Why the Little Things Matter

By Erin Vogel

“VIR is a serious track.”

“GT3: Now that’s a serious car.”

“It takes real strength to drive a car like that.”

“That’s where the big boys run.”

These are all things I’ve heard in an attempt to discourage me from chasing my dreams. And this is just in recent years – I can’t even recall all the things I was told coming up through grassroots racing. Maybe these people thought they were preparing me, but I also think some part of them doubted my capability.

I’ve always been very honest with myself – and others – about my skill level. It allows me to find opportunities for growth and it usually keeps me safe. But this doesn’t seem to be a typical trait in drivers, at least outwardly.

I don’t know if it’s a trait more inherent to females, either by culture or by nature, but what I see as humility is sometimes perceived as a lack of confidence in a world full of male ego. In seeking to become a complete driver, it’s imperative for me to grow my skills first before taking a next step; however, this has sometimes been viewed as me being slow to learn, or simply just incapable of getting there.

Under the surface, I’m unlearning eight years of bad habits picked up in High Performance Driver Education (HPDE) and grassroots racing, where I mostly tried to teach myself how to race through reading and watching YouTube videos, and not really having a goal in mind. Meanwhile, the men I race against mostly jumped right into full racing gear because that’s what they always wanted to do.

When I first took my streetcar to HPDE, the idea of driving on a racetrack was not related to any thought of going racing. Perhaps that mindset had more to do with my age and understanding my own lack of experience, paired with natural timidity and an intimidation factor acquired via social media. As far as I knew at the time, women didn’t race.

Fortunately, I did find some incredible female role models and friends, both male and female, along the way. I’m consistently encountering things in racing that make me ask why things are done a certain way, and I think my curiosity about why has endeared me to a handful of great people. I’ve built a network of others who, like me, love to ask why and always want to keep improving.

I may not ever be the fastest, most celebrated, most decorated, or even much remembered as a racer. But I think the work I’m doing is important. I’m showing a handful of people that this “girl” who didn’t know her camber from her toe in the beginning is a driver who should be taken seriously. I smile a lot and I don’t always have the answer, but that’s specific to my own character and experiences, and not because of my gender.

I’m proving to a small circle of people that women are strong, capable, hard-working, focused athletes who can endure, adapt, and compete with the best. We’re not so different from our male counterparts after all, except maybe a little less afraid to show our emotions – occasionally.

The best part is to find that I’m not alone in this roll. Organizations like Shift Up Now start out as one person – and not always a woman – who wants to see a change. That evolves into a network of drivers of all shapes, sizes, genders, ethnicities, localities, ages, and skill-levels coming together for support and visibility. People start to recognize that there are more and more women succeeding in so many ways, at so many levels, and a network of success grows.

I used to hear that visibility was important only if we (women) were going to get the results. Yes, winners get the most attention and that helps to spread the message, but the women and men of Shift Up Now have agreed not to let us forget how often the small impacts are just important as the great ones. They add up slowly over time, and perhaps they’re less apt to fade quickly away. Which is why I got on board.

And I want to thank you for being here with us too.

Get Out and Do It: Nothing Great Ever Happens Inside Your Comfort Zone

By Loni Unser

The sport of racing has given me more than I could ever imagine. In terms of life experience and lessons, it has felt like a second college education. Even so, I find myself searching for a bigger purpose in racing and sometimes get caught feeling guilty about racing for several reasons: I feel bad for using consumable resources such as tires or fuel, or thinking I could make more of a difference as a teacher or doctor. I love this sport, but I want it to be more than fueling my own dreams and desires.

Racing in 2020 has shifted this toxic perspective for me. As Kylie Jenner once so eloquently put it, “This year was a year of realizing things.” I don’t believe I would have had this realization if I never had the opportunity to race as a Shift Up Now Athlete for Round 3 Racing.

I strongly believe that life is about being happy, and the more happy people there are, the better this world will be. It would have been much safer for me to graduate college and get a job working 9-5 than it was for me to put everything on the line to pursue racing but every day I feel lucky that I am taking a chance on something I love. I know that taking the path of least resistance would ultimately lead to a place I was not content with. I know many struggles lay ahead in this career, but I also know it is in the struggle where you learn and grow as a human. I am doing what makes me happiest, and because of this, I am able to spread kindness and love to others. I say pursue your dream and that dream will lead you to a bigger purpose.

Through my passion for racing, I’ve been able to meet some incredible women, who have become some of my closest friends and who also felt the need for a greater purpose. Together we are working to inspire others – whether in racing or those entering traditionally male-dominated careers they may not have considered – and race for equality in a sport that has been dominated by men for so long.

Nothing great has ever happened to anyone in their comfort zone. I’ve spent so much time outside of my comfort zone while racing I start to feel like I am living there. Whether taking a high-speed corner or threading the needle while making a pass, I have taught myself to get comfortable being uncomfortable. It has enabled me to do things outside of racing that are uncomfortable, whether it be an uncomfortable conversation or simply giving someone a sincere compliment. Through racing, I have been able to show others that being out of your comfort zone can be extremely rewarding.

I am so thankful to be able to inspire people through Shift Up Now. I hope to show that dreams can happen, and that happiness and pushing your own limits are where true joy happens. Thank you to Round 3 Racing for introducing me to some incredible people. If I am to give a piece of advice to anyone reading, it’s to simply follow your dreams! It will make you a better person and help you to make this world a better, happier place. Go out and do it!

What Shift Up Now Means To Me

By Pippa Mann

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved cars. From playing with toy cars and watching races on TV as a kid to riding in cars – especially fast cars – and seeing and hearing the noise of fast cars in real life as I got older, the love has always been there.

I was still young enough to have never been to a live race when I made an unsettling observation: There was no one like me in the races I was watching on TV.

Formula 1 was my primary frame of reference because I grew up in England, so IndyCar’s Janet Guthrie and Lyn St. James were not yet on my radar. My dad however, knew about Lella Lombardi, and he would tell me time and time again the story of how she scored that famous half point at Brands Hatch. It became my favorite bed-time story.

When my dad started to take me with him to watch local races, I started noticing even more that Lella had been a unicorn, because even at the lower levels, it was rare to see who looked like me. There was no next Lella Lombardi coming up through the ranks and I remember being disappointed every time there was no one like me on the racetrack to cheer for.

I routinely asked my dad why there were no girls on track. Luckily, I had the kind of “girl-dad” who told me time and again that there could be, there should be, and there was no reason why girls could not race equally with the boys, just like Lella.

I was about 12 when we first went to the indoor kart track and joined the kids club. At the time, we thought this was the only type of racing available to someone under the age of 16. If it weren’t for the young gentleman running the kids club informing us that there was more out there, we probably would’ve never known.

I got my first real competition kart for my 13th birthday. We started racing locally, and within 18 months I was competing in the British National Championships in my class.

There were still very few people – almost no one – who looked like me. On the rare occasion that there was another female on track, the people I thought mattered at the track made sure to admonish me that there would not be room for both of us, that it had to be her or me.

Unfortunately, the other girls were told the same thing and as a result, the few of us on track were effectively pitched against one another from an early age. There was no room for rising together, no room for friendship or female solidarity, no room to form the same connections and bonds being formed by the boys around us.

By the time I entered my late teens I started to challenge – both internally and externally – the preconceptions that were being placed on me. I started taking the time to be the girl who was making the effort, but most of these girls had been conditioned the same way as me, and from a much earlier age. As a result, I was often rebuffed or turned away, and my attempts at connecting were rejected. Most of the (few) girls thought I was a bit weird for trying to break the boundaries and therefore, I probably wasn’t someone they wanted to be associated with. Remember, we were all just trying to fit in.

My first small success at forming a friendship with another female racer was with Swiss racer Rahel Frey. We were both racing in Formula Renault at the same time and I hope Rahel will forgive me for stating this: neither of us was very good at qualifying at the time. We were both pretty good racers, and would consistently rise through the field together. We didn’t have a strong or deep bond but I wanted to see Rahel do well, and the feeling was mutual. We would regularly take a few minutes during race weekends to say hi.

It may sound trivial but at the time, both of us were aware that we were stepping outside of the pre-defined boxes, and while we were willing to step cautiously, we both subconsciously knew, even at an early age, that we wanted to connect with other women in sport.

Fast forward to 2020.

More women are starting to connect and work together than ever before in motorsports. My friend Rahel is part of an all-female GT driving team that has now competed at LeMans twice. The FIA Women In Motorsport Commission has fielded a female line-up in an LMP2 car and the WS-Racing Girls Only team fields a car in the NLS races at the Nordschleife – including their 24 hour event – with an all-female engineering team, all-female mechanics, and an all-female driving team.

All of these projects are the result of women working together – with the help of male allies – to prove that we can – and do – compete equally with men on the world stage in motorsport.

Here at Shift Up Now, we’re still a fairly small group in terms of our power, reach and funding, but we’ve been slowly and quietly making things happen from a grassroots level. We’re connecting racers, attracting partners who are interested in standing with us and forming alliances with teams who want to keep talented racers racing.

Our goal over the next five to 10 years is to grow our reach and partnerships, and to slowly graduate to a position where we can help more talented racers stay behind the wheel, racing at higher and higher levels of motorsport.

I want the next generations of racers to see us, so that no more little girls have to have conversations with their parents about why there is no one who looks like them racing. That if they choose to start racing, they can turn to us for advice, resources and a whole community of women in motorsport who are here, willing and ready to help.

So much has changed in motorsport in the past 20 years, but we still have a long way to go. It’s an honor to have been asked to help lead Shift Up Now so that I can help do my part in this important cause.

I’m passionate about making a difference and if you’re willing to join me, together I believe we can create the long-overdue change for girls to see someone on track who looks like them.

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