Need for speed
Hi Susie… You’re regarded as one of the world’s top female racing drivers and were the
development driver of the Williams Martini Racing F1 Team. How did that happen?
I was born in Oban on the West coast of Scotland, a stunningly beautiful place which meant I spent most of my childhood outdoors. I mean who’d want to sit inside in front of a computer screen when so much excitement exists outside!
I was brought up outdoorsy too as my mother and father ran a motorbike shop. They had me on a motorbike aged two and on jet skis by the age of six! So my life was pretty much spent on water or on the track! Now, whether it was in my genes, or just down to competing with my brother David from an early age, I ended up being very driven and always wanting to win! So much so, that by the age of eight I had taken up competitive karting. I loved it and my brother and I got to travel to all the different courses, entering all the different competitions. We had a great time together. It also showed us that there was a big wide world outside our little home town.
Back at school, I was good at languages but not so good at sciences. However, my parents made it pretty clear that if I didn’t pass all my tests then I wouldn’t be allowed to continue karting. That proved to be a big motivator. My science grades improved and I carried on karting! Then when I was 14, I was taken to watch a F3 race (the junior version of F1) in which Jenson Button won. At that moment, everything clicked into place for me, as I realised I wanted racing to be my career. Jenson had proved to me that if you started karting at a young age you could make the transition into a single seater racing car, with the eventual aim of being a F1 driver and that’s what I wanted to do. So I carried on karting, of course, only now I had a career plan in mind, I won several titles along the way and by the age of 18, was ranked 15th in the World Championships.
I love the world of motor racing; the adrenalin, the competitiveness, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and yes I’m a speed freak!
From karting I stepped up into single seaters, Formula Renault, and made the podium in my second season. I was even nominated for the prestigious British Young Driver of the Year Award. Sadly I didn’t win. I achieved several podium positions but only managed to finish in 5 th place overall. I was so disappointed with myself.
However, it taught me some very big lessons in life. They were; in sport there is only one winner, and you can’t win all the time. There will always be tough days, every day can’t always be great, but you must keep going and learn from your disappointments and good things will eventually come your way- and so they did. In fact, the second time I didn’t win the Young Driver Award, I did get spotted by the boss of Mercedes Benz and offered a contract to race with them. That turned out to be one of the best days of my career and for the next seven years I managed to live my dream racing for them in the German Touring Car Championship alongside the likes of Mika Hakkinen, Ralf Schumacher and David Coulthard.