Motormen and motorwomen

motormen and motorwomen Elisabeth Hake

We had some very interesting discussions lately about women taking over key positions in motorsports. This time, one of the most solid businesswomen in the racing industry that we know, Elisabeth Hake, opens her mind on these matters.

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I think the situation of women in motorsports is comparable to other industries. The position of women in society and in business life is changing, therefore it’s also changing in motorsports. But I have to say that women have always been playing an important role in our business – as drivers, managers, grid girls, engineers, mechanics, in a racing organization or in public relations. Nowadays, we are more and more taking over responsible senior positions, as you can also see in politics and economy in general. Most of the women who are in atypical positions in motorsports usually have very interesting CVs. Talking about marketing and public relations, the industry slowly but surely recognizes the importance of women in key positions, because humankind has always been interested in the new, the unusual and non-trivial.

The racing industry will change anyway because the whole world does. Women and men are sometimes very different, but this diverse view can open a whole new perspective.

Many women who are in Formula 1 today have accumulated their knowledge and gained their skills in lower motorsport classes. Although they have excellent expertise and potential, it’s still weird for some people when a woman walks through the paddock, not being there more or less private but on business. Well, that is actually kind of cool because it gives us the power to change things.


Getting into Formula 1 is not easy, of course. First and foremost it’s the same problem as for male drivers: the lack of budget. I’m sure it’s harder for female drivers because sponsors, team managers or scouts regularly don’t have the courage to accompany a woman all the way to Formula 1, the pinnacle. And, unfortunately, some people still ridicule young women if they say they want to be Formula 1 race drivers. What follows is that the girls are not taken seriously and they don’t get the same support as the boys. For sure it’s a higher physical challenge for women, but if they are focused, if they work hard and have a strong will, achieving the physical goals of F1 is possible. It’s a fact that parents are more likely to take their sons to the football pitch or the kart racetrack and not so often their daughters, but society is changing. In years to come, I definitely see more girls within the “Bambini’s” (lowest level of karting) and I hope that parents and coaches will encourage girls to prove their talent. Many women who are a part of motorsports today are daughters of former race drivers or their fathers who have been working in racing. The sound of roaring engines and the smell of gasoline gives those girls the heebie-jeebies, just like it does for the boys.

The platform

I think the USA discovered the potential of female racers earlier than the rest of the world. Maybe it’ because of the “American dream”, which is firmly anchored in the mentality. If someone is talented, determined and hard-working, success will follow – no matter if it’s a woman or a man. Still, there are not enough female role models for young girls whom they can emulate.

Jutta Kleinschmidt (winner of the Rallye Dakar in 2001 as the first woman ever), Danica Patrick (first woman who won an IndyCar-Race in 2008) and Rahel Frey (former racing driver in the DTM, now driving for Audi – e.g. 24h Nürburgring, 24h Spa, GT Series) are all very good examples of women who are successful in the racing industry. Mattias Ekström once said that “the hardest thing you can do in motorsports as a woman is the DTM because everybody drives the same material, therefore it needs a whole lot of racing experience”. The most progressive ones who are not athletes themselves: Sabine Kehm (manager of Michael Schumacher, she’s always been the most important woman in his life after his wife Corinna) and Nataliya Lyubimova (Team Manager Yakhnich-Team, she’s responsible for MV Augusta, World Superbike Team). I’m very happy that there are a lot more young female talents out there who will hit the screen soon.


The racing industry will change anyway because the whole world does. Women and men are sometimes very different, but this diverse view can open a whole new perspective. Sometimes it’s easier to make deals with women because they decide faster and act more intuitional. All in all, I think it will be a very positive change and motorsports will get even more exciting. It’s still a long way, but we already managed to drive the first kilometres successfully.

I hope that motor racing will make a positive development soon and will gain a higher acceptance because it’s an amazing, intoxicating and intriguing sport – both for women and for men. Furthermore, I hope that more and more girls will get motivated and supported and that they will be successful as racing drivers as well as businesswomen in important senior positions. Obviously, this will also bring more and more emancipated female fans to the races.

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