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The women take their places behind the wheel

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In motor racing, female drivers are rare. Moving on from Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix, Mercedes-AMG team Demi Chalkias and Nicole Havrda want to show that this is not inevitable. They are very optimistic about the growing role played by women in motorsport.

Posted at 6:00

Vincenzo Marcellino

Vincenzo Marcellino
The print

Demi Chalkias has had runs in the blood from a young age.

“I’ve always enjoyed driving anything with an engine,” explains the Ontario driver, who has eight years of experience in motorsports. “When I was little we lived in the countryside and we didn’t have internet or television. So I would go home, take off my backpack and get on the ATV or tractor. He remembers impromptu driving races in his driveway, slalom between basketballs to fulfill his dream of speed.

“But it was only the first time I drove a racing car on a track that I realized how much adrenaline and excitement this sport gives you,” says Demi Chalkias, whose father was already a racing driver.

Nicole Havrda’s fascination with motorsport also stems from a family history. “My father has always watched F1 and took us to the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix. I was going there for the first time and I said to him:“ Dad, it’s incredible. How can I get there? “And my father looked at me and said,” What? Is that a joke? ”A year later, the 16-year-old British Columbia driver won her first medal in karting.

“I never saw it as a weakness”

The two drivers then had to test themselves in a still very masculine environment. “When you are a woman on the run, it is sure that at first you are considered a little different,” acknowledges Demi Chalkias. Some people look at you and say, ‘Oh, you’re cute, you want to go shopping …’ ”

Fighting gender stereotypes also requires an extra determination: “You have to enter this sport with a perhaps more combative mentality. You may not be taken seriously from the start or receive so much respect from the start. But I’ve never seen it as a weak point, “adds the 27-year-old driver, who returned to racing in record time after a joint tumor.

Nicole Havrda, who first experienced competition as a skier and swimmer, sees much more egalitarian potential in motorsports.

We are all together and nobody cares about your gender. You put on your helmet and drive. I compete with the guys and I want to be better than them.

Nicole Havrda

Demi Chalkias and Nicole Havrda could rely on the example of some motorsport pioneers, such as Lyn St. James, who created a foundation to defend the place of women in motorsport, and Danica Patrick, who became the first woman in 2008 of history winning an IndyCar race.

A search for inspiration

If once upon a time the presence of these female pilots was exceptional, Demi Chalkias points out that now they are more and more numerous at the highest levels. “It is very nice to see the number of women grow because now, with the audience we have, we can be role models for the girls in our area, so that they know they can do the same thing. She herself is very involved in her community by introducing the girls at motorsport.

They both have ambitious plans for the rest of their careers. Nicole Havrda is aiming to get a full-time steering wheel in the W Series, an all-female free-to-play championship, next year before moving on to higher levels. Demi Chalkias will participate in the 24 Hours of Spa (Belgium) next July, where she hopes to finish in the top ten. She is also the subject of a documentary program about a women’s team in AMG GT 4.

As for the possibility of seeing women in Formula 1 again soon, the two drivers firmly believe in it. “Any movement to promote the presence of women in motorsport will be a good start to seeing women in F1,” said Demi Chalkias.

“Formula 1 has become so big that it is creating other platforms,” ​​agrees Nicole Havrda, who is now training to race in Formula 3.

As the Canadian Grand Prix takes place this weekend, the two drivers’ trips are proof that one day could be combined with women.

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