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'I got an email from a woman in her 50s looking to get involved in motorsport'

Irish hockey star Nicci Daly is working to promote motorsport among women in Ireland.

IRISH HOCKEY STAR Nicci Daly is thrilled with the progress she has made in promoting motorsport among women in Ireland, having recently entered an all-female team in the recent Karting World Cup.

IMG-20210923-WA0004 Nicci Daly pictured with Kelsey Kirby of the Formula Female team at the Karting World Cup. Source: Nicci Daly

Through her platform Formula Female, Daly submitted a team of seven drivers across three categories at the event which took place in Louth at the weekend. This was Daly’s second year to put forward a team to the Tillotson T4 Karting World Cup, which included two brand-new drivers who have never raced a competitive kart before.

Daly is best known for her role in helping the Irish women’s hockey team to a first-ever appearance at the Olympics this summer, as well as a silver medal at the 2018 World Cup.

But the qualified engineer is equally passionate about motorsport, and has worked with a team in America’s IndyCar Racing series in the past. She also inherited her interest in the sport from her father Vivion, who passed away when she was young.

“Tillotson are trying to rejuvenate karting in Ireland and create an entry level to the sport that’s affordable and accessible,” she explains to The42.

“It’s a four-stroke engine which creates a more fair and level playing field and it’s not as costly as the other karts. It allows newcomers to come into it without feeling too intimidated by the big, more expensive and faster machines.

“It’s something we feel we’re trying to encourage and introduce young girls to the sport. The T4 package allows them to do that.

“All the girls really enjoyed it. They got better as the weekend went on. It was a new experience for all of them that were there and they took on the challenge. They were running in the top five or six in their category, which was brilliant.”

Daly explains that there were 91 drivers at the Karting World Cup, 10 of which were female. All participants were in action across Friday, Saturday and Sunday through a combination of practice sessions, heats, super heats and a final.

The overall experience was certainly tiring for Daly’s drivers, but it also exposed them to a competitive environment where they could race against male drivers.

“It was hard to capture just how competitive the girls are,” says Daly about her squad measured up to the other competitors at the weekend. “And the disappointment when it didn’t go well.

“It’s something I recognised quite a bit. They get so disappointed and upset and all they want to do is win, and be better. It was quite an eye-opener for me because I could see they were really serious and they’re not just here to take part against the top lads.

“Obviously with my own background in sport, I can understand exactly what they’re feeling and it’s hard to be able to put it aside that it was a bad race or a mistake and take the positives and move forward, so I just try to help them with that, and help them overcome the disappointment and move forward.”

Along with competing at the Karting World Cup, Daly’s Formula Female also launched a book called ‘Daisy’s 1st Race Car’ at the event, which is written by mechanical engineer Laura Hannon and has received huge support by MSL Grange Motors.

One of the aims of the book is to encourage girls to study and explore STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths] education. 

Daly collaborated with Hannon as part of this project, and was delighted to be able to launch the book on a day when some of her drivers were embarking on their own journey through the sport.

“She [Hannon] said she felt inspired at the age of 27 to get involved in motorsport,” says Daly.

“She was really passionate about STEM and she works as a mechanical engineer for a company in Cork called Thermo Fisher. So she had this idea to write a book. She’s also an author and illustrator. She illustrated the whole book herself about a girl called Daisy, and a series of STEM-inspired children’s books will follow the journey of Daisy through motorsport and STEM.

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“It was brilliant to be able to launch it and to have Laura who is self-inspired to do this now, and is competing in the Formula Woman competition in the UK next month. It’s amazing what can happen when you open something up and make people aware of what can be out there.”

With Covid restrictions slowly lifting, Daly has further projects on the horizon which will hopefully encourage more females to participate in motorsport. One particular initiative she is working on is called ‘Go Girls Karting’, which is backed by Motorsport Ireland.

After its launch in 2019, this initiative only lasted six months before it was put on ice due to the pandemic. However, Daly is eager to get it back up and running again to increase the levels of female participation in the future.

“Even during that first six months that we ran the programme, we introduced over 500 girls to motorsport and it was incredible. The amount of girls that came up at the end of the day’s experience and said they had no idea maths could be so fun or that there was so much science involved.

“It was just a complete and utter eye-opener for them. They’d never made that connection before about how much goes into the sport and how the subjects they study in school actually play a role in the sport, and realise that they could actually have a career in the sport.

“We had two brand new girls [at the World Cup] who had never competed before coming into the sport. I also got an email from a woman in her 50s looking to get involved in the sport. In the last three or months, I’ve been getting so much interest from different girls looking to get into the engineering side, the mechanics side.

“There’s so many stories of girls who are inspired by the programme and listening to my own career that have managed to make that step to get involved.”

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