Susie Wolff co-founded Dare to Be Different to help inspire young women working in motor sports. Learn more about Susie and the difference she's making.
Susie Wolff was born for the track. From the time she was eight years old and driving laps in karts in the U.K., it was her mission to make a name for herself. Fast forward to 1996, and she accomplished her goal when she was named the British Woman Kart Racing Driver of the Year for the first of three consecutive years.
Kart racing was just the beginning for Wolff. In 2005, she moved on to racing for the Alan Docking Racing team in the British Formula 3 Championship race. A year later, she competed in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters German Touring Car series. After six years racing in the DTM series, she then became a driver for the Formula One series. Two years later, she became the first woman to participate in a British Grand Prix Formula One weekend in more than two decades.
Turning a Corner
Wolff gained considerable attention during her time on the track, and she announced her retirement in November 2015. Her career blazed a trail for other female drivers, and she felt she had accomplished what she set out to do. At that point, she decided to turn her attention to helping other women who were interested in entering the racing world.
In conjunction with the Motor Sports Association, she created Dare to Be Different, or D2BD, an initiative designed to “inspire, connect, and celebrate women who work in every aspect of motorsports.”
Making a Difference
The project is a long-term endeavor designed to build an online community of women around the world and connect them in a way that allows them to realize the many opportunities they may not otherwise be aware of through networking with each other. It’s geared toward girls ages 8 to 14 and provides the opportunity for them to learn from women who are already working in this male-dominated industry. They accomplish their goals through special events at schools and at special community events held twice a year.
“Especially for girls, it’s important to show the opportunities [in racing] they may not be aware of,” explains Catie Munnings, a rally driver who is part of the hands-on D2BD community. “At events, we have girls arrive in the morning completely unaware of the different career options and leave in the afternoon telling their parents they want to become mechanics and engineers.”
Munnings says that having a platform that allows women in the racing industry to connect is already making a tremendous difference in the lives of participating women. It has the potential to completely change the industry.
“It helps [them] see that women are doing the same jobs as men,” Munnings says. “There are so many examples of females in the D2BD community who are working on the same level as their male counterparts. We are showing women the opportunities that already exist in motorsports.”
Driving to the Future
Although Wolff’s initiative, which began in 2016, is still relatively new, it’s breaking fresh ground and expanding the horizons for women in the racing world. Munnings believes as more events are added and more women become aware of the program, it will help strengthen the female community of racers around the world.
“There are so many opportunities in the racing field,” she says. “That’s what’s important to know; [racing] isn’t just for drivers.” By teaching the young girls to know firsthand the various careers that are available for them in motor-racing— from drivers, to mechanics, to engineers, to technicians, medical officers and on, this organization is empowering the younger generation of women to believe that nothing they want to achieve is out of reach.
Every year, more women are leaving their mark on motorsport competitions around the world. Who is your favorite female racer? Let us know by commenting on our Facebook page.