“The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude to the problem.”
It has now been over 50 days since I last sat in a racing car. 50 days since I pulled on my logoed firesuit, pulled down the visor on my helmet, got strapped into a cockpit with my name on the side of it, and got to take to a race track. Right now, despite a report I saw in the media this weekend, I genuinely don’t know when I will be back in a car, and that number count of days, weeks, or months is still going up, as opposed to counting down.
This is a problem that is by no means unique to me, this is something experienced by the vast majority of race car drivers, often multiple times over their careers. It’s a tough situation to be in, and it’s easy to get disheartened, downbeat, and to find yourself looking over your shoulder at the opportunities others have that you don’t. It’s very easy path to start down, and a very slippery slope to be on. From feeling over-looked, undervalued, and hard-done by, the step to bitterness is very small, and the step from a bitter racing driver to a bitter ex-racing driver is the smallest step of all.
Several years ago this was nearly me.
In 2010 I had a pretty good year in Indy Lights. I had the kind of year that catapults a driver into an IndyCar opportunity or two. I parlayed that into my first Indianapolis 500 in 2011, being one of 42 cars that year attempting to make the 33 car field. I was the only one-off rookie attempting their first IndyCar race to make the show, and beating out several of the full time guys was a big deal. I raced smart on race day, and came home in 20th place. I was too far down the order for everyone to notice the kind of month of May we had, but for those who were paying attention, it was a noticeable performance. It was the kind of month of May that says you belong.
Fast forward 12 months later to May 2012 and I was standing on the sidelines, no race car bearing my name. I’m trying to work out how to put into words for you how that felt, and the best word I can come up with is devastating. I’m aware that may sound like an exaggeration, but that is the description that best sums it up. My emotions were raw, and close to the surface, swinging between burning fury, deep resentment, the type of sorrow that made me want to curl up in a ball and howl, and just this deep, hollow feeling of despair.
I went to the track every single day, but quite frankly, had an opportunity come up, who was going to put that girl I just described to you above in their car? I forced myself to sit in the stands on race day, but for many of the laps my vision was blurred with tears.
During this period a friend called me. She tried to explain to me how close I was to taking that final small step;that I was on my way to the point of no return. At the time I argued with her, and was even more upset that someone who I considered a friend couldn’t even see what I was going through. But thankfully, somewhere in the back of my subconscious, she reached me. And thankfully, it wasn’t too late.
Going from that person, to positive me you know now, was not something that happened over night. It happened one step at a time, one day at a time, the sky slowly brightening and lightening around me. As I worked to change my perspective, so the world started to change around me. The process was no by means linear, I still had bad moments, bad days, and even bad weeks, and quite frankly I still have those even now. The difference is that in 2016, I refuse to let these circumstances define me.
It has now been over 50 days since I last sat in a racing car, but that racing car was an IndyCar, and the race I was competing in was the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500. It has been 50 days since I last pulled on my logoed firesuit, but this year, we started adding new partners, and new sponsors to that suit, which increases my chances of getting back in a car again soon. It has been 50 days since my name was on the side of a cockpit of a racing car, but that car belongs to a team who have stood with me, behind me, in my corner for over four years now, including through times where I haven’t really had the financial support to be in one of their cars. I may still be counting up from when I was last in a car, rather than counting down to when I will next be in a car, but my team owner mentioned in the media that I might yet get to drive for him again this year…
In the 50 days since I was last in a racing car I have been building marketing presentations, sending emails, attending conferences, working as a performance driving coach at race tracks, managing my own merchandise sales, and training in the gym so I can be ready should that call come. I have continued to work with my new partners for 2016, and have been able to start conversations with people interested in partnering with me for 2017. I was named one of the top 100 British Women in the Car Industry by Autocar, I’ve met with people on both sides of the Atlantic, and I’ve attended a couple of IndyCar races with my team, and for events for the fans.
Would I have loved to have been in a race car over this past 50 days, and know when my next race was coming so I could start counting down the days instead of continuing to watch them count up? Of course I would. But flipping the switch, and viewing this from the perspective I have now offered you turns me into a much more motivated, and driven person. It turns me into the type of person who is so much more likely to make these connections count, make these meetings matter, and turn that interest into more new partner participation, and that is what will put me back in a racing car.
With the right attitude towards the problem, the problem suddenly becomes the type of problem you can solve. Nobody said it was going to be easy, and it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but rest assured I am working on the riddle of getting back in a race car on a daily basis. Just as I have managed to turn my perspective on living this uncertain life of a part time driver around, I know that if I keep working, striving, pushing, making these connections, and making things happen, it is only a matter of time before I can turn that count-up from the last time I got to drive a race car around, and turn it back into the next count down to the day I will be back in a race car again.