Sunday, 3 May 2015

Everyday Motorsport Sexism

A while back, I spoke about the decision taken by the WEC to get rid of grid girls. Naturally, this received a mixed response on Twitter - from many people agreeing to some others claiming that grid girls are a huge part of motorsport, it would ruin the event, and that I was just a man-hating feminazi, jealous of the girls. Let me address these latter points: no, grid girls aren't integral to motorsport; if you think removing grid girls will ruin the event maybe you should find another source of entertainment (maybe go to fashion shows instead?); I am not a man-hating feminazi nor am I jealous of grid girls. Anyway, today's post isn't about the grid girls, it's about an instance of objectification I spotted on Twitter this evening.

A certain driver responded to a picture of a female driver (with her back facing the camera) standing alongside her Austin Healey 3000. Rather than comment on the car (which, I think, is maybe the point of motorsport - feel free to correct me though), all the driver had to say was "GREAT ARSE". This particular driver has also in the past made comment about 'Huh, women drivers eh!', so perhaps I should just expect it, but instances like these are making me increasingly disillusioned with the motorsport world.

As I noted in my previous post, there's a huge deficit of women in motorsport. Bernie Ecclestone (the mad old fool) argued that we should have a separate women's championship to encourage women into F1, however as I wrote before this is a ridiculous notion. The lack of women in top-tier motorsport is not due to lack of a female-only championship, but rather because of a lack of women throughout the motorsport world at all levels. Why is this a phenomenon? In my opinion, it's largely a cultural attitude that prevents women from entering professional motorsport in the first place.

Sure, some of this might arise from simple parenting differences between the two genders. Boys generally play with cars and "masculine" toys, while girls get the dolls and "feminine" toys. Maybe because of this, girls are less likely to want to go karting when they're a few years old. However, there are other barriers to face once women progress through the ranks of motorsport. The Twitter driver's comments are an example.

The woman in the picture was obviously a driver. She may have been an excellent driver. She might have been the only woman in the field. All that could be said about her though was "GREAT ARSE". REALLY?! That's all you can say about this woman? That her gluteus maximus is nice-looking? Would you say that about a male driver? I'm a heterosexual female fan of motorsport, but I can move past drivers' physical attributes and appreciate their talent and skill. This is a barrier that sadly a lot of male fans (and apparently drivers) can't move past when they see female drivers, and this is something contributing to women not being taken seriously in the motorsport world - especially as it's accepted (and even expected!) by the majority.

Naturally, I'll get the response of "It's just banter, love". Sure, to you it's banter. To the minority group in the motorsport world (e.g. WOMEN), it's not though. Look at the everyday sexism project for examples of what we have to put up with on a daily basis. These aren't issues that affect you, and you're actively contributing to the problem. Until you recognise this, how can women progress in the mad world of motorsport? I'm not a 'feminazi' - I recognise that men have different problems in life, and these need to be equally addressed if we're to finally achieve true equality and get rid of sexism, but this is beyond the scope of my post. To conclude, I'd urge you all to think about what you post and what unconscious attitudes you may hold towards women in motorsport. Progress is being made, but until this objectification of women in overalls is ditched, there are limits to what we can do. 

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Lotus F1 Filming Day

Last week, it was announced that the Lotus F1 Team would be visiting Brands Hatch for a filming day. They'd be bringing their 2015 car, plus a Lotus 72 E-5, with pit stop practices and laps around the track throughout the day. As Brands Hatch is my local track, somewhere I've been going since I was a very small kid, I was definitely going along to watch. I entered a competition run by the Lotus F1 Team to win a garage tour - in exchange for the tour, I promised cake and wrote a blog post about how much Brands means to me (and, of course, I let them know what a massive nerd I am).

While at work on Friday afternoon, I received a message from the Lotus team simply asking what I was doing on Monday. Naturally, I was thrilled - it was pretty hard not to do a small victory dance while at work! I promptly phoned my Dad and told him that we'd be heading to Brands on Monday.

Over the weekend, I had work to do. I spent some of Saturday working on an essay (about bipolar disorder and the cerebellum, if anyone's interested!), but most of the weekend was spent baking the promised cakes for the Lotus team! I settled on baking half chocolate, half vanilla and raspberry cupcakes, but I needed to make them Lotus themed. I decided to buy black cupcake cases and top the icing with edible gold shimmer spray - I think they turned out rather well!

Once the cupcakes were ready, we headed off to the circuit on Monday morning. When we arrived, the 2015 Lotus was being prepared in the garage, and occasionally came out for the odd lap. The last time we saw a modern F1 car in the flesh was in 2013 at the Silverstone young drivers' test - with the old, loud cars. So, it was pretty cool to see this year's F1 car - especially at Brands Hatch! One thing that did strike me though was the sound. The sound itself was quite different, but still a nice noise, but the car was so quiet! I must say I'm looking forward to the next rule change aimed at increasing the loudness.

After the car had been out for a few laps on its own, the filming car was sent out to capture a few close-ups of the car in action. This was quite interesting - although I was hoping for a short race between the two!

Once the morning's filming was over, we headed off to the car to grab the cakes and waited for 2pm to roll around - the time of our garage tour! We met the other winners (all thoroughly great people!), and then headed down for the tour (walking past the trucks and Pastor Maldonado on the way!). First stop was to watch Pastor's pit stop practices from the pit wall (how many people get to say that?!). Dad managed to speak to an engineer to ask about some technical aspects of the car (side note - everyone at Lotus is incredibly friendly and amazing!), and I watched Pastor head out and through the pits for his stops. The stops were fantastic - Pastor's wheels were spinning before they touched the ground, so these were real racing stops (and my grin was getting bigger all the time).

After the practices were over, we also saw a Lotus road car speeding around the track - and I managed to get a great view from the pit wall.

Once Pastor was wheeled back into the garage, he left the car. He then came over to meet us! I know Pastor gets some bad press for race incidents, but he really is a thoroughly nice guy. We spoke about whether he liked Brands Hatch (yes), and how fast he thought he could go round the circuit (seconds, if the limiters were off). He also signed the only item I could find in our house with a Lotus on it - a vintage ice bucket of all things! We posed for pictures, shook hands, and carried on with our tour.

After meeting Pastor, we had another wander around the pits, past the trucks. We then bumped into Jolyon Palmer - Lotus's third driver. We had a great chat with him, talking about GP2, F1 and testing. He also signed my ice bucket, and I was a very happy fan! On our way out, we had a smile and wave from Romain Grosjean as he headed towards the cars. Overall, the tour was fantastic. Everyone is very friendly and happy to interact with us fans. Not bad, in exchange for 36 cupcakes!

The rest of the day was spent watching the final runs - including the old and new F1 cars running together on the track!

Overall, we had a really fantastic day. Although there wasn't a huge amount of running on the track, there was a great atmosphere, and it was interesting seeing the filming going on at the circuit. Of course, the garage tour was the highlight of the day, and the team were brilliant at welcoming us. So, massive thanks to Lotus F1 team - you've definitely confirmed us as fans for life! Best of luck in Spain, and we hope to see you at Brands again some day!

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Brands Hatch

Exciting news!

So, since I was a very small kid I've been going to Brands Hatch with my Dad. We've seen pretty much everything there - trucks, touring cars, DTM, historic F1... You name it! I have great memories of wandering round in the pouring rain, being somewhat deafened. Now I'm older, not much has changed. I'm a bit taller, and I can cover my own ears to stop being deafened, but we still go pretty often. We've even been in one of the fancy boxes courtesy of a friend of my Dad's! I do love Brands Hatch, and I'll always have a soft spot for the place.

Well, today Lotus F1 team announced that they are heading down to Brands for a filming day! I'm ridiculously excited, and I've already booked the day off to go and see them. Although I've seen historic F1 there, I've not had the chance to see an F1 car from my era charge around there, as Brands hasn't hosted a grand prix since 1986 - I was born 6 years too late!

Lotus are also hosting a competition to get a tour around the garage - which would be amazing! Although they've asked for tweets to enter the competition, I don't think 140 characters are enough to express why they should pick me, hence the blog! So, Lotus, if you lovely people are reading this, here are the reasons why I should be one of the lucky, lucky people who win:

  • I'm a car nerd! 
  • We follow each other on Twitter
  • My Dad (who will be coming with me!) has a Lotus F1 Team cup which I force him to drink out of every F1 weekend
  • I will be giddy with excitement, and thus possibly quite entertaining
  • I will write a blog about the day afterwards (whether I meet you or not!)
  • I bake EXCELLENT cakes
  • It's my birthday on the 8th of May, so I guess this will be a pre-birthday thing?
 I hope you've enjoyed this blog post! I look forward to Monday!