Twelve years ago, Verena Mei traded in modeling to pursue a career in motorsports. While motorsports is still considered a male-dominated sport, Verena is breaking the mold by being one of the few female drivers to compete in the industry.
When Verena first set foot on the racetrack, there was a lot of doubt surrounding her new profession. Could a slender model handle the powerful mechanics of a racecar? Verena felt the pressure to compete and produce tangible, concrete results. Motorsports can be extremely subjective, and she wanted to not only gauge her progress, but gain the respect of other drivers on the track as well.
After training and testing out different types of driving, Verena found her passion in rally racing – that is, driving on harsher terrains and on a point-to-point format. According to Verena, rally racing was “crazy,” and that’s exactly what she was looking for.
“You have to train like you race,” Verena Said.
While rallying contains a similar skill set to other types of racing, it differs in two important respects – trust and control. Rally racing consists of a co-driver dynamic, a new obstacle for Verena, who must trust her co-driver’s navigation. Ironically, Verena drives with her ears instead of her eyes, listening to her co-driver’s detailed analysis of the track and terrain.
When asked to choose her co-driver, Verena insisted she had another female sitting by her side. She told her team manager that she would prefer a female co-driver as she was only one of six women racecar drivers on the TrueCar Racing team to represent rally racing. It was important to her as the only driver on the team in this type of racing to maintain a strong female presence – a “women-empowered initiative.”
Verena’s subsequent success on the racetrack can be attributed to her ability to take her time and think strategically: “I have the patience to slow down and drive smarter, which in the end will make me a faster driver.” Ultimately, her control of the steering wheel makes her a force to be reckoned with.
While racing is pure entertainment for fans and drivers alike, it does come with one major caveat – unsustainable practices, something that Verena is aware of. However, she finds that the future of motorsports is moving towards a more eco-friendly movement.
”I think [the future of motorsports] is definitely heading that way, and as years go by, more people will become aware of the environment and how damaging motorsports is to it.”
The emissions from the cars pose a great risk to the environment. However, new sustainable practices have been introduced to the industry, such as alternative fuel and electric vehicles. “That is the trend to move towards: electric cars or alternative fuel cars.” But as much as sustainable practices are encouraged, motorsports is a business, and the sustainable practices will not supplement, but rather detract from the current excitement of racing.
Electric vehicles, for example, are quieter than traditional race cars, and for most motorsports fans, the sounds of the cars are part of the experience. Without it, the sport loses its excitement. And while Verena hopes that the future will bring more sustainable practices to the motorsports industry, she believes that, as a driver in the business, it will be hard to implement this change.
“It’s hard to wrap my head around… but I don’t think it’s out of the question.” For Verena, sustainable practices can be met in motorsports, but how it will be adopted is not yet clear, especially in rally racing. While she may not see the potential future of motorsports just yet, as one of the few female drivers in the industry, Verena is paving the path for other women to be respected in the male-dominated sport.