Women are making inroads into the pit lane of Australasia’s top single seater motor racing series.
Engineers, data analysts and mechanic’s positions are all held by females in teams competing in the Toyota Racing Series which culminates with the New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild on Sunday (Feb 14).
Six women are helping keep the cars on track, having come into the sport via a variety of paths.
Jennifer Lloyd has a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering from Canterbury University and has spent the last five weeks engineering Canadian Devlin DeFrancesco’s car. “The young guys are learning how to give feedback so we can improve the cars each time they go out,” said Lloyd.
And with six cars in the Giles Motorsport team sharing information, it is a chance to try different set ups with different cars to see what works during testing and practice.
This is Lloyd’s fifth year working in the TRS series – a chance to come home from England where she contracts to teams racing in a variety of classes from her Birmingham base.
“It’s a lifestyle choice, not really a career,” said Lloyd. “It’s full on with five weeks on the road with TRS.” There are often 12 hour days. “And if we have to work to three of four in the morning to get a car ready for the next day, you do it.”
With a Masters in mechanical engineering, Carmen Doran has been data engineering all six cars being run by the M2 team which holds the top four positions in the championship going into the Grand Prix weekend.
Her position involves checking and analysing all the data downloaded from the car’s computer systems after every time they have been out on the track.
“We look for trends and any potential technical problems,” she said. “The performance of all six drivers is compared.”
Data collected includes system temperatures, suspension and braking behaviour of the car and checking the electrical current and voltage across all the multiple wiring looms.
Carly Fleming from Melbourne undertook a specific motorsport training course at Albury in Australia for two years. It is her second season of the Toyota Racing Series after working on cars in the Australian Formula Four and Formula Ford championships. Carly is the number one mechanic on Argentinean Nicholas Dapero’s car.
Frances Buckley had to cut short her involvement in TRS this year, working on Christchurch’s James Munro’s car, when she got a job with Erebus Motorsport’s V8 Supercars team, an opportunity she decided she could not let slip and left for Melbourne after the Hampton Downs round.
Previously she has worked for both the Holden Racing Team and Dick Johnson Racing across the Tasman and has kept her eyelids propped up through a Spa 24 Hours race in Belgium on her one job in Europe.
Originally from Oxford near Christchurch, Buckley was a groom for the Australian Equestrian team, but decided one horsepower wasn’t enough, changed career paths and did a mechanics apprenticeship.
Louise Clearwater has been working on race cars for nine years, having started while doing a mechanics apprenticeship at Invercargill. Now in her second season of the Toyota Racing Series she has been spannering Polish driver Antoni Ptak’s car.
“I grew up with motorsport and like the travel,” said Clearwater, who has also worked on Super Touring Cars and Formula Fords locally.
French woman Elise Acker has worked for the Russian Time GP2 team and is about to join the Prema GP2 operation in Italy. In New Zealand she has been engineering the car of Guanyu Zhou who currently lies third in the series.