An interview with Kelsey Kirby
Kelsey Kirby is a twenty four year old Irish woman currently beginning her career in Motorsports. Taking part in the Formula Woman competition, to win a fully sponsored drive in the 2022 GTCup Championship.
Interviewed by Megan Teahan, edited by Janvi Unni
When did you come into the motorsports world?
So this year is the very first year I am actively participating in motorsports. I have always loved cars and bikes, and the very first motorsport event I remember ever watching was Red Bull X-Fighters, which is a freestyle motocross competition which is absolutely crazy! From that, I started watching all of the competitions and I started watching Nitro Circus, but I never got into watching actual car racing until a few years ago, so I am very much a complete beginner! I now watch so many racing series; from Formula 1/2/3, WSeries, Indycar, GT World Challenge to touring car racing and the circuit racing that goes on at Mondello Park that I can get to!
Who was your biggest inspiration at the time?
The first woman I remember seeing in motorsports was actually Jolene Van Vugt, she is a Canadian stunt woman and the first woman to backflip a full-sized dirt bike! She showed that women could do the things the men were doing just as well, if not better. Rosemary Smith is another Irish woman who is a big inspiration, she is a veteran rally driver and at the age of 79 she got to drive a Renault Formula 1 car at Circuit Paul Ricard becoming the oldest person to ever drive an F1 car. Seeing women excel in things that aren’t female dominated is amazing because we are coming to break the norms and do what we love!
Formula Woman is not well known at the present time, can you describe what Formula Woman is to someone who has never heard of it, the different stages of the competition and what you love most about the category?
So Formula Woman is a competition for women with little to no race experience who have always wanted to get into motorsport but never had the opportunity. The winners will get a fully sponsored drive in the GTCup Championship in 2022 in a McLaren 570s GT4 car. It starts off with an online exam on the introduction to motorsport which is a very basic exam but you learn a lot if you have no experience in the racing world already. The second stage is the on-track assessment which will be split into 5 parts across the day but we are not sure what each part is going to be yet! I think they want to keep it a bit of a secret to see how we cope on the day! Every competitor will be scored by an instructor that will accompany us in the car. Those who score the highest will then progress to the next stage where the top 16 will challenge for the final 6 spots. I have loved the entire process of this competition because everyone else is also complete beginners and it is so great to see how much everyone is supporting each other throughout the last few months.
You have previously mentioned driving at Mondello Park (Co. Kildare, Ireland), how was the overall experience and what type of cars/karts have you driven around this track?
Yes, so all my on-track training has all been done at Mondello Park so far and I love getting out there as much as I can, whether it is being out on the track driving or sitting in the grandstand watching racing! I actually went there before I even entered the Formula Woman competition when I decided to treat myself to one of their DARE Experiences for my birthday! At this point I was already wanting to get into motorsport but I didn’t know how. So I went for the day and I got to drive a BMW M2 Competition, a Porsche Cayman S, I had a drifting lesson where I learned to drift in a Nissan 350Z (I did absolutely terrible at drifting), we did an autotest course which was so much fun! We finished the day going out in a race ready Mazda3 to learn a different track before getting to go out in Formula Sheane single seaters. The first time I drove the single seater I nearly had a panic attack from the claustrophobia but since then I have gone back a few times to drive them and they are probably now one of my favourite things to drive! I think this particular day was the one that sealed the deal for me to enter Formula Woman and a lot of the instructors said it would be great to have more women in motorsport so I applied the very next day! All the staff and instructors at Mondello Park have been absolutely amazing with their help over the last few months and I can not wait to get out there as much as possible before my assessment!
How much time have you spent on the simulator and how much has it helped you to improve on track?
I have only spent about 2 hours in total on simulators so I really need to do more soon! They are really great for helping you learn more about whatever track you’re going to be on and you can make your mistakes on the simulator then and not have to worry about damaging your car. I need to get in as much practice as I possibly can so more simulator sessions are on the to-do list!
You had your first official karting race with Formula Woman on the 25th of August in Daytona. How did you prepare and how did the event go overall?
For the karting event I did all my practicing at Kiltorcan Raceway which is a great outdoor karting circuit in Kilkenny. I did sessions just in the Sodi hire karts so I had never actually driven a race tuned kart before the race! I qualified 7th out of 20 after yellow flags on nearly every lap which was unfortunate. After the race started I managed to make up a place or two but after having a crash and being pushed into the wall I dropped quickly down the grid. Thankfully I managed to get back up to make some overtakes and finish in 8th place, not where I had hoped but it is all I could manage after more yellow flags and the crash so I am happy with how I did! I am now planning my next competition that will be outside of Formula Woman but will hopefully help me learn much more!
What is your ultimate career goal after completing your experience with Formula Woman?
My goal is to win the seat with Formula Woman to compete in the GT Cup and if that goes well then I want to stay racing for as long as possible. As cheesy as it sounds, since I have started this whole process, I am having the absolute best time even though it is hard work! I feel like I have found what I am meant to be doing. I would love to possibly compete in a single seater series also and see where that could lead. I am going to take every opportunity that comes my way and make the most of it. The support I have had from friends, family and even people I have never met before has been amazing so I would love to make everyone supporting me proud!