F3 there are no high expectations. This season will be a year for me to learn, to get used to the car, to enjoy, to get better as a race driver and to have good races. If I am ending the season with Top 10 finishes and also well performing [well in] quali then I think it should be a good starting point on which to build up for 2021.

AF: What does the future hold beyond 2020 for you, and is it dependent on performance this year?
SF: The plan is to do FIA F3 again in 2021, and after that, two years of FIA F2 with strong partners and an equal backing would be great. That’s how my next years should look. I want to sit in a race car as much as possible. When I make it to be highest class of formula racing, either F1 or maybe than Formula E, I want to be a proper racing driver who has had enough preparation and years in the junior classes. Of course performance is always important. I want to show that I am the quickest. In motorsport this key factor does not just depend on talent. Money and the budget you have for every single season is probably even more important as I mentioned before. To be able to go testing during the winter, or maybe even do another series during the winter, and to race with a leading top team, you need money. That’s what I need to be able to perform and to reach my next goals

International Women’s Day 2020: Women and Motorbikes

  Women have always had a love of two wheels with the start of the bicycle which gave them freedom and mobility and then when motorcycles came along they enjoyed them as much, if not more, as they were economical and fun – a perfect combination.

  It was after the introduction of front and rear shocks that people began to consider riding for longer distances and in 1915 a mother/daughter team, Avis and Effie Hotchkiss covered some 5,000 miles riding from New York to San Francisco and the following year, two sisters, Adeline and Augusta Van Buren rode up and down Pike’s Peak on a pair of Indian Powerplus Bikes covering some 3,300 miles over two months. Can you believe that they were arrested at one point for publicly wearing trousers!

  In the 1920’s, Bessie Springfield, who was known as the Motorcycle Queen of Miami, couldn’t get a motorcycle licence to start with until a police officer intervened on her behalf. She then went on to make 8 solo cross country trips and was a dispatch rider. Can you imagine today not being able to go and get a motorcycle licence simply because you are a woman.

  Of course during the war, women played a vital role many of whom were motorcycle disptach riders delivering urgent messages and orders between headquarters and military units at a time when telecomunications were limited and insecure.

  In the 1930’s motordromes or ‘wall of death’ were increasing in popularity. This is basically a giant barrel which riders on their motorcycles, commonly known as ‘daredevils’, ride around the inside of the walls at speed. There is a giant platform at the top for spectators. Early lady daredevils were Margaret Gast, also known as ‘The Mile a Minute Gal’, May Williams and Jean Perry.

  By 1940 The Motormaids had been established which was the first women’s motorcycle club in the US. Today there are hundreds.

  How or why do women get into riding motorcyles? Well pretty much how or why the same reason that men do. Because their other half rides; their mum/dad used to ride; their mates ride, transport to work. Just because they want to.

  For me, my journey into motorcycles progressed from my love of anything with an engine in it. I used to compete in off road motorsport for a number of years. I have had several classic cars. I have always liked bikes but my parents would never let me have one.

  I used to go pillion with a friend and after a while I thought ‘I want to ride a bike myself’.

  I told my other half that I wanted to get my bike licence and he said it was too dangerous and I wasn’t allowed to!

  So I did what any normal petrol head girl would do – I went and did my CBT and bought a bike to learn on without telling the other half. Six months later I passed my test and bought a Honda Hornet 600. I now ride a Kawasaki Z900 and an MV Agusta Brutale 910.

  I have now been riding for 6 ½ years and I absolutely love it, I wish I had got my licence years ago. I try and get out for a ride most weekends. I have been on three European holidays and already have two more booked for the coming year.

  In the short time that I have been riding I have seen a rise in the number of women riding motorcycles and the bikes geared for women, for example, lower seating positions available, modern lighter bikes have also made it easier. Of course, woman are just as capable of riding the same bike as a man just as a man can ride the same bike as a woman.

  Also on the rise is the range of clothing and accessories available for women. Indeed when I first started riding I found it hard to find clothing that would give me the protection I need whilst offering me comfort, style and value for money.

  I am pleased to say that over the years manufacturers have stepped up and woken up to the fact that women are a big part of the motorcycle community and what a fabulous, welcoming community it is and one that I am proud to be a part of.

International Women’s Day 2020: Interview with Juju Noda

   Juju Noda has a lot of pressure riding on her young shoulders.

The Japanese star – who turned 14 last month – has received a lot of international attention over the past few years as a result of driving various single-seaters in her home country despite her young age.

By the age of nine she had already tested F4 cars, holds the F4 lap record at the Okayama International Circuit, drove a Formula 3 car at the age of 12, and competed in a Japanese category called Formula U17, which uses F3-spec cars, when she was 13. Bear in mind, Max Verstappen was 16 when he first drove an open-wheel car.

Unable to progress any further in Japan until she is 16 due to minimum age restrictions, Noda has moved to Europe for the 2020 season, where she will be competing in Danish F4, and was kind enough to speak to us for International Women’s Day here at The Pit Crew Online.

Jenny Rowan: How would you reflect on your 2019 season?

Juju Noda: It was a very good season. I managed to drive F3 hard and I even managed to break lap the lap record of F3N Class (Dallara F312 with Volkswagen Cox engine) at Okayama International Circuit. I also won all four races of the season.

JR: There has been a lot of hype surrounding you and your career – how do you feel about the attention you’ve been getting and how do you deal with it?

JN: I think it is something necessary if you want to be competitive and professional. If you cannot deal with it, that means you are not good enough. To be honest, sometimes it is a bit hard to handle but I always do my best.

JR: Do you see your age as an advantage or a disadvantage when it comes to competing against drivers who are potentially several years older than you?

JN: In the future it will be an advantage but right now it is not. Instead, there are many limitations regarding what to drive and where to drive and it is a bit inconvenient.

JR: Have you already tested the car you’ll be driving in Danish F4 and, if so, how did it feel?

JN: Yes, I drove it in Spain in January and February. The car is quite heavy and not very forgiving but I must get along with it if we want to be competitive. I feel like I want to be friends with it and get along well!

JR: What ambitions do you have for the 2020 season?

JN: I want to learn and enjoy the season as much as possible. Hopefully towards the second half of the season I can be competitive. But I don’t want to be impatient.

JR: What are your ambitions more widely regarding your career?

JN: I want to be one of the best drivers in the world and reach places like Formula 1, Formula E, Le Mans, IndyCar or NASCAR. I will do my best to succeed!

Featured image courtesy of  Sergi Garcia”

International Women’s Day 2020: Women In Motorsport by Emily Linscott

  I’ve been in motorsport for just four years now and if it weren’t for my mum and dad, I doubt I would have even thought about getting involved in it to be honest.

  Since starting I’ve raced very few girls in karts or cars, and I’ve often talked about why there aren’t many of us in it to my parents. My feeling is that parents of boys and girls have historically chosen to keep with stereotypical roles, so the boys might get taken karting and girls to dancing or stuff like that. I think it’s changing but it needs to change rapidly and at an earlier age, and that way teams, organisers and the like will understand that girls are every bit as worthy as boys, they can be as fast as boys, faster even, and that the physicality side of driving any race car is not beyond a girl. We are equally good.

  I’ve been lucky enough to have great support from another female driver, Indy 500 driver Pippa Mann. Initially that came from a chance she gave to six deserving young drivers through her scholarship with the Lucas Oil School of Racing, but since I proved I had serious pace, she’s gone way beyond to help me reach my potential.

  Shift Up Now, run by Lynn Kehoe and Karen Salvaggio, is a collective of women helping women in motorsport for whom I became an ambassador from 2019 onwards. They too have been supportive of me and a number of other girls through their tireless work to get more girls into better cars, more often. Without people like Lynn, Karen and Pippa, there are a lot of girls who wouldn’t be driving anything at all by now, so imagine what number of girls would be getting behind the wheel of a car or kart if more of us did the same. If just a few more drivers have their time to helping other young drivers develop, or even start something that helps you g girls get into Karting then the chances of a girl reaching F1 and IndyCar would be massively increased.

  But motorsport isn’t just about drivers, it’s about so many other roles too, such as engineers, data analysts, mechanics, team owners, bosses, crew chiefs – the list is endless, and all can be filled by women. It’s very cool that diversity is coming through into these jobs and more and more girls are seeing their dream jobs in motorsport materialise more and more frequently.

  I very much hope to push my career as a driver further and further up the ladder to F1 or IndyCar for myself, but in doing what I’m doing, and every other female racing driver out there doing the same, we’re showing young girls that they can get involved in racing and be great at it and hopefully, we are also changing the way people perceive the motorsport world too.

 

If you want to learn more about Emily, visit her website www.emilylinscott.com or her social media channels
Insta emi_racing
Twitter: @emily_linscott
FB: @emilylinscottracing