Need I say that after a road traffic collision, more commonly known as an RTC, getting back in a vehicle can be tough, whether that’s physically driving or being a passenger. To many, the prospect would be daunting and in most cases, can take years of treatment to overcome the fear of getting back in a car.
This is what makes Nathalie McGloin’s story event more remarkable.
Nathalie was involved in an RTC when she was just sixteen years old, leaving her completely paralysed from the chest down.
That hasn’t stopped her from striving to achieve her dream of racing though, oh no. Last year Nathalie became the first ever female driver with a spinal injury (in the UK) to be granted a race licence. Nathalie now races with hand controls in the Porsche Supercup.
Being granted her racing licence wasn’t all plain sailing, however – but through sheer grit and determination Nathalie hasn’t once given up.
With her very specially adapted car, not only did she need to demonstrate that she had the driving skills to pass her ARDS test, she also needed to prove that she was physically able to compete on a race track with able-bodied drivers – not an easy task when learning to drive in a highly competitive environment with hand controls.
Perhaps the most challenging factor was to be able to exit her car, unaided, in under 7 seconds. “It wasn’t very graceful but I got it done. I ended up looking like a bit of a rag doll on the floor afterwards!” Nathalie said.
Nathalie is now competing in her second series of racing, driving in the Porsche Club Championship – a club racing series. Racing a Camen S, Nathalie is the only female in her series. Last season she was the only disabled competitor also.
Whilst the series may be inclusive, that doesn’t stop the competitiveness.
“My first race of the (2016) season, I qualified 18th a Brands Hatch Indy,” Nathalie told me. “The first race wasn’t too great for me, I finished 17th…but then it started to rain.
“I managed to work my way up to eighth- 6th in class- which is my best ever finish. I don’t know where it came from!
“Going forward we’ve had issues with car developments, but overall it is going really well.”
I was lucky enough to sit in her current championship car, a Camen S. The seat was moulded specifically for Nathalie and the hand controls were to the right of the steering wheel, allowing Nathalie to operate the acceleration and brakes by pushing back or down. Not only did the car look good on the outside, but it sounded good too!
Nathalie has big ambitions for the future and rightly so. “I’m doing some endurance racing in November,” she said, “as part of a mixed ability team – I’ve got two wheelchair users, possibly three. Last year I raced at Anglesey with an all wheelchair spinal injury team.
“I’m hoping to build a disabled race team to compete in the Silverstone 24 Hours next year, with the ambition to compete in the Dubai 24Hours in 2018.”
Wednesday 22nd June was also the turn of the third Dare To Be Different event for young girls aged between 8 and 11. For anyone that doesn’t already know, Dare To Be Different is a non-profitable organisation, committed to inspiring, connecting, showcasing and developing talent in male-dominated environments and professions. Already it is showing so many young girls that working, or competing in motorsport, can be an option for them.
Founded by Susie Wolff, Nathalie is a proud ambassador for the initiative.
“Susie asked me to become involved (with Dare To Be Different) at the beginning of the year,” Nathalie said. “I was honoured.
“Obviously I’m female but I’m disabled as well- it’s not a normal pathway to go down after breaking your neck in a car crash.
“I’ve always wanted to race cars, and I think that with getting young girls involved in motor-racing at a grassroots level is so important. Because if you have 50 guys karting, one of them might be good enough. If you have 50 boys karting and 1 girl, then the chances of that girl being good enough to go to the next step are very slim. However, if you have 50 girls coming to an event like this, one of them is going to be good enough.
“I think that things are changing and attitudes towards male-dominated sports are changing. Susie is blazing the trail with this initiative and with more days like this, the more we can change it from the ground up. The norm will be mixed sex racing; females aren’t a novelty.
“Females won’t be hard to come by – they are just part of the 50 percent or part of the percentage that make up motorsport competitors.”
Meeting Nathalie was a very humbling experience and I admire her passion for racing- she is one inspirational lady, showing whatever happens in life, do not give up. You never know what is around the corner.