Natalie’s Daughter is behind hers fight for a more a cleaner future and equality
Natalie Barratt isn’t shy when it comes to fighting for something she passionately believes in – and it’s her daughter Frances that is now giving her the extra motivation to return to competition and strengthen the women in motorsport cause.
Natalie made a great deal of friends and admirers during her time in the FIA World Rally Championship, as more often than not she was the only female driver contesting an event.
The WRC remains a very male dominated place, but it was even more so 15 years ago, when Natalie was contesting events in cars such as a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo and Hyundai Accent World Rally Car.
There are certainly more women competing in Motorsport now – so why is a mother of two about to make her rally cross debut in the exciting new all-electric Projekt E series?
“We don’t live in an equal world, and I’m continuing to the fight the cause for my eleven year old daughter,” says Natalie.
“Children are not prejudice, and Frances has no pre-conceived opinions as to why women can’t play on an equal footing with men in every aspect of life. Not only does she think it’s a great idea that I’m racing in Projekt E, she’s expecting me to win every race – if I don’t, I think she’ll disown me!
“Frances is such a chip off the old block and determined to drive. Recently she was lucky enough to go in a full blown rally car, on ice with Armin Schwarz, her actual words were “it was great, but id rather drive next time” at which point, Armin invited her back next winter.
But at times, being the only women in the WRC wasn’t’ just inconvenient – it was scary.
“It was the little things which created big problems for me as the only female driver in world rallying.
“Take a start of a stage for example. If a driver wanted to have a pee, he’d go behind a tree in a forest – but I couldn’t do that, not with lost of spectators walking around.
“I had to stop at petrol stations and even knock on someone’s door and ask them if I can use the bathroom.
“When you go in to a strangers house in the middle of nowhere – you don’t know who they are and sometimes they can’t speak English – it can be pretty scary, I can tell you.
“It was a major development when I acquired my own portaloo in the rally service area – I’d never thought a portaloo would make me so happy!
“There has been so much progress in terms of encouraging women to go in to sport – particularly mainstream sports such as football. A lot of people were really impressed with last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup – even some men praised it for its quality of football, excitement and sporting spirit in which the games were placed.
“Things are a lot better in Motorsport, but there is still a long way to go.
“You see things differently as a parent, and a big part of the reason for returning to motorsport now is to try and make sure that if may daughter wants to go become a racing or rally driver – and she’s already done some ice karting in Finland and loved it – that Frances and others of her generation are able to start on a level playing field.”
Some famous names of Motorsport – including François Delecour, Hayden Paddon, Janis Baumanis, Jani Paasonen, Tiff Needell and the car’s designer Manfred Stohl – have all driven the Projekt E car.
Natalie will be the first female driver to drive the all-wheel drive, all-electric 600bhp machine when she tests it for the first time in July.
The opening round of the Projekt E series, which will support the FIA World Rallycross Championship at selected European rounds this year, will take place at Höljes in Sweden on 20 August.
Paul Evans – Director at Fablass Ltd
Motorsport journalist at Motoring News (1987-1994)
Paul joined Knightsbridge-based automotive PR agency Avenue Communications in 1994 – working with Mobil 1, before becoming Ford WRC Team Media Manager.