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Drive Like A Girl: Q&A with race car driver Madeline Stewart

In a sport commonly dominated by men, Madeline Stewart is one of the few women race car drivers to handle these powerful machines. Involved in the motorsport industry for over nine years, the now 18 year old Madeline Stewart, has spent most of her time racing go-karts. She has raced in Australia and overseas and in her time has really made her mark in the industry.

In 2017  Madeline made history as the first woman to take a Rotax Pro Tour win, taking out the Rotax 125 Light final in Adelaide, making her the South Australian state champion. This was also the first time in ten years that a woman had won a major title in Australian karting. For many racers, karting is a great stepping stone to racing cars. So it came with no surprise when Madeline announced that this year she would be racing in the Kumho Tyre Super 3 Series with Brad Jones Racing as well as racing in the F1000 series in Perth with Arise racing.

She has become an inspiration to many women who may want to become a driver like her and that is why Madeline was more than happy to sit down and discuss what it means to be a woman in motorsport.

Q: What made you want to be a race car driver?

Well at the beginning I actually wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it. My Mum kind of said to me that the family does it, so I should just give it a go for six months and see how it goes and I’ve pretty much never looked back. My grandad raced and my dad raced and then my older sister started racing – so that is kinda what got me into it. I also love motorsport in general. I love watching it, I love being around it and being apart of it.

Photo by Tenayah McLeod

Q: Did any of your reasons for not wanting to race when you were younger have anything to do with you being a girl or was it rather something else?

I think it was because I was a little bit scared. I don’t think it had anything to do with being a girl. My families always been really encouraging about the fact that I’m a girl and just that I’m not really any different to anyone else that races. My older sister also started racing and she has always been a good role model for me, she never really worried about the fact that she was a girl.

Q: How does it feel to be one of the few women in such a male dominated sport?

Well for a while I struggled not because I was a girl but because people made such a big deal about the fact that I was a girl. I always thought that I’m not any different to anyone else that races, the go-kart can’t tell that I’m a girl, so I just never understood why people made such a big deal about it. Now I can see that it’s actually more that people appreciate it and respect it. So I’m getting used to that and I just think that it should be celebrated. Ideally I’d like to get to a point where it doesn’t matter that I’m a girl and that theres an equal number of girls and guys, so it’s just about being a driver, not a girl or a guy.

“Ideally I’d like to get to a point where it doesn’t matter that I’m a girl”

Q: Do you think people treat you differently due to your gender within this sport?

People are really good about it. I’ve hardly come across anyone that has thought that it was a bad thing. Everyone is just really supportive and they actually get really happy for me, cause they like to see girls doing well, which is really nice.

Q: Recently you had a press release come out announcing you would be racing in the Super 3 series. It received double the likes and comments to any of the boys, with alot of comments focusing on your appearance. Taking this into account, do you think that gender can be an issue in motorsport as a whole?

No I don’t think that it makes any difference to me. I saw those comments and I thought, “I guess its a compliment”. To me, it just makes me want to get out there and race and show them that:

“I’m actually not just there to look good, I’m actually there to do well and I want to win just as much as anyone else”

I don’t do it because I like people seeing my face when I walk around the track I do it because I love racing. If anything it’s just giving me a bit of motivation to prove that I’m a better racer and I’m there to do a good job.

Q: Do you feel that there should be more women in motorsport or do you feel that the people that are currently in the sport are the best due to their ability and thats the way it should stay?

I don’t agree that there should be a big effort to get more girls into the sport for the sake of having girls. I like there being girls in there because I think that’s a cool thing. The way I look at it, the reason why there’s so many guys who are at the top level of motorsport is because theres more guys in general. So statistically it makes sense that there are more guys at a top level. I think that if there were more girls then the girls would be better. I don’t think its that guys are better drivers, theres just more of them. So I would like to see more girls doing well, but I also don’t think that girls should get an easier way in because if they are good enough then they’ll just get there on there own.

Photo by Andrea Stewart

Q: In other sports, such as tennis and basketball, males and females compete in seperate competitions. Do you think that if this was implemented in motorsport that this would make things better or worse for you as a driver?

Worse. I think that one of the best things for me about motorsport, and more specifically car racing, is that we get to race equally. Like if there was a girl class and a guy class, I would probably only get to race against two other people. I don’t think that there is any disadvantage being a girl at all, I also don’t think theres any advantage being a girl. Were all the same. I think that there’s the odd thing I might be better at and the odd thing they might be better at but that goes for different people as well, despite your gender. So yeah I definitely think that it should stay that girls and guys compete against each other.

Q: What is your message for any young girls who are maybe thinking about competing in this industry?

That they can do it and they don’t have to worry about what anyone says. They don’t have to feel different or any worse because there a girl, in fact they should celebrate it and just chase there dreams. Don’t let anyone say anything that will get in there way.

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