As we come closer to the end of another motor racing season (which seems to have gone by quicker than previous years maybe due to the rounds being compacted into double header race weekends than single events,) there hasn’t been much to be excited or intrigued about that is new for the current season. This changed when only a mere twelve weeks ago a concept of having an all female race team was born out of many motor racing conversations had between two great friends- both of whom come from serious racing pedigree backgrounds.
Emma Dempsey and Nicci Daly who are only a week apart in age and both grew up literally in race paddocks up and down the country and across the water. Whether they liked it or not, this wasn’t going to change but luckily for their parents they both fell in love with the noise, the smells, the different array of cars and characters they came across every weekend during their summers growing up.
Both of their families were deeply involved in motorsport and it was that sport which would bring both girls together in a fun but poignant reason as they aimed to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society. This is a cause which has direct personal meaning for Nicci, as she sadly lost her father Vivion to the terrible disease on 15th November 2002. Vivion dominated the fiercely competitive Formula Ford 1600 championships throughout the 1980s, winning all the main titles and Formula Ford 1600 Dun Laoghaire Grand Prix in 1987. He moved on to the Formula Opel championship where he gained further titles in the following years. The racing tradition doesn’t stop there, her uncle Derek was also a professional racing driver who reached the pinnacle of the sport that is Formula 1 and her cousin Conor currently competes in the IndyCar series in America. Nicci works as a Data Analyst for Juncos Racing in the same series so even though she lost her father at a young age her love for the sport remained. After graduating from college as an engineer, she decided to marry her passion for motorsport and her skills as an engineer to seek work within the world of motorsport.
Emma had no escape when she was growing up as her father Cliff, another successful driver in the 1980s himself, ran his own race team running drivers in Formula Ford and Formula Opel with much success winning Irish championships in both categories with the likes of Donal Loughrey, Wayne Douglas, Morgan Dempsey, Dave Collier and Michael Edgar to name but a few. As well as running his customers cars, he ran his two sons also with Keith and Peter who enjoyed success at home and for Peter in America. All this time Emma didn’t mind getting her hands dirty helping out her dad with getting cars ready for races and working in the team on race weekends. Asking her why she never went into racing herself she just laughingly admits to being “too much of a messer”. But her brothers came first as they were progressing through the ranks at the time so the effort was on them which she totally understood. She did enjoy the odd spin out in a Formula Ford on a quiet test day though. She now works for JL Gore Materials as a purchaser and is busy raising her 13 month old Ruby with her partner Lauren.
Both girls earliest memories of growing up in the world of motorsport was how big the scale of it was with flags everywhere, especially in the Formula Opel days. Big weekends such as the Phoenix Park races in the centre of the country’s capital or the Leinster Trophy weekend in Mondello Park when our English and European neighbours would come over to visit us. Sadly one shows no sign of coming back anytime soon and the other is only a mere shadow of its former self, but at the time theses races only added to the Emma and Nicci’s awe of this world of motorsport, admittedly a lot of this being down to the fact they were only young and everything would look so big to them at that age anyway. Nicci also recalls how on St. Patrick’s Day each year her dad would take her and his Formula Opel race car to be part of a parade in some town in the country and she would wave to the crowd sitting on the sidepod of the car! They also brought the car to the opening of many Abrakebabra restaurants as they were a big sponsor for her father at the time!
Fast forward to the present and the love and passion for racing still exists as it did back when they were younger. Discussions centred on how both wanted to get into some sort of racing this year and how also it could help the need Nicci has had for a long time to do something in the memory of her father. Over one of many cups of tea the idea of getting a car between them and doing a race at the upcoming Mondello 50th Anniversary event could be the answer and certainly the goal to aim for, as both girls knew they would be both in the country at the same time. They didn’t want this idea to be a one off gesture it was going to be the start of a brand they would call Formula Females and to seriously attract more women into the sport.
The small matter of a Hockey World Cup would have to be taken care of first though. So while Nicci packed her bags for England and the World Cup, Emma was in charge of getting the ball rolling on their idea. Brought into help the girls was Darren Farrell who used to be a mechanic for Vivion in his Formula Opel days. Both Emma and Nicci regard Darren as the backbone of this venture and without him it would not have got off the ground.
A Rover 25 was purchased from ITTC stalwart Brian Sexton and with the plan to enter in the Future Classics class. It was resprayed in the infamous black and yellow colours that Vivian used on his helmets throughout his career. Some of Vivian’s old sponsors came on board like Abrakebabra and also Emma’s employers JL Gore to help out with costs. Suits, boots, helmets, Hans devices, awnings were scrambled together for the big day which was fast approaching and with the Irish team doing so well in the hockey it was leaving less time for Nicci to get all that was needed let alone time in the car. It would prove to be a very busy and successful final couple of weeks for Nicci with the hockey team finishing in the silver medal position a fantastic achievement which drew up brilliant exposure for her and Emma’s idea and also for the Irish Cancer society cause they wanted to help.
Now back from her hockey exploits Nicci and Emma took up the campaigns promotion of their new brand- Formula Female. They hope they can generate awareness for women who might not know about the sport and to those in other disciplines of motorsport, kart racing for example, to change to circuit racing in cars. They are also aware it will not happen overnight and it will be a long term project and to get rid of the inferiority some women may have for racing against men. Both differ however, when asked would a “ladies only” class attract and help more women into the sport! Nicci agrees, while Emma doesn’t but did say maybe to start off with and if numbers grow then let women race against the men. They are also both of the social media generation where they know its importance to get a new project and brand off the ground- something which they have had great success in doing to date.
Finally all the hard work by all paid off and they made it to Mondello Park last weekend with testing Saturday and two races on Sunday- each doing a race. Testing went well until a thermostat problem occurred which looked to put the whole project in jeopardy. Thankfully the paddock came to the rescue and a replacement part was found and the girls would be on the grid Sunday. Nerves and excitement built up as Emma took to the track in a field of 37 cars and showed the racing skills were not confined to her brothers as she came home in a very credible 7th place in her first race and in a car new to her. Next up was Nicci again in a field of 37 cars which has to be said is a brilliant turnout for any class and also makes one wonder where were these cars all year? But that was far from Nicci’s mind as she set off for her first ever race. Clearly she has inherited the Daly racing genes as she came home in a fantastic 8th position to cap off a whirlwind journey from an idea to a reality in the space of a few weeks.
It is great to see people like Emma and Nicci getting involved and genuinely trying to get new people into our sport which is going through a hard time for all sorts of reasons at the moment. Many people talk about doing things but it’s rare it gets past that stage and those people could do with taking a leaf out of the girls book as it can be done with help of course but it can be done. They are already planning on next year and working on getting a budget to do a full season in Future Classics while also bringing on a few more females with them, which cannot be a bad thing at all. Time will tell, but in my brief meeting with them at the weekend I am sure that it will.
Header Image from Michael Chester.
Nicci and Emma images from Barry Cregg