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My name is TINA SMITH, I am 25 years old and I live in Ipswich, Suffolk. I am a full-time Vehicle Technician and part-time racing driver, my aim is to become a full-time racer and mechanic in my spare time! I am currently working at a BMW dealership where I have achieved Technician status and am studying for my Senior Technician assessment.

I have been selected to be one of the 100 finalists in the Formula Woman (FW) search for women racing drivers, and competed in my first race at Pembrey circuit in November of last year.

Formula Woman is a unique concept aimed at getting more women into what up until recently has been a male-dominated sport. The first FW competition began in 2003, with over 10,000 women applying to be one of the 16 women chosen to race in the first all female Formula Woman Championship. Formula Woman selected 16 novice drivers and after extensive training they raced in an exciting one make Championship, which was televised on ITV 1. The viewing figures for the FW championship exceeded all expectations with ratings in excess of 1 million viewers on occasions, greater than for the British Touring Cars shown on the same afternoon, with three and a half hours of television coverage in total. The total combined press, television and radio coverage was in excess of 120 million people, giving plenty of opportunity for sponsor exposure.

The 2006 FW Championship attracted over 4000 applicants, from which 2500 (including me!) were chosen to attend an assessment day in October. I found out that I had been chosen in March 2005 and so I began preparing for my assessment by joining Club Formula Woman, with whom I did a total of seven track days with instruction. I had novice training at Dunsfold Park (the home of Top Gear), five intermediate days driving a Caterham at Bedford Autodrome, Snetterton, Oulton Park, Mallory Park and Cadwell Park, and an advanced day at Dunsfold. I also decided it was time to get fit, so I gave up smoking and took up circuit training and cycling instead!

The assessment consisted of a karting test, a fitness test, a written exam, a filmed interview and a track test in a Caterham. The assessment went very well, and I secured a place in the final 100. The next stage was to get a racing licence, and so a week later I was at Thruxton taking my ARDS test. I passed this with no problems and am now the proud owner of a race national B licence!

FW staged the FW Novice Challenge at Pembrey in November 2005 for 64 of the 100 finalists, on a first-come-first-served basis. There were four races held over the weekend, with the winner of each race securing a place in the 2006 Championship.

The next stage in the selection process is an elimination camp that will take place in June 2006, at a location yet to be disclosed. Over the three days the remaining 96 finalists will be put through various tests, and 12 women will be chosen to join the four winners from Pembrey to race in the 2006 FW Novice Championship. I am intent on being one of those 12 and I have stepped up my training program this year to ensure I have the best possible chance of being selected.

The final 16 women will compete in a Championship that will consist of eight rounds held over four weekends in August and September 2006. 'The Championship will be shown on terrestrial television, which will provide national exposure for sponsors.

I am hoping to compete in two non-championship events that FW are planning in March and April 2006. This will provide invaluable experience for the elimination camp and will help me to hone my race craft, and will hopefully result in my first race win!

If you would like to know more or would like to find out the benefits of becoming a partner then please e-mail me, I would love to hear from you!

Name: Tina Smith
DOB: 08/05/80
Nationality: British
Lives: Ipswich, Suffolk
Occupation: Technician at Lind BMW of Ipswich
Race Debut: Pembrey 20/11/05
Qualifications: HND Motorsports Engineering ND Motor Vehicle Studies
Ambition:- To be selected for the Formula Woman Novice Championship and to become a professional Racing Driver.
Hobbies:- Motor Racing, Circuit Training, Cycling, Swimming, Music,Films, and Reading


Formula Woman Eliminations Camp - 6/29/06

The eliminations camp was held at Bruntingthorpe Proving Grounds near Leicester. Day one of the eliminations camp consisted of eight tests held over the course of the day. Driving tests would carry a maximum of 100 points each, and other tests would carry 50 points each. Points were also awarded for the amount of PR and sponsorship achieved prior to the camp. I think I started day 1 with about 130 points for PR and sponsorship, but some girls had in excess of 1000 points so I knew I would have to do really well in the driving tests to make up the deficit. The 86 finalists (10 girls had not turned up) were split into eight groups and after a briefing from Graeme and Tim, off we went to the circuit.

My first test was a track test in a Honda Civic. The purpose of this test was to gauge natural ability and ‘feel’. Graeme took us round for one siting lap, and then I had just two laps around the track to show what I could do. I was quite pleased with my laps and only really made one mistake; I accidentally selected 6th gear instead of 4th when braking for the fast corner! Needless to say I was very annoyed with myself!

The next test was a speech about why I wanted to be a racing driver and what it would mean to me to be in the final 16. Public speaking is not one of my strong points and this test was the one I had been the most worried about, but I had prepared a good speech and it went fairly well, with the only criticism being that I needed to project my voice more.

The heel-and-toe test was next. I am really good at this particular technique as it is something that I practice every day in my road car (I fitted competition pedals to it for that purpose), and the feedback I got from the assessor was very positive, so full marks for that test!

Next came a written test, with questions on such things as explaining understeer and oversteer, what to do in various racing situations and a question on sponsorship. It was quite straightforward, with the most difficult question being to describe in 40 words or less why I should be chosen for the Championship.

After lunch came the race starts test. We had two attempts at a race start, with two of us lined up side-by-side in Caterhams. I got off the line first for both of my starts and controlled the wheel-spin to stay ahead until the line. I scored highly in this test as well.

The skid test involved using special skid cars with hydraulic trolley wheels fitted, to enable the ride height to be altered front and rear to simulate understeer, oversteer, driving on ice, aquaplaning etc. We were just being tested on our ability to control oversteer or rear-end sliding. I was confident about the test since I have experience of oversteer from the Caterham Motorsport Club days that I have done, however I found the skid cars were very unpredictable and difficult to control and I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, scoring 80 out of 100.

The fitness test was a bleep test, just as it was at the assessments last year. This was so that our fitness levels could be compared with our results from the assessment days to check our progress. I have been training hard all year and stepped up my fitness program since the assessment to improve my strength and endurance. It paid off as I managed to go up almost a whole level on the bleep test, making it to level 8-6 (I managed 7-7 at the assessment last October). I was really pleased with my performance especially since it was a very hot day - 27?C.

The last test of the day was the braking test, which involved accelerating up to the rev limiter in 2nd gear (about 60 mph) and then braking to a stop in as short a distance as possible, in a controlled manner without locking up. We had two shots at it with the best one counting; my first run wasn’t that good as I didn’t brake hard enough to start with and compensated for that by locking the wheels up at the end! The second run was much better and I was quite happy with it.

We then had to wait around for a couple of hours before the eliminations were announced. It seemed like much longer, and when it finally got to the announcement, I was really nervous. However, I made it through to the final 50 and I was over the moon!

Day two was another hot, sunny day. The format was different this time. We were split into three groups, with two tests to do in the morning, and a karting knock-out in the afternoon.

The first test was another track test, this time in a Caterham. We had 6 laps around a circuit, which was basically the same as yesterday with two extra chicanes added. The first two laps were with instruction, although this wasn’t easy with no intercom system, and then the final four laps were assessed. The aim was to prove that we were race-ready and could handle a car at speed on a track.

The circuit was great fun in a Caterham; being an airfield it was very bumpy with a lot of grit and gravel and not much grip, so the car was fish-tailing around accelerating down the straights and drifting though the corners. I was going really well and getting faster and more confident with every lap, until the last lap when it all went a bit wrong. Coming out of the first long right-hander I got into a four-wheel drift which was great, but as I then went to change into fourth exiting the corner I managed to hit the ignition key with my knee and turn the engine off! After realising this and getting going again, I then went too fast into one of the chicanes and drove over a cone on the exit. Unfortunately all the laps counted and so I must have lost a few points, and as this test carried the most points for the day I was rather annoyed with myself.

The next test bizarrely was wheel-changing. I think I had a bit of an unfair advantage since most of the girls had never changed a wheel in their lives! We had to work in pairs, and we had two goes at it, with one girl in charge of the gun for the first go and then swapping over. I set the fastest time in my group, and I managed to come first and second as one girl had slipped a disc and so I had to take her place!

Then we had some practice in the karts in preparation for the knock-out challenge in the afternoon. We were split into 10 heats for the first round of the karting test, five per heat, with the winner of each heat going through to two semi-finals. Then the first and second-placed girls from the semis would race against each other in the final. Points were deducted for anyone making contact with another kart, and points awarded for overtaking and finishing places. I have only been karting four times so I didn’t expect to do very well, but I managed to finish third in my heat which wasn’t too bad since some of the girls had a lot of karting experience.

When the eliminations for the day were announced I was very disappointed not to have made it through to the final day. I came 41st out of the final 50. I think my performance in the Caterham track test let me down the most, although I’m sure my lack of karting experience didn’t help either. However I know that if I had had another 150 points for PR and sponsorship I could have made it through to the third day, so just because I didn’t get through doesn’t mean I’m not a good or quick driver; I’m sure had it been purely down to driving I would have made it through.

I’m not going to give up racing now that Formula Woman is over. It has been a great way of getting into the sport; now I just need to decide which Championship I want to compete in next.

Eliminations camp results: 41st

Brands Hatch - 4/28/06

I had the opportunity to do a track day at Brands Hatch with Minis-On-Track.com. I had never driven this track before and since it is going to stage a round of the Formula Woman championship I was keen to learn the circuit. The track day was run on the Indy circuit, and I was driving a BMW Mini Cooper (fully race-prepared by Advent Motorsport). I found the Mini handled extremely well, which made up for the lack of power out of the corners, and was an ideal car in which to learn the lines around the twisty Indy circuit. The circuit itself is great fun to drive, especially Paddock Hill Bend which is an unforgettable experience and a real thrill at high speed. My instructor for the day was Andrew Crighton, an ARDS instructor and former race driver himself. By the end of the day I was really getting up to speed and was putting in some good fast laps. I would definitely recommend Minis-On-Track.com as a good value arrive-and-drive track day company.

Formula Woman Novice Challenge, Pembrey - 4/15-16/06
My second race meeting was back at Pembrey again. I was determined to make up for my bad luck last time and if not win, at least finish in the top ten.

Friday practice went very well. I set the fastest time in the first session with a time of 1:08.863, almost two seconds quicker than my fastest lap here in November. The car was understeering slightly especially out of the hairpins, but after a few minor alterations it was much better in the next sessions. I didn’t manage to improve my time in the second and third sessions, mainly because I was trying too hard in the second session and I was held up by traffic in the third. However, the car was handling really well with an amazing amount of grip, and dealing with the traffic in the third session was good overtaking practice for the races on Sunday.

Qualifying and the races were on Sunday, and once again my shared car had suffered a bad accident in the Group A race on Saturday. The car had gone backwards into the tyre wall at about 60mph. The driver was OK, walking away with a few bruises but unfortunately the same could not be said about the car! The impact had damaged the chassis and it was not repairable at the track, so I had to make do with a car which had been repaired after crashing in Friday practice.

Qualifying was first thing Sunday morning, and the weather was cool and overcast. I had been hopeful of a good grid position after my pace on Friday, however the car was handling really badly and I was unable to do any better than 10th place with a time of 1:09.938. The car felt like it had no grip; it was difficult to turn in and was understeering badly when exiting the corners. I was extremely disappointed to say the least!

After the session Andrew my mechanic went round the car and checked the wheel alignments, and found that the rear axle was twisted causing the right rear wheel to toe-in by 18mm! The front right wishbone was also bent. I felt slightly better knowing that my problems in qualifying had been due to the car and not my driving! As there was only 2 hours between qualifying and race 1 there was not enough time for Andrew to change the rear axle, and so he adjusted the camber settings and tyre pressures to try and compensate for the twisted axle and make the car more driveable.

Race 1 I made a dreadful start, but luckily for me the race was red-flagged after an incident at the first corner and so I got a second chance. The second start was much better and I managed to make up a place before the first corner. The car was better to drive, but now it was oversteering through every corner and it was so bad through the Esses that I had to completely alter my turn point and line through the corner to compensate. I think the skills I learnt on the Caterham Slalom track day were invaluable in enabling me to cope with the car sliding through every corner without loosing it and spinning like several other girls managed to do. I was unable to catch up with the group of cars ahead, in fact I was slowly loosing ground to them, but due to the aforementioned spinners I eventually finished in eighth place. A good result in the circumstances and the excessive oversteer certainly made the car entertaining to drive!

There was four hours between races 1 and 2 and so Andrew was able to replace the rear axle and set the car up again. Unfortunately there wasn’t a new rear axle available, so Andrew had had to fit a less badly damaged one instead. After rechecking the alignment, the rear right wheel was now only toeing-in by 7mm instead of 18mm. Still not straight, but definitely an improvement.

Race 2 was much better than race 1, as the car was now handling much better. I had only qualified in 12th place for race 2, but I got a reasonable start and made up a place on the first lap. This time I was able to keep up with the rest of the field and be competitive; I had a race-long battle with three other girls and we were swapping places right up to the last corner. On lap 8 I overtook two cars going into Brooklands hairpin to make it up into 9th position, only to lose a place again on the next lap. In the end I finished in 9th place which I was happy with since I made up three places on my starting position. I also got some good experience of overtaking and defending and had a great time as well!

Silverstone - 3/10/06

I decided to do a Slalom track day at Silverstone with the Caterham Motorsport Club in order to improve my car control and precision driving skills. The day involved driving around several different layouts of tight coned courses set out in a carpark at Silverstone circuit. The Caterhams were set up so that the rear would slide easily, and combined with some very wet weather this made for plenty of powersliding! I found the day extremely beneficial since I had never before experienced drifting and by the end of the day I was as good at going sideways as in a straight line! It was also good for me because all the tracks days and races I have done were on fine, dry days and so I had no experience of driving in the wet or of controlling a sliding car. The Slalom day has given me much more confidence in my own ability to control the car if it starts to slide, and I now look forward to a wet race rather than dreading it. I didn’t win the prize for the fastest time, but I got a mention for best drifter of the day which for me was more important than just going quickly. After all, I already know I can do that!

Formula Woman Novice Challenge, Pembrey - 11/18-20/05

This was my first-ever race meeting and an amazing experience, although I was a bit disappointed with the result.

Friday practice went really well. I arrived to find my car had already been crashed into the barriers, but after a short delay I was provided with a spare car kindly lent by Caterham Cars. I had three practice sessions during the day and although I didn’t feel I was driving as well as I could have done, I was really pleased to find I had set the fourth fastest time in my group (and 10th overall), a respectable 1:12.503.

My race was scheduled for Sunday, but unfortunately my car had suffered a large front-end crash on Saturday morning in the Group A race and could not be repaired at the circuit. My mechanic John and the rest of the pit crew worked long into the night to make sure I had a car to qualify and race, and they did a superb job given the circumstances.

I lined up in the assembly area for qualifying, but my car started to overheat and I had to return to the pits for a few last-minute repairs. By the time I made it on track I had lost three laps so the pressure was on! I put in some good times and I ended up 10th on the grid with a best time of 1:10.623. Not the position I was hoping for but I was two seconds quicker than my best practice time and there was less than a second between my time and the pole time, plus I had never driven the car I was in before, so I was pleased nonetheless.

On to the race, and lining up on the grid for my first-ever race start was an enormous buzz! I made a good start, but got held up slightly when the car in front of me got too much wheelspin and spun out. I managed to avoid this and made it up into 6th place before the end of lap 1. Then as I was exiting Honda curve onto the finish straight the third place car had spun in the middle of the track and I had to take avoiding action, pitching myself into a spin and losing places in the process. I quickly got going again and set about trying to regain some places. Then a few laps later as I was turning in for Hatchets hairpin a car that had been following close behind made an attempt to out-brake me but ran into my car, damaging my nose-cone and causing me to spin. I got going again but I had to slowly return to the pits for repairs as the nose-cone was

sticking up in the air and obscuring my vision. This put me a lap down and although I made a charge and set my fastest lap of the race, I was too far behind to catch up and finished the race in last place. Not the result I was looking for!

I may not have won the race, but at least I finished and set some good, consistent lap times, I learnt a lot and I had a massive amount of fun in the process. I can’t wait for my next race!


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