Amanda Whitaker

Amanda Whitaker

Amanda Whitaker is the most successful female racing driver that this country has ever produced - although she is currently taking time out from the sport after the birth of her first child.

I caught up with her to talk about her career and new movie Senna - a man that Whitaker admits that she looked up to as she was growing up.

- You are the most successful female racing driver so how did you get into the sport and what was it that attracted you to it?

I started racing when it was fourteen or fifteen, my father was an ex-racer and so I had sort of been around the racing the scene and down the garage and at racing tracks from being a baby really.

I didn’t have any other brothers of sisters so it was me who was sort of pushed into that direction

- And how difficult a sport is it to get established in as a woman - it remains a very male dominated arena?

It is just the same to get into it - there are no rules saying that females can’t do it or anything like that - it’s just really the instinct behind the racer.

 A lot of females think that they can’t do it because they are female and it’s a man’s world and some such and so are put off or go down a different avenue - but there is nor reason what there can’t be more females in the sport really. 

- What do you think needs to be done to get more girls into the sport - how much is that something that you would love to see?

They are trying to make more of a concentrated effort - the MSA and such are trying to get it around at a younger age and get it into schools; they have set up campaigns that gets racers into schools to talk to the children to talk about getting into the sport, whether it be driving, spectating or marshalling. So they are trying to do a little bit.

But it’s the sport of general response as I say women are always told that they cannot drive and if there’s a bad driver in a car everyone says ‘oh that will be a woman’ and they are put off and it does lower their confidence in that area a bit.

About six years ago we were doing a six day race course at Silverstone and as soon as you get female racers on that racecourse who are seventeen or above they are lacking confidence and saying ‘it’s because I am a female’ and it is because it has been drummed into them really.

Where as if they are under seventeen, the guts and the girls aren’t driving on the roads at that age because they are too young, they have just as much confidence as they guys because they are on equal pars really - but there is definitely a cut off at sort of seventeen.

- The release of Senna is just around the corner so have you seen the movie and what did you think of it?

I have, we did plan on seeing when it was out in the cinema but my baby was due around that time and she came early; she arrived two days before the release so I wasn’t able to see it but I have had a copy from Universal and it really is a very good documentary.

It shows truly how he is and it is very moving because it is almost like you are there with him. But Ayrton
 is one of my idols, my dad was my first one just because I have been around him and he is very successful in what he did, and the second person that I looked up to was Ayrton Senna.

He was just so focused and committed really and he was very deep and very spiritual - which comes across in the film.

But non racing people would really like to see it because it is such a moving film and shows how these things use to be in terms of safety and that sort of thing.

- So what did he bring to the sport of F1 that was so exciting? And what did the sport lose after his death?

I think he sort of upped the game because he was so committed it wasn’t like he just turned up at the weekend to have a race his whole life… he sort of ate and breathed the sport really. And I think that it made everyone around him up their game because he was the one to beat - and they would do everything to just try and beat Ayrton Senna; it’s the same way when I race the guys don’t care where they finish they just want to beat me (laughs).

It was such a tragic loss because he was so good at what he did and he was a little bit different than the other drivers - he was just a natural racer.

- In the film we see the crash and his death and obviously this sport come with it’s own dangers - you had a bit of a horror crash back in 2009 at Mallory Park so what goes through your mind when something like that is happening?

It all happens quickly but it goes in slow motion - my accident happened on the first lap of the race and Mallory Park is a very short lap, it’s about a mile and forty nine seconds.

But the accident itself  it somersaulted over when it clipped the back of another car - my eyes were open and all I could see was sky and tarmac any my helmet hit the tarmac twice.

You just think that ‘there’s nothing I can do’ and you are a complete passenger - they the fire extinguisher went off and everything just went white. But it doesn’t put you off in any way because it is part of the sport and you just want to get back out there - and we were back out there the next race because I was fighting for a championship.

- Well you have touched on my next question really you were unharmed and back out racing two weeks after the crash so what made you want to get back into a car so quickly?

Just because I was fighting for a championship, I was second place in the championship, the guy ahead of me had a big crash after the second corner so three of us ended up in hospital after that race; he got t-boned by another car.

So we were both fighting for the championship and it was just a matter of who would get back on the track first really and get the car back together. But a friend of ours who races in the same championship, or did some of the races, said I could use his car while mine was getting fixed.

So we just concentrated on me physically getting back to it - while my mind was ready to race it was my body that wasn’t quite ready; I had some internal bleeding my ankle got crushed and my leg really swelled up.

But there were not broken bones, I had to have it x-rayed quite a few times because they couldn’t believe that with the amount of swelling there was no break - so it was just a matter of that.

When I was testing to get physically up to being able to do it we change the master cylinder so that clutch wasn’t has heavy to press and I took quite a lot of painkillers - getting in an out of the car was quite an ordeal because they are quite tight and your legs have to go our in from of you. So it was just a manner of getting that sorted.

But this new car wasn’t that competitive and I think my best result was fourth after that so I ended up missing the championship by one point in the end.

- You have taken time out this year because of your pregnancy so how have you found being away from the sport?

It has been very difficult and I would love to be back out racing but, obviously, I have other commitments just at the moment. My husband has had two or three races since she has been born so we have been down to one race at Donnington so Scarlett has been to watch dad racing there.

As soon as we get sorted I will be back out there racing and hopefully she will be too when she gets a bit older.

- As you said earlier Senna was the heart and soul of Formula 1 in the eighties so do you think that there are any F1 drivers at the moment that create the excitement?

I don’t think that they create level, I mean there are some excellent drivers Vettel is doing a fantastic job and nothing seems to faze him, but this day and age all the motorsport is very before it was a little bit more like privateer.

- And there will be many young girls all over the country who would love to take up motorsport so what advice would you give them?

The first thing is is to check that you are interested because a lot of hard work and other stuff that goes into it so I think that you should go down to a few race meetings to see what goes on and speak to a few of the teams and drivers.

Then go down to the local carting track and they do all sorts of things. But if you go onto the website gomotorsport.net and they have all the information about getting into motorsport and where things are happening.

- Finally what's next for you?

I think just concentrate on the little one and try to get back out there as soon as I can really.

Senna is out on DVD now. Red our review here.

FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw

Amanda Whitaker is the most successful female racing driver that this country has ever produced - although she is currently taking time out from the sport after the birth of her first child.

I caught up with her to talk about her career and new movie Senna - a man that Whitaker admits that she looked up to as she was growing up.

- You are the most successful female racing driver so how did you get into the sport and what was it that attracted you to it?

I started racing when it was fourteen or fifteen, my father was an ex-racer and so I had sort of been around the racing the scene and down the garage and at racing tracks from being a baby really.

I didn’t have any other brothers of sisters so it was me who was sort of pushed into that direction

- And how difficult a sport is it to get established in as a woman - it remains a very male dominated arena?

It is just the same to get into it - there are no rules saying that females can’t do it or anything like that - it’s just really the instinct behind the racer.

 A lot of females think that they can’t do it because they are female and it’s a man’s world and some such and so are put off or go down a different avenue - but there is nor reason what there can’t be more females in the sport really. 

- What do you think needs to be done to get more girls into the sport - how much is that something that you would love to see?

They are trying to make more of a concentrated effort - the MSA and such are trying to get it around at a younger age and get it into schools; they have set up campaigns that gets racers into schools to talk to the children to talk about getting into the sport, whether it be driving, spectating or marshalling. So they are trying to do a little bit.

But it’s the sport of general response as I say women are always told that they cannot drive and if there’s a bad driver in a car everyone says ‘oh that will be a woman’ and they are put off and it does lower their confidence in that area a bit.

About six years ago we were doing a six day race course at Silverstone and as soon as you get female racers on that racecourse who are seventeen or above they are lacking confidence and saying ‘it’s because I am a female’ and it is because it has been drummed into them really.

Where as if they are under seventeen, the guts and the girls aren’t driving on the roads at that age because they are too young, they have just as much confidence as they guys because they are on equal pars really - but there is definitely a cut off at sort of seventeen.

- The release of Senna is just around the corner so have you seen the movie and what did you think of it?

I have, we did plan on seeing when it was out in the cinema but my baby was due around that time and she came early; she arrived two days before the release so I wasn’t able to see it but I have had a copy from Universal and it really is a very good documentary.

It shows truly how he is and it is very moving because it is almost like you are there with him. But Ayrton
 is one of my idols, my dad was my first one just because I have been around him and he is very successful in what he did, and the second person that I looked up to was Ayrton Senna.

He was just so focused and committed really and he was very deep and very spiritual - which comes across in the film.

But non racing people would really like to see it because it is such a moving film and shows how these things use to be in terms of safety and that sort of thing.

- So what did he bring to the sport of F1 that was so exciting? And what did the sport lose after his death?

I think he sort of upped the game because he was so committed it wasn’t like he just turned up at the weekend to have a race his whole life… he sort of ate and breathed the sport really. And I think that it made everyone around him up their game because he was the one to beat - and they would do everything to just try and beat Ayrton Senna; it’s the same way when I race the guys don’t care where they finish they just want to beat me (laughs).


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