It’s official. I’m a bona fide racing car driver.
Well, ok …. maybe not officially …. and maybe not legitimately. But I certainly felt like one on the day I attended the BMW Drivers Club Melbourne ‘Come and Try Day’ at the Broadford State Motorcycle complex as a part of the Shannon’s International Women’s Day Festival. And what a feeling it was.
What a fantastic event! I’m so glad I attended. My time on the track that day is definitely one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life, and one that I am most proud of. And the fact that there was a team of other women just like me out on the track giving it a try made it all the more wonderful.
I’m so grateful for having the experience and look back now with sadness to think that I almost missed it.
The event was held on Monday 8 March. Prior to this I had read about the event via the BMW Drivers Club Melbourne website and FaceBook page and had received the member email notifications inviting to join. I had even discussed the event with my partner Andreas and other members of the BMW DCM club.
But I had ABSOLUTELY NO INTENTION of going. God no. How terrifying.
Then on Saturday 6 March 2021 Andreas and I visited Jo Mawson, BMW Drivers Club Melbourne Vice President as she was recovering from her recent surgery. During this visit Jo chatted to me about the possibility of my joining the event but I was absolutely steadfast in my resolution that no one was getting me behind the wheel of a car on a race track!!
But the more we chatted, and the more Jo explained it to me, the more interested I became. Jo explained how everything would proceed on the day. From what to do on arrival, to the briefing sessions and the orientation laps. She explained how many sessions we would have on the tack and how the participants, mainly women, would be split into groups according to capability and experience which meant that I would be in a group with other brave women just like me. Jo explained everything from how to wear a helmet to what the flag Marshalls would be doing and how the sessions would be run. Finally, she explained that Andreas could be my (trainer? Need correct word), and that Andreas would take me out for my first session out on the track to help me orient me and to give me tips and instructions on how to approach the track and how to handle the car. And finally, Jo explained that I could stop at any time that I felt uncomfortable.
It also helped that Graeme and Andreas, two very capable and competent MALE drivers with significant track experience, were present during this conversation and supported Jo in everything she said. Graeme and Andreas positive and supportive input really helped to make me feel comfortable and safe with my decision to join in on the day. Not once did they make me feel embarrassed or self-conscious by my lack of experience or the fact that I was a woman trying to give it a go.
Being a conservative, careful and cautious driver at the best of times, I have never felt confident in my driving capability and would never have normally put myself in a position where I felt outside my comfort zone behind the wheel of a car. The complete sum of my motorsport experience prior to this day had been as a spectator supporting Andreas on track days.
Thank God Jo, Graeme and Andreas worked with me to help me step outside my comfort zone. I could see that I was joining a well-planned and well-regulated event being run by a team of experienced professionals. I felt safe taking a risk.
And I’m so glad I did. What an amazing experience!
Thank you to Jo Mawson and Graeme Bell for putting on such a well organised and well executed event. At no stage during the day did I feel intimidated by being in what is usually such a male dominated environment. Nor did I feel embarrassed or self-conscious by my lack of automotive skills and experience. I had an absolute ball and thoroughly enjoyed the day. Being out on the track was a little bit scary, but it was ‘good’ scary. And whilst the conservative in me struggled to get the car past 140kms per hour, it ‘felt’ fast enough for me to feel like I really was giving it a go and that I might even try it again.
In fact, I think I may have been ‘bitten by the bug’ as I plan to get back out on the race track again soon. BMW DCM is hosting a Driver Training Day at Broadford on 17 July 2021 which I’m super excited to be attending and can’t wait till registrations open. Head to the BMW DCM website events page for more information. Hopefully I might see you there!
Thanks again BMW DCM. Thanks also to the VFT Flaggies, Shannon’s, Motorcycle Victoria and Motorsport Australia for their support of the event and their help in running such an awesome day.
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Nella Santisi is a proud BMW Drivers Club Melbourne Member.
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