I can hardly believe the season that’s approaching – I have to keep pinching myself to remind me it’s reality. In what only amounts to my second season of single-seater racing, I’ll be contesting the brand new F1 Academy series with the multi-championship winning ART Grand Prix team. It feels so surreal but it’s happening and I’m so, so excited!
As this is my first column for The Checkered Flag I thought it a good idea to tell you a bit about myself and the journey to reach the F1 Academy. I’m from Perth in Scotland and having attended Perth High School, now go to Loughborough College in Leicestershire where I’m completing a two-year Enhanced Diploma in Sporting Excellence (DiSE) course provided by Motorsport UK Academy.
I began racing after watching my older sister, Lucy, compete. I started karting in 2013 when I was seven-years-old even though, officially, I wasn’t old enough to race. The North of Scotland Kart Club in Golspie were massively kind to me as they’d allow me to go out with the cadets for Saturday practice.
I started to compete at the East of Scotland Kart Club in Crail the following year and was awarded their Newcomer Award for the season. The next two years I continued with cadet racing at the ESKC, finishing third and second in the club championship.
When I turned 11 in 2017, I moved up a class to Minimax, and loved the speed of the two stroke Rotax engine. This was the same year I won the ESKC championship in Minimax non-MSA and was also the Most Improved Minimax Driver of The Year. I stayed in a Minimax for the 2018 season and travelled to a few other tracks to gain more experience.
During 2019, I competed at all five Scottish tracks, as well as visiting the Cumbria Kart Club where I finished second. I also competed in the ESKC Championship and led from the start of the season in April, had two wins plus a few other podium places. I also finished second overall in the NSKC Championship and third in Grampian.
I was a Racing Role Model for Susie Wolff’s Dare to be Different charity. It was a joint initiative between Susie, who coincidentally is now the managing director of the F1 Academy, and the then Motor Sports Association, designed for women who work in, or want to work in, different aspects of motorsport.
That year I attended the British Grand Prix at Silverstone where I was also lucky enough to meet Lewis Hamilton. He talked to me about how his career had started off in karting while 2019 finished with me being named the Scottish Motor Racing Club’s “Rising Star”.
Prior to going into lockdown in 2020, Knockhill gave me the opportunity to become the youngest driver to gain a Motorsport UK Junior Racing Driver License in Scotland! I learned to drive a car at Knockhill one afternoon, and after a few practice sessions, successfully passed my ARDs test aged 13 which felt pretty incredible.
Two weeks later, the country went into lockdown and, like everyone else, my plans were put on hold. When racing finally re-started in July, the Scottish Super Series had been cancelled, and my focus became the NKF and CKRC Championships at Rowrah, which I hadn’t competed in before.
I finished the NKF Championship in third place and won the CKRC Championship – an achievement I’ll always be proud of as I am of getting the British Women’s Racing Driver’s Club Junior Gold Star Award.
My plan for 2021 was to pick up where 2020 should have begun and compete in the Ultimate Karting Championship. However, this soon changed when I entered the Junior Saloon Car Championship (JSCC) Scholarship – and won! I saw off competition from 25 rivals at the Stafford Driving Centre to earn the Junior Saloon Car Championship team package.
I was actually speechless when I was told I’d won. I genuinely didn’t think I had a chance of winning the scholarship but it was a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained. This provided me with a full season’s drive in the JSCC, which was a brilliant championship to take part in for my first year in car racing.
Last year, I competed in the GB4 Championship’s inaugural season. I really wanted to make the move into single-seaters, and with the GB4 Championship being announced, I knew that needed to be my next step and with the support of Laser Tools Racing, we were able to make this happen. I placed ninth in the overall standings which I was happy with considering my racing programme to date and importantly, I learned so much for the future.
But now thanks to support from Laser Tools, John Clark Motor Group, Kevin Cuthbert PT and Fierce Racing, it’s full focus on the F1 Academy which begins in Austria this month (28-29 Apr).
The series founded by Formula 1 features seven events all staged on famous Grand Prix tracks which is awesome, 21 races in total, and includes a season finale alongside F1’s United States Grand Prix in Texas in October. The series is aimed at developing and preparing young drivers to progress to higher levels of competition.
And to be racing for ART Grand Prix is just a dream! It was actually established by current Ferrari F1 Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur in 1996 and has recorded 22 Driver titles and 20 Team titles, achieving over 200 race wins. They guided Lewis [Hamilton] and George Russell to title success along with fellow Scot Paul Di Resta, while six other drivers currently competing in F1 have raced for the French-based team. It’s a privilege to join their long list of successful and talented drivers.
I tested for the team for the first time in Spain and will be out in France later this month, when the 15-car grid come together prior to the first event. The cars are Tatuus F4-T421 chassis used in Formula 4 championships globally powered by turbocharged engines delivering 165bhp.
F1 Academy presents a great opportunity for us female drivers to develop our careers in this new F1 supported championship with the season finale in front of the F1 grid.
Last month I visited ART’s ultra-impressive facility, completing sim work, so I know I couldn’t be in better hands. I’ll be using this fantastic piece of technology that aids driver development to prepare in advance for each of the tracks we’ll be racing at this year because obviously I’ve never raced at or indeed been to any of these tracks before.
I was recently selected as a Ecurie Ecosse “driver”, Scotland’s very own national racing team that has helped young Scottish talent like David Coulthard, Dario Franchitti and Allan McNish in the past.
So all in all, 2023 has got off to a fantastic start for me. I’m over the moon and can’t wait to get behind the wheel. I’m really excited to continue my single-seater racing career on a competitive grid.
More news soon. Best wishes Chloe x