Women take their place behind the wheel

In motor racing, female drivers are scarce. Passing through Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix, Mercedes-AMG’s Demi Chalkias and Nicole Havrda want to prove that this isn’t inevitable. They are very optimistic about the increasing role that women are playing in motorsport.

Posted at 6:00 AM

Vincent Marceline

Vincent Marceline

Demi Chalkias has been racing in her blood since she was young.

“I’ve always liked to drive anything with an engine,” explains the Ontario driver, who has eight years of motorsports experience. When I was young, we lived in the country and had no internet or TV. So I would go home, take off my bag, and get on the ATV or the tractor. She remembers the impromptu driving contests on her trail, rolling between basketballs to fulfill her dream of speed.

“But it wasn’t until I drove a race car on a racetrack that I realized how much excitement and adrenaline this sport gives you,” says Demi Chalkias, whose father was already a pilot.

Nicole Havarda’s fascination with motorsports stems from a family history. “My dad was always watching Formula One, and he took us to the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix. I was going there for the first time and I said, ‘Dad, this is unbelievable. How can I get there? My father looked at me and said, “What? Is this a joke?” A year later, the 16-year-old driver from British Columbia won her first medal in karting.

“I didn’t see that as a weakness”

Next, the drivers had to prove themselves in an environment that was still very masculine. “When you’re a woman in the race, sure at first you’re seen a little differently, you know Demi Chalkias. Some people look at you and say, ‘Oh, you’re cute, you want to go shopping…'”

Then fighting gender stereotypes requires more determination: “You have to enter the sport with a more combative mindset. You may not be taken seriously from the start or you may not be given the same amount of respect from the start.” adds the 27-year-old driver, who has returned He joined the competition in record time after developing a bunion in his joints, “but I didn’t see that as a weakness.

Nicole Havarda, who first experienced competition as a skater and swimmer, sees more equal potential in motorsport.

We are all together and no one cares about your gender. You just wear a helmet and drive. I compete with men and I want to be better than them.

Nicole Havarda

Demi Chalkias and Nicole Havrda were able to draw on the example of some of the pioneers of motorsports, such as Lynn St. James, who created a foundation to defend the status of women in motorsports, and Danica Patrick, who in 2008 became the first woman in history to win an IndyCar race.

quest for inspiration

If the presence of these female pilots was ever exceptional, Demi Chalkias assures that they are now more and more at the top level. “It is very good to see the number of women increasing because now, with the audience that we have, we can be role models for the young girls in our area, so they know they can do the same. The same. She herself is very involved in her community by introducing young girls to Motorsports.

They both have ambitious plans for the rest of their careers. Nicole Havra aims to have a full-time steering wheel in the W Series, the women’s exclusive freestyle tournament, next year before moving to the higher levels. Next July, Demi Chalkias will participate in the 24 Hours of Spa (Belgium), where she hopes to take the top ten. She is also the subject of a documentary about a women’s team in the AMG GT 4.

As for whether we will soon see women in Formula 1 again, the drivers believe in it very much. “Any movement to boost the presence of women in the motorsport industry would be a good start to seeing women in Formula 1,” said Demi Chalkias.

“Formula 1 has become so huge that it is creating other platforms,” agrees Nicole Havrada, who is now training to race in Formula 3.

With the Canadian Grand Prix taking place this weekend, the drivers’ trips are proof that they can one day be combined with the women.

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