Feature

Published on May 5th, 2013 | by Jos Roder

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Breaking the Mould – Women in Drift

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Drifting might be a relatively young motorsport in Australia, but it has certainly not overturned the prevailing trend of being a male dominated discipline. In fact motorsport is possibly the most male dominant sport in the world apart from, well, apart from nothing actually, women can do everything that men do!

The reasons relatively few women are involved in motorsport are predominantly cultural and to a lesser extent  something to do with the general assumption that more males enjoy risky, adrenalin based behaviours than women. The cultural element is ingrained from an early age. Baby girls have dolls thrust in front of them whereas baby boys are given cars and trucks to play with. Just as a men are guided on a set path toward ‘manhood’ women are guided toward a stereotype of what  ‘womanhood’ should be. For women, working on cars, watching racing on TV, organising motorsport events and even getting behind the wheel is often viewed as weird, wrong or sometimes interpreted that there is some ulterior motive why they are doing so, rather than them being their of their own volition and enjoyment just as men are.

Drift Life asked a group of women from all over Australia  involved in drift about their experiences being part of the sport and the challenges they have faced as the minority gender in such a seemingly macho world. We also found out why they love the sport so much! The women we talked to were a great cross section of the drift community, from drivers to organisers. It was a refreshing insight into the world of drifting from the perspective of the minority sex.

They all have a different story to tell, but the common theme I identified from all of the girls was a true passion for the sport and it will shine through as you read their stories.

Kate Lucas is Co- President of Drifting Tasmania, Amy Boatwright was previously the Drift Australia Event Manager and now managing large drift events in Australia, Catherine May  is a devoted drifter and a regular fixture of events in Victoria, Kelly Wong is another passionate drifter from S.A making waves on the National drift scene and Catherine Coleiro is a drift pioneer for women in Australia being the first woman to compete at a National level and now making a comeback.

Catherine May
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Catherine May or Cat (not to be confused with the other Driftcat) resides in Melbourne and is a well known regular in the Victorian Drift Scene. Cat bought a 180sx as a street car in 2003 and heard about the newly formed Calder Park drift nights. Intrigued, Cat went along to watch by herself. The event looked like fun so Cat attended a Drift for Dummies day held by Skylines Australia in 2005. After this the bug had entered her system and she started to attend local practice days.

Initially she wasn’t improving, however “suddenly one practice day something clicked in my head and I started to progress in skill”.  Cat notes that she has received a huge amount of assistance from experienced drivers, especially a friend, Warwick, who she says “pushes me to push myself and go beyond my comfort zone with the car and try new things”.  Cat is philosophical about her own learning process and skill development, “the only real challenge for me has been overcoming my cautiousness. It’s a bit of a generalisation but I think females tend to think about what could go wrong whereas most of the guys just do it and worry about the consequences later! It has taken a while to become more aggressive and not scared of the speed and I’m still working on it!”     

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The highlight of Cat’s career has come not surprisingly from the spiritual home of drifting in Japan and the week she spent drifting at Ebisu as part of the Drift Matsuri events held three times a year. In Cat’s own words “I spent a week drifting last year in a relatively stock car, mostly in the wet! It definitely taught me a lot! It was also heaps of fun and who wouldn’t want to spend a whole week sideways!”.

Although Cat’s husband does most of the work on her car, she enjoys helping and most of the mechanical work takes place in their garage. Her converted sil80 has gone through an enormous transformation from a standard car to eye catching track spec machine. The car even has a drift RC car replica painted after it’s distinctive colours!

When it comes to her experiences being a female in such a male dominated sport, Cat feels she has only had positive experiences and encouragement from both women and men.

Cat loves drifting because she believes “it is the ultimate in car control and it takes a lot of skill to hold a car on its limit. You get a massive adrenalin rush when you get it right!” Cat plans on practicing some tandems and entering a few competitions in 2013. She is now storing a drift car in Japan so is keen to travel back and have another week sideways!

Cat lives and breathes the sport and has even started up a clothing label you may have heard of, known as I Love Drift which spreads the gospel through merchandise!

Cat wanted to thank her sponsors Chasers Motorworks, Wheeltech, Viva Garage and FabRAIcations. You can find out more about Cat and her drifting sil80 and exploits through her website at www.catherinemay.com.au

Kate Lucas
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Although relatively new to the drift scene, Kate Lucas has become a driving force within the Tasmanian drift community and has helped shape the local scene into a professional and respected motorsport discipline.   Kate had been exposed to the sport since 2005 as her partner Martin was a regular competitor and she often sat on the hill at Baskerville watching proceedings but after a few years she realised Martin was never going to get sick of drift, so though “if you can’t beat them, join them”. Kate started her involvement with Drifting Tasmania with some administrative work in mid 2009. Within 3 months of volunteering, she had become Co-President and Event Secretary of Drifting Tasmania. Since joining the club, Kate has already organised and ran more than thirty drift events at Baskerville and Symmons Plains Raceway.

Such is her eye for event management and volunteer coordination that she received the Motorsport Official of the Year Award from CAMS and Clubman of the Year for Hobart Sporting Car Club in 2010 plus a Recognition Award for Outstanding Contribution to Drifting Tasmania in 2012. Kate is never resting on her laurels though. “I am currently training to become a qualified Clerk of Course for drift events which I hope to utilise to create the most awesome drift events in Tas! I am also currently in negotiations with the powers that be to create a Matsuri style event in Tas!”

Kate’s career highlight is definitely working with Brett Wilkinson and Yoshi Abey at the 2012 Tasmanian ADGP event and learning the ropes from the experts. “I took away so much from that experience with Brett who is a true professional, and the icing on the cake was, I met Yoshi! Meeting and learning from Yoshi was amazing. Yoshi is the most passionate guy and so articulate, an absolute champion. Brett & Yoshi are an absolute inspiration and just getting to see how they operate and to work alongside them has been the absolute highlight for me”.

Being a woman has had some challenging aspects, “Well, I’m commonly known as ‘Mum’ or ‘The Dragon'”. Kate knows she has to be tough as she feels that drifters lie to her frequently. It helps Kate that her partner ‘Magic Marty’ is so respected within the scene. “I don’t take shit from anybody, but Marty will tell you I come home after a drift day and cry sometimes because of haters or if everything didn’t run perfectly. My biggest weaknesses are probably my lack of knowledge of cars and being manipulated by cute, persuasive drifters with big smiles. Lol!”

Kate sums up her feelings for the sport  “We are family. Drifting Tasmania is my family.” Kate says everyone in the scene  pulls together in tough times, supports each other and work and play hard, together.  “You won’t see a forfeit in a Drifting Tasmania event because Joe Blow will refuse to approach the start line until Joe Blogg’s car is repaired and ready for a fair battle – even if he has to lend him the parts!”

Moving forward, Kate hopes the people she has recently recruited and trained will take over more of the administration side of the events so she can refocus her energies into sponsorship and club development. She is hoping 2013 will also see her become Clerk of the Course so she can takeover the running of the events. Kate is also building a 1UZ powered Toyota Sprinter so on practice days she can “take that out, give it a red hot crack and show the boys how it’ done!”

Kate is happy for people to contact her on kate@driftingtasmania.com for more information about the Tasmanian scene or to get involved in the sport.

Catherine Coleiro
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Catherine Coleiro or ‘Driftcat’ has been in and out of the sport since the birth of Drifting in Australia. Cat had always been a thrill seeker and in her adolescence competed in go karts and Motocross. Cat loved Motocross but as she got older, the bikes got bigger and heavier and she found her strength was an issue that restricted her from progressing. Cat crossed over to cars which better suited her and soon she was competing in drag racing and burnout comps in her much loved VK Commodore. Although drag racing and burnouts were fun, Cat needed an extra kick to replace the thrill motocross had given her.  A chance video sighting of drifting had her intrigued and in 2003 she decided to try it out for herself, alongside many of the first wave of drifters in Australia. Immediately she knew this was the thrill she had been seeking.When i tried drifting, i knew this was the sport i was craving for, i was competitive and didn’t have to be strong to win”.

Her skill level improved quickly because she often found herself in the deep end qualifying and battling because competitions were more common than practice days. Being competitive, Cat finally stepped up to the National ranks in a sponsored Onevia for the 2005 season of Drift Australia.

In the early years of Drift in Australia, Cat was a pioneer for women in the sport as she was the only woman competing on the national stage in the spotlight against the men.  Cat has quite a unique perspective on her time as a female drifter and the challenges that she faced in those early years and provided Drift Life with a very raw, frank assessment of some of those experiences.

“There were so many obstacles for me because i was the first and only professional female drifter for the first 6 years of drifting in Australia. Being single, very independent and stubborn didn’t help. I refused to be taught by anyone, I didn’t want any guy on the side line taking credit for what i did, saying i taught her that. At the start it was a novelty but i learnt the hard way in many things… who were my real friends, what to do when things go bad with a sponsor, being set up to crash and burn from guys that i rejected but they soon realised i was NOT drifting to pick up guys, i was there to drift. These obstacles made me very paranoid, i couldn’t trust anyone.

Everything started to change for Cat between 2004-2007 as she started to show that she was competitive by placing and winning some competitions.  “I got the respect i wanted from sponsors but lots of the guys stopped talking to me. They probably didn’t realise it got to me, but every time i would line up for a battle, they would tease their mate that was against me, saying don’t let a girl beat you, raising eyebrows and making noises. Then if i beat the guy they would laugh at him and if i lost i would hear more laughter. I felt like a freak show.The most important thing that got me through the hard times were all the positive comments from my fans and my sponsors. Also, knowing that i self taught myself to drift was the best feeling, it gave me all the confidence in the world.3 years into my drift career, i finally started getting treated like one of the boys, just part of the furniture.

She met Trent Hewitson who is now her loving husband through drifting and she doesn’t regret any of her decisions. “I think the main reason it was hard being a female in a male dominated sport back then, is because i was single”

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Reminiscing, Cat is most proud of her fourth place overall in the 2005 Drift Australia National Championship. She was fully sponsored and was treated like a professional. She then also went on to win the NSW Championship the same year.  Cat stepped out of the sport in 2008 to focus on other things including the establishment of a performance tuning workshop with her partner. Late in 2012, the bug was still itching a little spot in the back of her brain and the temptation to have another crack came about through  the purchase of a Nissan Laurel. Looking forward, The break away from the sport has made her realise that she is not herself when she is not drifting. As such she is making a comeback! She wants to just have fun and practice for a while before starting to compete again. She has also returned to her roots with the purchase of another V8 VK commodore.

Summing up, Cat loves the sport for the adrenalin, the noise and the smell of burning rubber, she never gets bored because every lap is different when you tandem with other drifters.

“I’m excited to see where drifting will take me this time, hopefully around the world!”  Editors Note: Cat has recently accepted a drive in the Drift Chile Championship so it seems her dreams are already materialising!

Check out Cat’s latest exploits via the Driftcat Facebook page here.

Amy Boatwright
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When Amy was younger her father started Drift Australia which was the first ever national Australian drift series.  Amy attended the days as a teenager and helped out where she could and quickly acquired the drift bug.  Amy enjoyed working at events and studied Marketing and Events Management at university. After completing university Amy “jumped straight in the deep end” by becoming Events Manager for Drift Australian in 2008.  A true family affair, Amy’s younger brother Matt also fell in love with the sport and started to assist Amy and the Drift Australia team wherever he could at each event and was proud of his sister’s role in the sport! He even purchased an AE86, hoping to head out on track and learn from his idol Beau Yates once he got his licence. Sadly Matt passed away in 2008, however Amy adds “his passion for the sport lives on through me”.

As a nineteen year old woman, taking on the Series Manager role of Drift Australia in 2008 which was owned by her father, Amy knew that she a long way to go to prove herself and earn the respect of the drivers, teams and industry people. “I was prepared to put in the hard yards to earn the respect of everyone and it was a huge learning curve. Thankfully 2008 was a very successful year for Drift Australian and I did prove myself and importantly gained the respect of everyone involved which meant a lot. I wouldn’t be where i am today without doing that!”

Amy’s drift resume is impressive. She has been Series Manager for two national championships, managed a drift school, multiple drift clubs and currently she manages the drifting side of the international drift competition at the World Time Attack Challenge event in Sydney. She also proudly organised the drifting for the Top Gear Festival in Sydney earlier this year.

Amy’s career highlight has been working for World Time Attack Challenge. She organises the drifting and also some event, marketing and operational aspects of the event.  “The event, the team and everything about it is awesome. I have met some teams and drivers I have adored for years and being able to be involved with such a huge and successful event is just unreal. Each year we just keep seeing it grow and I really see even more potential within WTAC not just for the event itself but for me too”.

It’s hard for Amy to put her finger on exactly why shes loves the drifting world so much, but running the events large or small is a bunch of fun and gives her a real thrill, “and when it’s all over there is such a feeling of satisfaction. I have met some seriously cool people and made some amazing friends over the years… and well, I have to be honest… I really do love the smell of smoking tyres!”

Amy is looking forward to the future with 2013 becoming possibly her biggest year in the sport since she started in 2005. The Top Gear Festival and World Time Attack Challenge/International Drift Challenge are taking up much of her time, but are the type of events that she is proud to be part of and knows it will only further her career aspirations internationally.

You can find out more about Amy at her website www.amyboatwright.com.au

 
Kelly Wong

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Kelly Wong is relatively new to the sport as a driver, but has watched events at Mallala in Adelaide for years with her husband. Kelly and her partner own Sleeka Spares and saw the potential to combine their car parts business with the sport they loved by taking their shop to the track with a trade stand. Combining this with pit crew duties for a couple of teams over the years was fun, but Kelly wanted more. She decided to give driving a try herself. “I thought it looked like fun and wanted to give it a go so I bought my first Cefiro and taught myself how to drift.” Kelly’s first year of drifting was 2011 and her learning curve was steep. “My driving improves significantly and I am learning every time I go out. I think the constant improvement and sense of achievement is what keeps me going back for more”

When considering her career highlights, Kelly simply rates that becoming a national level respected driver is her biggest highlight. When she first started drifting Kelly never thought she would be good enough to enter a competition. In comparison to now, Kelly proudly listed her achievements to Drift Life which include 10th place in her first year in the National competition as well as the ‘spirit of drift award’ and 4 trophies in the S.A state series. Her results and ever improving skill haven’t gone unnoticed with Kelly being invited to the recently held Australia Day Drift Festival and also the Top Gear Festival.

Kelly also mentioned that travelling and drifting at new tracks is an amazing experience but even more than that, launching onto the national stage means that “I get to battle with the top aussie drivers who I have watched for years and always looked up to and sharing the track with them enables me to learn from them and also pushes me harder in my driving”. Kelly is grateful to be where shes is in the sport and grateful for the help she has received but appreciates that it didn’t come easy. “I have worked my butt off to get where I am and it has been well worth it.The fact that I compete in the national series still blows me away”

When Kelly hits the track she just sees herself as one of the drifters. “I’ve been the only female from when I started so it’s nothing unusual to me” Other drivers have always been pretty supportive and respectful toward her, however very few took her seriously at the start of her career. It wasn’t until they saw her winning battles that their attitudes changed and people started to take notice and fans started to cheer for her.  Of course she does hear things time to time but not really from the driving side of the fence. “I heard a few negative comments when I first started drifting but I found it was more the people on the sidelines who make comments such as ‘what would you build a car like that for, especially for a chick’ but I don’t let it get to me because the reality of it is that they’re on the sidelines hating while I’m doing! They just wish they were doing what I’m doing”. Amen.

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Explaining why she loves the sport didn’t need much prompting from Drift Life. Kelly was not totally new to motorsport, having dabbled in some grip racing, but she felt a bit awkward keeping traction because driving the car sideways felt more natural to her. When she first saw drift, she knew it was the motorsport for her. “Me and drift are just meant to be, it was love at first sight! It is just so much fun it’s an adrenaline rush entering a corner at 150+ kph and accelerating into a corner rather than braking into a corner”.

Kelly doesn’t compete to win, she competes for the battle and the enjoyment, if she wins, that is just a bonus and means she gets more track time!  She loves the comradery of the drift community, which she describes as close knit and happy to help each other out. Meeting new  people while travelling to circuits all around Australia is also something she loves. “Drifting is addictive and win or lose I still come out smiling”

Kelly is planning big things for her future in the sport and the goal for 2013/2014 is to finish in the top 10 of all three series she will compete in and also build some new sponsorship partnerships along the way to assist in funding her addiction. Kelly also mentioned that she has another drift car in the build which is a S15 Silvia they are hoping to have completed by mid year. The Australian drift scene is also in good shape according to Kelly. “Drifting in Australia is bigger and more professional currently than it has ever been before and I can only see it continuing to grow! It is exactly what has been needed for Australian drift and I am so happy to be a part of it”.

She would not be where she is without the support of her husband who makes huge sacrifices to ensure she is out on track  getting sideways and making some smoke!

Kelly’s main sponsor is her own business Sleeka Spares, so check them out at www.sleekapsares.com.au

 

How can women can get involved?

The women Drift Life interviewed all had some great tips to get involved:

If you want to drive:

Either head to any of the beginner drift days organised around Australia, or failing that, attend a grip day to get used to how the car feels under acceleration, braking and cornering. It will also allow you to  feel more comfortable at speed when you do start drifting. Many states offer beginner drift days and women are regular attendees to these days.  If you are lucky, female and live in Tasmania Kate Lucas might even offer you the chance to use her Sprinter once it is up and running if you are serious about having a go!

If you want to be involved in organising events:

Drift Clubs around Australia always need volunteers to assist with the running of events in many different capacities and it could be as simple as attending your next event and talking to the Organisers to see where you could assist them. If you want to step up from just helping out, you need to make the most of your opportunities, work and learn from the right people, work hard and make sure you have fun along the way.

 

Drift Life would like to thank Kate, Cat, Cat, Amy and Kelly for providing their time to share their stories and we wish them the best of luck in their drift careers!

 

 

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About the Author

Jos Roder

is the owner of Drift Life and wants to delve deeper into drifting culture. Jos started drifting more than 10 years ago after discovering a sport existed that captured his favourite motoring endeavour, going sideways! Jos works full-time in the automotive/motorsport field as a PR Manager and Advanced Driving Instructor and currently owns a JDM S15 Nissan Silvia for drift/track/hillclimb duties.



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