Rainworth speed demon Karen sets sights on place in GT4 championship
A Rainworth woman with a passion for speed is hoping to move up a gear and become part of an all-female motor racing team.
Karen Andrews, aged 41, is one of 10,000 applicants worldwide to enter the Formula Woman 2021 GT4 Championship competition.
And now, she is hoping local companies will sponsor her during her bid to drive a MacLaren GT4 race car in next year’s series.
Formula Woman aims to find the next female motor racing champion.
Previously held in 2004, the competition has returned for the first time this year, offering women the chance to race in next year’s championships.
Karen said: “We’ve been through a series of online theory tests and the actual driving test is coming up in November.
“Racing does physically take it out of you, so my friends Sarah Chapman and Steph Coles – both personal trainers – have been helping me prepare. I’m training most days, doing lots of running and boot camps.
“There’ll be a big emphasis on fitness and I’ll be competing against women half my age, so I’m determined to be ready. I’m going to prove that, as women, we’ve still got it.
“There are additional training days available alongside the Formula Woman training, but these can cost up to £400 each, so I’m looking for sponsorship.
“If I go through to the later stages, I take my sponsors with me and they’ll have their logo on the suit and helmet.
“It’ll be televised all around the world and sponsors get the chance to attend practice sessions and race days too.”
After a race training day, including fitness, driver and media assessments, at Bedford Autodrome, six finalists will be announced in February, with training sessions in March and April leading to the final
two winners being chosen for the Formula Woman team.
Each driver will compete in up to a dozen races in the GT4 2022 Championship in a GT4 race car.
‘I was very lucky’
Having once driven a Lamborghini, a McLaren will be a first for Karen, who has previously raced in stripped-out road cars fitted with a roll cage.
Karen, originally from Sheffield, said: ““My late grandad, Gerald Spencer, was a mechanic at Saab. He would always be working on cars out on his drive and I’d help. We used to watch Formula 1 together.
“I was very lucky because I had a school friend, Charles Hall, and we used to go karting together.
“He’s gone on to have quite a successful racing career, but certainly when I was younger, there was nothing there for girls.
“There are a few female racing drivers I know who are very good, but when you’re wanting to go up a step up to something like touring cars, you need £500,000-£750,000 in sponsorship each year.
“I’ve previously been told by a company they would not sponsor me solely because I’m a woman.”
However, that has not stopped Karen from taking the wheel and choosing her own road.
She previously entered Formula Woman in 2004 and competed as part of a team in the Pudsey Grand Prix – a go-kart race hosted by F1 star Nigel Mansell in aid of Children in Need.
Karen said: “As a follow-up to the 2004 competition, I was part of a team of six women racing against Nigel Mansell and his sons, other racing teams and Pudsey Bear. We were the only women
and we came third.”
Design lead and Midlands STEM ambassador lead at engineering and construction firm NMCN, in Huthwaite, Karen’s professional life includes inspiring young people – particularly girls - to consider careers in maths, science, technology and construction.
She is also hoping that her Formula Woman journey will help break down stereotypes and show young women that they too, can get behind the wheel.
Karen said: “We’ve got to get the point across that you can do whatever you want. I play hockey and cricket, I regularly go mountain biking, and love anything with wheels that goes fast and has an
element of danger.
“I’m excited to be part of the Formula Woman competition, but it’s also about getting women out there and proving what we can do.”
Businesses interested in sponsoring Karen can contact her at [email protected]