NICCI Daly’s Go Girls Karting and STEM initiative is on the fast track to changing the opportunities available to young girls looking to get involved in motorsport in Ireland.
Daly – a hockey star who won World Cup silver in 2018 – has been a long-time motorsport afficionado with her father and uncle key figures on the Irish scene.
Her chances to get involved at a young age, though, were stymied by a lack of openings which has fired her passion to introduce this kind of progamme – the first of its kind worldwide – which was launched last September.
“This year, over 1,000 girls aged 13-16 will sit in a kart and be introduced to motorsport through 36 experience days being held all over the country,” she told Dublin Gazette.
“120 girls will compete in an All-Ireland karting competition representing their schools in four different regional finals.
“The initiative aims to introduce the sport to young girls, engage them with getting behind the wheel, educate them by using motorsport as a platform to teach STEM education [science, technology, engineering and maths] and to empower them through the visibility of female role models working and competing in the sport.”
It is a joint venture between Daly’s Formula Female project and Motorsport Ireland and join the dots from her work experiences.
“Following her studies in mechanical engineering, she has regularly headed to Indianapolis to work as a data engineer with the Juncos Racing team.
She says the link between driving and education is a key one in highlighting the different avenues motorsport can open up.
“We want to encourage more girls to get involved both on and off the track, understanding you can be a driver but also an engineer or mechanic. We are trying to highlight how the STEM subjects play a role in motorsports.
“We bring them to the go-cart tracks for a day where they get a driving experience, learning about the traits and skills involved.
“Then they do a STEM workshop using motorsport as a platform to teach STEM education, for example using maths to figure out the quickest racing line.
“This will stand to them when they do the driving, using equations from the exercise in practice, bringing it to life in a fun and different way to the classroom.
“I knew STEM was a big part of motorsports but, in terms of putting it all together, I came up with all the exercises.”
There has been interest from the FIA, the sport’s world governing body, as part of their Women on Track programme while part of the inspiration also came from Dare to be Different – a community aimed at inspiring female talent in all facets of the industry.
Since the genesis of the idea, Motorsport Ireland loved the concept. Key funding has come from CJJ Motorsport, run by New York-based Irishman John Campion, who is a passionate supporter of young talent.
Recently, he got behind Nicole Drought’s 2020 Britcar championship campaign.
Daly says that is another part of a new wave of opportunities becoming available for talented young drivers.
“The W Series is a new women-only series in the UK. It started last year and they take the top 18 females from all around the world and give them a free drive.
“People think you need loads of money to be involved, or major backing, but this provides opportunity for females around 17 or 18 who are trying to get into Formula One.
“It gives them a fully-funded opportunity to race in the support races for the Formula One races and be seen by team owners.
“It’s great to be able to highlight that to young girls and some of them involved in carting now have said that is where they want to be.”