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– 100 schoolgirls attend Dare To Be Different curtain-raiser in Surrey
– Activities include karting, media skills, engineering, fitness and nutrition
– MSA CEO quick to praise ‘fantastic start’ to female-oriented initiative

Dare To Be Different raced off the starting grid at Daytona Sandown Park yesterday (13 April), with 100 schoolgirls gaining an invaluable insight into every element of motor sport from driving and engineering to media skills, fitness and nutrition.

Founded by former Formula 1 driver Susie Wolff and the Motor Sports Association (MSA), Dare To Be Different is a high-profile new initiative designed to inspire, connect and celebrate women in every aspect of motor sport.

Following months of tireless hard work and with the vital support of key partners, Dare To Be Different’s first event took place at the state-of-the-art Daytona Sandown karting facility in Surrey, bringing together 100 girls from ten local schools.

At the beginning of the day, there was a mixture of excitement, nerves, apprehension and a sense of stepping into the unknown. By the time the chequered flag fell several hours later, there were broad smiles all round and a new 100-strong motor sport fanbase – and in-between, there were activities galore.

Daytona provided Honda-powered 160cc Cadet and 200cc Junior karts for the girls to earn their racing spurs and compete in a tyre-changing pit-stop challenge, Williams sent along an F1 show car for technical tours and photo opportunities and Sky F1 presenter Natalie Pinkham taught the eager participants the tricks of the trade when it comes to interview etiquette.

Not only that, but ambassadors from national flagship programme STEMNET (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network) gave up their time to assist with a fun and educational hovercraft-building exercise. Workshops on diet and fitness, meanwhile, ensured that each girl left with a comprehensive understanding of every facet of this fascinating sport – and as an official Dare To Be Different delegate.

What’s more, everybody went away armed with photographs and other souvenirs, and after each event, there will be a prize for the participant who most effectively communicates and spreads the Dare To Be Different message to her fellow students upon returning to school.

“Today was the realisation of many months’ hard work, and I owe a huge debt of gratitude to everybody in the team that helped to put it all together,” remarked Wolff. “Dare To Be Different began life as a vision at the end of last year, so when the girls arrived at Daytona Sandown this morning, it was truly a great moment and they all looked to be having a lot of fun during the day.

“It’s fair to say that many of them were very nervous about the karting challenge and scared that they would not be able to do it because it was completely different to anything they had tried before, so it was fantastic to see them return to the pits with huge smiles on their faces and asking when they could go out again! The whole concept of Dare To Be Different is about pushing these girls out of their comfort zones and encouraging them to try something new.

“Ultimately, we want to see more girls coming into motor sport at grass-roots level, and karting is just one aspect of that. The breadth of potential careers within motor sport is immense, and to reflect that, beyond the karting we also offered the girls journalism and media presentation skills, hovercraft-building, fitness workshops and nutrition advice. Today is just the start of the Dare To Be Different journey – there’s so much more still to come.”

The MSA – the UK governing body of motor sport – was represented by its CEO Rob Jones, who was quick to praise Dare To Be Different’s inspirational, innovative and engaging approach.

“What we’ve seen here today is really exciting,” he enthused. “It’s a tremendous activity, and all credit to Susie for her hard work in bringing it to the attention of the media and wider industry. You only need to look at the reactions on the faces of the girls and their teachers to see how much they benefitted from it.

“Motor sport is one of the very few sports in which women can compete at the same time and on equal terms as men – it offers a level playing field for everyone, and each event entails a phenomenal behind-the-scenes effort. By the same token, behind every driver are hundreds if not thousands of people working in different but equally essential areas of the sport.

“It was fantastic to have the Williams F1 car here; the leadership demonstrated by Claire Williams is the perfect illustration of what women in motor sport can achieve, and I must thank the team for the support they have shown to this programme.

“We hope that some of these girls will ultimately come to work in motor sport, be that as competitors or in some other professional capacity. That is the underlying aim of this campaign – to market and raise the profile of the career opportunities available within the sport – and what we saw today was a fantastic start.”

There are currently around 1,500 female MSA licence-holders in the UK which, whilst a significant number, represents only five per cent of all those competing in motor sport events throughout the country – a proportion that Dare To Be Different is eager to increase. To that end, four further events will follow over the coming months:

17 May, Nutts Corner, Crumlin, Northern Ireland
22 June, Daytona Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes
25 August, Knockhill Circuit, Fife, Scotland
15 September, Daytona Manchester, Manchester

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