Featured, Motorsport

Exclusive: Females are getting warmed up to Motorsports – Geraldine Read

It wouldn’t be a overstatement to suggest that the number of females within the Motorsports industry is on the rise, though it’s still considerably difficult for them to break into the industry. From societal perception, to tangible discrimination within the male-dominated industry, there’s plenty of obstacles for them to deal with.

Geraldine Read is someone who has battled these elements for sheer sake of pursuing her dreams. She’s been discriminated for having a ‘pretty face’, she’s faced numerous driving stereotypes that are often attached to women, and she’s had to work hard to gain the trust of sponsors, who can be skeptical of women within the industry. So we caught up with the 34 year-old from Kuching, to unravel her journey within the industry, thus far.

Photo Credit: Geraldine Read
Photo Credit: Geraldine Read

FO: We understand that the Redbull Rookie Search gave you the breakthrough within the Motorsports industry. What motivated you to get involved in the program?

GR: I’ve always loved cars and I had cousins who went racing, but it never crossed my mind to ask if I could get behind the wheel to give it a shot. I just assumed that only boys went racing because I had never seen a female behind the wheels on the track. My opportunity came when the Red Bull Rookie Search was carried out in 2014, and a friend thought that I had a good shot at getting into the team. And I thought to myself, even if I did not get in, there were free Defensive Driving Course and Advanced Driving Course under the program – so it would be beneficial for me either way.

FO: How big of an impact did it leave on you?

GR: I’m now hooked!! It’s been a long time since I had something that interests me this much. I love the way I’m able to put aside my day-to-day worries and totally focus when I’m out there to make full use of precious time on the track. It’s exciting and exhilarating as you push to better yourself, one corner at a time.

Photo Credit: Geraldine Read
Photo Credit: Geraldine Read

FO: Why did you opt to continue racing after the Redbull Rookie Search?

GR: Honestly, I never expected to race again, considering how expensive motor sports can be. It was almost impossible for me to get any practice at all because I do not have a track car. But again, I got lucky and was so kindly given 2 hours of practice in my favourite car – a Honda Integra Type R and that continued to motivate me to try that little bit harder. I invested in a racing simulator so I could get my hands on a wheel and feet on some pedals. On the back of my mind, I secretly wished to race at the Sepang 1000km (S1K) and as soon as an opportunity arose, I took it as a challenge and pushed hard to make it happen.

FO: Tell us about your experience in S1K this year, compared to last year’s edition?

GR: Last year, as part of the All Female Red Bull Rookie team, we were very lucky in the sense that all we (the drivers) had to focus on was driving. Everything else was taken care of. This year, as I was on my own, I had a taste of what it’s like to handle and juggle everything on my own. From securing funds, taking care of all my sponsors’ requirements, and hunting down the bits and pieces of gear that I needed. My helmet was in Italy for repairs, I did not have the funds to buy a race suit nor was there one in my size ready off the rack. I also needed to borrow a HANS device and get radio comms fitted onto my helmet. U can’t race without all these, and because I only managed to secure my seat at the last-minute, it was a frantic rush to get everything organised. My helmet miraculously arrived just in time and I managed to borrow everything else so I could go racing.

The next part was to actually get into the car and familiarise myself with it. It was my first time driving a Suzuki Swift. With little practice, a new car and a completely new team, I had to try really hard to hit the ground running. Unfortunately on the race day, our car encountered technical problems as soon as it was show time. The crew worked tirelessly for hours to get it up and running but we were out of luck and had to retire. It was very disappointing for me to have done everything I did to be able to race this year, and not be able to join the fun at all. However, it’s part and parcel of racing.

Photo Credit: Geraldine Read
Photo Credit: Geraldine Read

FO: What’s the biggest obstacle for any individual looking to get into the world of racing?

GR: Funding. Motorsports is incredibly expensive, to be honest.

FO: Motorsports is widely regarded as a male-dominated industry. How has it been so far with regards to battling these stereotypes?

GR: At the beginning, I was quite unsure of how we (female racers) would be accepted on the track. Although I have never had problems in mixing with the guys, I still felt that I needed to be extra careful with what I said and did so as to not give people the avenue to blame my gender for any lack of success within the sport. But after a while, you realize that as long as you’re there to learn and improve yourself, most of them within the industry, are quite helpful and encouraging. Historically, it has always been a male-dominated industry, but that’s just because we don’t have enough female representation within the sport. Fortunately, more females are getting involved within the industry.

FO: Has there been a specific incident where these stereotypes affected you?

GR: Oh yes. Last year, the Red Bull rookies received some heat as some people mentioned that we were only picked because of our looks. And some compared the Rookie search to a beauty pageant. Another guy that I met, who laughed when he heard that I raced at the S1K, went on to say: “Girls can’t race, they only know how to crash cars.” That was really harsh. However, I think results speak for themselves. For a team of rookies – female ones as well – to finish 12th in the endurance race among factory teams and privateers alike, is not an easy feat.

Photo Credit: Geraldine Read
Photo Credit: Geraldine Read

FO: How important is events like S1K in getting more females to be a part of the industry?

GR: Personally I think the S1K is a great race for anyone, be it male or female. The Sepang 1000km is such a long race, so you will be able to gain valuable seat time – practice and race at the same time. It’s also more forgiving – should you make a mistake – compared to the shorter and more expensive Malaysian Championship Series rounds.

FO: What should a female individual expect if she’s keen on breaking into this industry?

GR: You should expect to work twice as hard to break into the industry. There will be many people who will need convincing as to why they should give you a shot.

FO: Lastly, do you have a specific goal with regards to the Motorsports industry?

GR: Many people think that a couple of pictures of me at the race track means that I’m a full-time racer. Only a handful can do that for a living. For many of us, it is more of a hobby and the passion that drives us to find ways to go faster. For me it’s quite simple, I just want to get in that seat and go racing.  At the same time, I want to show other women and little girls that gender should not hold us back from pursuing what we love. Dare to dream. Dare to be different. Had I known of Susie Wolff earlier, I would have started racing at an earlier age! I want to inspire other women to go for their dreams, irrespective of whether it’s a male-dominated industry, or not. If I can do it, so can you!

For more information on Geraldine Read, follow her updates on Facebook and Instagram!

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