Playin’ in the Dirt at the DirtFish Women in Motorsport Summit

March 19, 2024

By Michele Abbate

On Saturday, March 2nd, I had the honor of being one of the panelists at the DirtFish Women in Motorsport Summit in Snoqualmie, WA. The event exceeded all my expectations, and despite some dreary weather, the enthusiasm of the attendees was through the roof!

The other summit panelists included legend Michele Mouton, Becs Williams, Pernilla Solberg, Vanessa Ruck and Jndia Erbacher.

On the morning of the summit, we arrived at the DirtFish Rally School to find an impressive display of rally cars, both historic and modern, purpose-built. There was even a Subaru with a Ferrari power-plant!

In between the two panels scheduled that day, participants could check out the vendors and attend informative and interactive sessions as well. The mission to empower women was clear everywhere I turned. There were women-owned businesses there, like a food truck, and a female DJ, too!

In addition to the panels, DirtFish also hosted a women’s mechanic workshop. Five female mechanics were there helping attendees get under the hood of the cars and experience what it’s like to work on them.

During our panel, the various motorsports backgrounds and disciplines among the panelists made it such a pleasure to be part of the lively conversation. We got to interact with the audience through Q&A sessions and learn about their interests.

One of my favorite parts of these type of events is connecting with participants. It’s fun to hear their stories and offer help to fuel their dreams in the sport.

The following day, after the summit was over, Vanessa Ruck and I were given the amazing opportunity to experience a private, half-day school in one of DirtFish’s rally-prepped Subaru BRZ cars. This was my first time taking to the dirt in a RWD car. But having won a championship in the Toyota 86 back in 2015, it was in a platform and power-plant that I was very familiar with.

I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel and develop some new skills on the dirt. Michelle Miller was my instructor. She made it incredibly easy to learn to trust the car, and help me apply many of the techniques that she had demonstrated to us in the classroom.

DirtFish offers several all-encompassing programs designed to take you from the classroom to the rally course. Having skilled professionals who know the compound like the back of their hand takes the guesswork out, and the real-time feedback is truly invaluable.

Personally, I learned that being able to trust the direction and verbal cues allowed me to maximize my time there. I was very thankful that this communication came naturally between Michelle and I. It helped me focus on the specifics of her coaching without ever having to explain my inputs, and reasoning for them. She understood, guiding me to adjust and improve with each lap. It was truly a rewarding experience that had me wanting to come back before we had even left!

One of my favorite things about the DirtFish Rally School is that it’s beneficial for all levels of driving experience. From brand-new to champion, everyone will leave with something new in their driving-skills toolbox.

In addition, DirtFish is unwavering in its support for women in motorsports. This was obvious to me in everything from its history to the warm welcomes, and through everyone on staff. And as if that wasn’t enough, DirtFish announced during the Women in Motorsports Summit that it’s launching a women’s initiative scholarship! More details will be announced in the coming months.

Looking back, it was so cool to be even a small part of this huge event. I’m very grateful to Shift Up Now and DirtFish for allowing me this opportunity. Perhaps you’ll see me back in the dirt sometime soon? Only time will tell...


DirtFish is a Corporate Member of the Inside Track by Shift Up Now, and our Members get 10% off their entry level Rally Schools. Make sure you log in to your Member dashboard or email to unlock your Member discount.

You can also see photos from Michele's time at DirtFish here, and learn more their Women In Motorsport Summit that Michele attended here.

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