Ruth Nugent is certainly no stranger to a racetrack as she has been a motorsport marshal in different forms of motorsport since the age of 13.
In 2018, Ruth made the move into the drivers seat and finished up in the top ten in the Fiesta Zetec Championship. Since then Ruth has been trying different areas of the sport and had a chat with us about the challenge females face in Motorsport, what keeps her motivated and what’s coming next!
What has been your Motorsport highlight so far?
It would probably be either competing on the first ever all-female team to take part in the Fiesta 6 hour endurance race in Mondello Park in 2018 or my first podium in Rallysport in 2019. Competing in the 6 hour endurance race ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made so far as so many sponsorship/driving opportunities arose from it and I also gained friends that I now regards as very close friends that I met on the team. It was also the first event I actually believed in my ability to drive competitively as I qualified quickest of the team leaving me to start and finish the race for the team. Similarly my first podium in Rallysport was so unexpected and it helped my confidence as a driver massively. It was my second ever rallysprint and my first ever time at the track in Tynagh, Galway and I hadn’t expected to be anywhere near there top 3 but finished 2nd in Class 2 and got fastest lap in class. It’s a small achievement to some but it meant the world to me for my confidence!
2019 was a year of trying new areas of Motorsport, where do you see yourself focusing the most for the future?
I have only just began dipping my toes into other motorsport disciplines and I’m loving testing my capabilities. I have found the Rallysport Association rallysprints hugely beneficial towards my driving and my confidence behind the wheel in different conditions. I love the sprints but I know I will miss competing in a grid of cars eventually. I’m also very interested in Rallycross as it has always been my personal favourite and after my debut last year I have the itch to get back out at it. So, being honest I can’t answer that right now because I have no idea! Which I think is exciting.
What drives you?
“The people involved in Motorsport. Of course my own passion and love for the sport has driven me to compete but there has been many times where I had no money, had my heart broken by mechanical issues, disheartened by an accident or result and just wanted to give up altogether. I think we’ve all been there at LEAST once!? But there is always someone who will say something either on purpose or absent-mindedly that will plant that little seed of hope or motivation in me. Sometimes it’s been one of the marshals who has watched me from the banks and came up to me to say “that was some undertake on turn 3!” or something similar after a tough race and other times it’s been someone from another class who stops me in the paddock to say they’ve been watching my progress and think I’ve been doing great and to keep at it. The community within Motorsport drives me to stay a part of it – it’s a second home because of them.
A more personal drive would be my health. I suffer from Crohn’s Disease which I have tried to be as transparent as possible about to help raise awareness about the disease on social media and to encourage newly diagnosed patients to not let the disease stop them doing what they love. I have good days and bad days and really bad days but each one of them has taught me to be grateful for what good health I do have and for all the things I can do. It’s my reminder to fulfil a promise I made to myself years ago which was to live a life less ordinary and that’s exactly what it does. Motorsport is my escape and my bad health drives me to prove to myself and others that I can find strength in my illness and life the life I love.”
- How do you prepare mentally and keep yourself fit?
“I have struggled with mental preparation for racing since I began if I’m being honest. I found it very hard to not let my personal life affect my racing. I had a rough year in the Zetec championship last year and honestly had no drive left to compete but after a few little life changes and a lot of work on myself I threw myself into Rallycross and Rallysport and in the last few months have excelled. I found that I had to surround myself with positive people and a good atmosphere from the get go on a race day and remember to give myself alone time at a few points during the days racing just to ground myself and it helped a lot. It seems obvious but you’ve got to remember you’re there to have fun! What’s the point in travelling all the way there and spending all your money if you’re not going to enjoy it? Sometimes we need a reminder that we’re there to have fun and enjoy ourselves.
Back in October I began getting out mountain biking more and more and since then there hasn’t been a week I haven’t been on the bike. I used to go to the gym and enjoyed running but would always get bored and wanted something a little more challenging. I always had an interest in starting mountain biking so decided to just go for it and bought a bike at the end of last Summer. Each week I get on the bike I’m amazed at my level of fitness growing each time. I’ve returned to the female coaching at the Ratoath BMX club this year too ahead of their racing season. It’s a 3 hour training on and off the bike and a fun way to work out. So to sum it up – bikes! Bikes are my favourite way to keep race fit and I am loving getting better and quicker every week. I’m a little hooked in case you haven’t noticed…”
— Ruth (@roothnoogent) January 12, 2020
- Do you feel that the challenges facing females in Motorsport are slowly starting to ease?
I do and I don’t. I think there is a lot going on in the world and even Ireland at the moment that is highlighting the female talent in Motorsport that may have been missed before new series’ and initiatives have been brought in and people are starting to talk about females in the sport. There has been an increase in the recognition of females in Motorsport with thanks to the likes of 20×20, Women in Motorsport Ireland and Formula Female and I have loved seeing girls and women get the appreciation they deserve as that was something that I think was lacking within the media side of Motorsport. This media increase can help females in the sport seek sponsorship for their racing as they have published pieces highlighting their achievements that they can attach to their proposals – it’s fantastic!
But there are other challenges females are facing away from the eyes of media. When I think back to all the females I met last year from a variety of motorsport disciplines there were only a select few who hadn’t mentioned any form of bullying or sexism over their time being involved in the sport and that may be because the topic of conversation didn’t arise or they were lucky enough not to of experienced it. Some of the stories I’ve heard from young girls to grown women honestly shocked me. There is still a serious lack of belief in females as competitive drivers and worst of all an obvious lack of respect for them as just equal humans. I’m aware that this isn’t happening to them every day but to think it’s 2020 and there are still men and women who will discourage and disrespect a female online or in person is incredibly disappointing and disheartening to hear. The amount of us who have experienced some form of harassment isn’t acceptable and it is still a challenge females in Motorsport have to face. I can only hope that we all keep talking to each other about it and encouraging one another to keep doing what you do best – race!
- Who is your Motorsport idol?
I actually don’t really have a Motorsport idol! But thinking about it a few names come to mind. Dermot Carnegie was GOD in my eyes at the age of 12 – he was the first driver I ever watched race and thought “I want to do that!” so I think he’s an important one. My Dad for bringing me into the safety side of Motorsport at such a young age. It’s a crucial element of the sport and I feel like it’s moulded me as a driver too. And last but not least a name that popped into my head (she is going to kill me for this) – Aimee Woods. She has been nothing but competitive since the day she first sat into a car and she carved the way for females in Motorsport in Ireland in my generation without much recognition for it. I was lucky enough to race with her in the 6 hour endurance race and she has coached me in my driving and my mentality before a race when I was convincing myself I was never going to get back into the car again. She is openly competitive when against me and that has driven me to be better than I thought I could be as a driver and she has done nothing but strive to be greater and has shown me the benefits of a good pre-race mindset. Her talent is in her blood being Sean Woods’ daughter and as a family they’re a prime example of what drives me in motorsport – good people.
- What are your plans for this year?
In 2020 I will be finishing the Southern Winter RSA championship in the Fiesta and I intend to have something new built for the Summer championship and possibly Rallycross at the end of the year. After making my Rallycross debut in November last year I fell in love with the sport even more and would love to compete again. I have also joined the Irish Forestry Rally Championship media team to help them at their events so you never know, I may end up in a rally car by the end of the year! Watch this space!
We are looking forward to see this year has in store for this determined and hard working racer!
Until the next time,
Header image from Michael Chester.