Clare Vale is the only woman racing in the Wesbank Super Series.
When people think about motorsport, they tend to visualize racing drivers as macho men, with rugged good looks and an addiction to adrenaline. However, they would be surprised to know that quite a few of us regularly wear make-up, and look just as good in Hip Hop designer wear as we do in race-suits!

I race in the Wesbank Super Series, which is the premier national circuit racing series in South Africa. At present, I am the only female driver, but there are many talented young lady drivers capable of racing at this level.
{mosimage}Unusually, I started racing late in life, although the passion for cars has always been part of me. In fact, my great uncle drove a Bentley to victory in the Le Mans 24 Hour race in 1924.
However, circumstances and budget constraints worked against me, until I finally started racing in mid 2004.
I jumped in the deep end, racing a Shelby CanAm sports car in the Nationals. It was a steep learning curve, but I learned quickly and soon became competitive. I won my first race at Killarney in Cape Town in February 2006, which was very special.
Unlike many sports, there is no women’s category in racing, and no allowances are made for female drivers. No quarter is given or taken on the track, and if you win you know it’s because you were the best on the day.
During 2006, I was offered the 2007 drive in a Subaru STI in Production Cars, which is one of the most competitive national formulae in the country. I raced the Subaru for the first time in Durban this year, at the A1GP street race circuit.
Unfortunately, there were a number of difficulties within the “Hotontar” team – the cars needed a lot of development, and there was no opportunity for testing or practice.
{mosimage}Due to a fair amount of internal conflict, I left the team in March this year. I was very disappointed, as I had a fantastic relationship with Subaru SA and my sponsors Medal Paints, MF Autobody and 1st for Women Insurance.
Looking ahead, there are very exciting plans for the very near future: I recently tested a Wesbank V8 Supercar, which are the fastest cars on South African tracks. The car was awesome to drive, and I felt immediately at home.

There is also a good possibility of running another brand of car in Production Cars, so once I have the right sponsors on board, I expect to be back on the track very, very soon.

I have learned some valuable lessons this year – having the right mix of sponsors for a drive is crucial, as they complement each other and work together.
Everyone benefits from combining PR and advertising resources, and you need to be extremely proactive in ensuring that you give your sponsors value for money.
In my case, I try to stay in touch as much as possible, by way of regular e-mail newsletters, and I make sure that sponsors get feedback before and after every race, as well as sending good quality action photos that they can use for promotional purposes.
I also do promotional evenings and functions for my sponsors, and am always on the lookout for ways to increase their exposure.
{mosimage}People always ask me what it’s like to race against men! I can honestly say that in my experience, the guys have always been supportive and encouraging.
In racing, you have to earn your respect on the track, and although men don’t enjoy being beaten by a woman, they are quick to acknowledge your progress and congratulate you when you do well.
I love racing for many reasons: I love the intense focus you need to have. When I am out on the circuit, my awareness is heightened. I have to know where the other cars are, keep an eye on vital gauges, and note every nuance of my car’s handling.
I love pushing my limits every time I go out – for me, my goal is to keep improving, going faster all the time. I also love the camaraderie that racing drivers share – racing friends become friends for life.
Motorsport here is governed by Motorsport South Africa (MSA), and the CEO is a woman, Beulah Schoeman. MSA has made a point of encouraging female racers this year, having appointed a special panel to promote women in racing.
This is good news, as although many girls start out in karting, very few continue through the ranks into cars.
Hopefully, disciplines such as drag racing, super motard and drifting will bring more women into the sport, as they are less expensive than top level circuit racing. If we believe in ourselves, there is no reason we can’t compete on equal terms at all levels!