Sabine Schmitz was the "Queen of the Nurburgring" and a role model to so many young girls which got them into motorsports. When all you see in the media is white men racing cars and motorcycles, seeing women on the track has a powerful effect. They don't have to be the best, although Sabine was very, very good. They have to show up and compete. They get attention because they are so rare in the world of motorsports. The Drive has a great tribute to Sabine. If you haven't seen this video, do watch it. It's 8 minutes of raw talent behind the wheel. It's raining. The track is wet. She's driving like, well, like a race car driver. Because she is a race car driver. Her genetics are irrelevant.
I didn't know Sabine, but of course I knew of her. Anyone at the track with a daughter knew of her and Danica Patrick. There's a long history of women in racing. There needs to be more feeder programs to find and develop talent. There are some very fast, talented women drivers out there. They don't get the encouragement nor help they need to succeed.
When I first started racing, two instructors had a huge impact on me. I'll spare the details, but one was a man who raced Formula cars, the other was a woman in a baby blue Porsche 911. When you start, you're assigned to an instructor and they guide you through what feels right, how to perfect your line, and basically teach you "the ropes" so to speak. Here's my first run at Canadian Motorsports Park outside of Toronto, Canada.
In that picture, I'm driving. The instructor is in the passenger seat. And here we are swapped, so the instructor can show me the line and pace.
Turns out, I was really good in the rain. Not all drivers appreciated the rain and really hated this magnet.
Nothing cuts through the bullshit like a real race car driver taking your car around the track. You quickly realize, it's not the tires, brakes, engine, steering, etc. It's you. You are slow and full of your own inhibitions on track. There's also nothing like being a young man and having a woman instructor drive that point home.
I think what's more amazing is both of my instructors used positive reinforcement. Plenty of instructors would criticize when you didn't do something right. In my case, they were both silent when I was wrong, and positive when I was right.
On one of the outings, she offered to let me drive her car if I hit a certain lap time. And by "her car" I mean one just like this:
She raced in two series, SCCA and PCA (Porsche Club of America). She was fast. Her car was fast. I had neither. At one of the lunch breaks, I asked her what she did for a living. She was a middle-aged woman and mother. She said she was a partner at a law firm. In the end, I beat her target laptime and got to drive her car around the track during open track time. She took the first few laps to warm it up and show me the finer points of driving it. I then took it out and gingerly whipped it around the track. Her subtle point was that the car is irrelevant, it's mostly in the driver skill and experience.
I saw her at SCCA events. All the daughters at the track hung out with her. And she was polite, but mostly she was there to practice and race. She was their Sabine.
In the end, I appreciate both of them for mentoring and taking me on as their apprentice.
Here's a good documentary to get you started, Racing Dreams.