Motorsport in New Zealand is one of the few sports in which women compete on a completely level playing field with men. That’s why MotorSport New Zealand, via its Women in Motorsport Advisory Commission, will be at this weekend’s CRC Speedshow at Auckland’s ASB Showgrounds.
“We know tens of thousands of Kiwi women from all walks of life like and follow motorsport,” says Wayne Christie, President of MotorSport New Zealand.
“We want to demonstrate that there are many opportunities to get involved in this sport, as a volunteer helping run events, being part of a competitive team, or as a competitor. That’s why we’re delighted that CRC Speedshow organisers invited us to create a Women in Motorsport showcase at this year’s show, which runs 21 and 22 July.”
Of the 5,255 competitors licensed by MSNZ, only five percent are female, but the proportion of licensed female officials improves to 11 percent of the 947 total.
“While the numbers show males far outweigh females among licensed competitors and officials, we know hundreds more women are hard at work in a variety of motorsport roles,” Christie says. “For example, we have senior race official and event organiser Deborah Day on the MSNZ Board; Sarah Brown is co-category manager for New Zealand’s most prestigious single-seater race category, the Toyota Racing Series; Wendy Jenks has been a mainstay of the Southland Sports Car Club for nearly 50 years; and as a mechanic with the Erebus Motorsport team in the Australian Supercars Championship Frances Buckley shows that female motorsport engineers are equally capable. In less visible, but no less important roles, we all know dozens of women who help behind the scenes, the mothers, wives and partners who ensure the team gets fed, entries are submitted and travel arrangements made.”
Deborah Day is also the MSNZ Board liaison for the Women in Motorsport advisory commission, the establishment of which is a direct initiative from the sport’s global governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA). The female-oriented commission has had a small profile in New Zealand for a couple of years, and this year, the MSNZ Board approved the appointment of six members to create a full commission.
Mrs Day says: “Our Women in Motorsport display at CRC Speedshow offers a fantastic opportunity for us to talk to those who are interested about how we started out in the sport and ways that they might like to get involved. If you love cars and love motorsport, I can tell you from personal experience that working as a volunteer official at event offers unique opportunities you’ll never have the chance to experience as a paying spectator. I have also seen female competitors and crew members accomplish things they never thought possible, from competing in their very first car club event to winning some of New Zealand’s top races or rallies.”
Several current competitors, all from Auckland, are part of the Women in Motorsport display with their competition vehicles, including:
– Rally driver Amy Keighley and her co-driver Zoe Jones who are competing in the Brian Green Property Group New Zealand Rally Championship in a Suzuki Swift.
– Amy Smith who, at age 17, has already competed for 11 years, starting in karts and now competing in the New Zealand Formula First Championship.
– Club racer Rachel Norris who is in her second season of racing competing in the intense, low budget 2KCup class and, soon, the European Classics Race Series.
-Sheridan Broadbent who competes in classic car trials and historic saloon car racing.
– Young kart racers Jordyn Wallace and Stella Carter.
– The all-women Race 4-D Cup team which contests a range of events such as Targa New Zealand, the SsangYong Racing Series and endurance races while aiming to raise people’s awareness of breast cancer prevention.
The showcase at CRC Speedshow complements another major initiative of the Women in Motorsport Advisory Commission which is the trans-Tasman female official exchange. This is run annually with one nominated female volunteer official selected to go to Australia to attend one of the Supercars events, where they are hosted by the Women of Australian Motor Sport (WAMS). The New Zealand group offers an Australian female official a similar opportunity. Exchange applications will soon be open with information available on the Women in Motorsport New Zealand website or Facebook page.
Words by Kate Gordon-Smith