21 September 2018

History-maker Haigh hopes British GT title tilt inspires more women to try motorsport

History-maker Haigh hopes British GT title tilt inspires more women to try motorsport

> Optimum driver could become series’ first overall female champion this weekend


British GT Championship leader Flick Haigh hopes her record breaking achievements and world-be history-making Drivers’ title will attract more women to motorsport, regardless of the outcome at Donington Park’s season finale this Sunday.


The 33-year-old and her Optimum Motorsport Aston Martin co-driver Jonny Adam – himself chasing an unprecedented third Drivers’ crown in four years – head into the weekend 27.5 points clear of Barwell’s Jon Minshaw and Phil Keen (Lamborghini), and another point ahead of TF Sport duo Mark Farmer and Nicki Thiim (Aston Martin).


Both crews must win to have any chance of catching Haigh, who will seal the crown by finishing sixth or higher regardless of other results. In doing so she stands to become the first woman ever to win a British GT title outright in the series’ 26-year history.


However, rather than fetishize her achievements, Haigh is instead eager to emphasise what they could mean for others.


“I’ve always shirked the ‘woman does well’ angle because I’m just here to race and be treated no differently to anyone else; gender shouldn’t and doesn’t have to come into it,” she says. “Of course, I understand that a woman winning in racing cars is still a novelty, and especially if I’m the first to win British GT outright. But, honestly, it’s a sport that requires technique, practice and the correct mind-set more than anything else. Whatever happens at Donington, perhaps other women will be inspired to try motorsport at some level. That’s the biggest impact I could have.”


Haigh first broke new ground in April on debut at Oulton Park when she became the first woman to score an overall British GT pole position and victory. However, the enormity of her achievement didn’t sink in until some days later.


“It honestly never crossed my mind that I was in a position to make history. I genuinely assumed a woman or women had already achieved those records,” she reveals. “Even after qualifying on pole, when Jonny told me about being the first, I wasn’t totally aware of it. I guess it wasn’t really until Tuesday or Wednesday when I saw all the social media posts and received so many congratulatory messages that I really knew something special had happened. That was definitely a ‘wow’ moment. It was quite overwhelming, actually.


“But I guess that also made me realise just how important my achievements were, and also how what I do can resonate at some level with other people. Women are still under-represented in motorsport but more are joining all the time. It would be a massive privilege and I’d feel very proud to be the first to win a championship of British GT’s standing.”


What’s all the more remarkable is that 2018 was Haigh’s first full season in GT3 racing on UK soil, and the first time in four or five years that she’d raced in Britain full stop. Her success, which also includes a second win at Brands Hatch, has therefore come as something of a surprise.


“I raced with Optimum in 2017 but the Aston Martin was completely new to me at the start of the year. To be honest this was supposed to be a learning process ahead of a proper assault next season so I definitely wasn’t expecting to head into the final round leading the championship! A lot of the credit must go to Jonny who has been a fantastic coach and co-driver, and of course he knows the V12 Vantage like the back of his hand. He’s really helped me up my game by using the simulator to hone car set-up.”


All of that leaves Adam and Haigh within touching distance of the title. But with two hours of racing still ahead of them this Sunday, the latter is taking nothing for granted.


“I’d certainly prefer to be out front with the advantage that we have but of course there’s always pressure and in motorsport luck can also have a big impact on the result,” she adds. “Jonny’s never lost a British GT title decider but that’s no guarantee. Instead, we have to be disciplined and go through the same procedures as every other weekend. We know we have the car and team to get the result we need even with a 20-second success penalty in the pits. We just need to execute everything as well as usual.”


Do that and Haigh will be poised to make British GT history all over again.


DID YOU KNOW? While no woman has ever won a British GT title outright, Jamie Chadwick did become the series’ first and to date only female champion in 2015 when she claimed the junior GT4 crown alongside Ross Gunn. Like Haigh, Chadwick – who started the season aged just 16 – was also driving an Aston Martin.


Watch British GT’s two-hour #DoningtonDecider this Sunday at 13:35 live on the championship’s website and Facebook page.