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Erin Vogel: “We’re not a threat, but we’re here to participate”

Erin Vogel is a name you should remember. She’s a performance driving instructor and a racing driver competing in the GT World Challenge America for DXDT Racing, making history in the sport as she became the first female to win a race in that series and the first female driver to win in the Pro-Am class. She’s hoping that her visibility will help get more women into motorsport careers.

Credit: Jamey Price

Erin Vogel was introduced to motorsport through her family. Her dad and brother often went to the racetrack together, and her mum got involved when her dad had an accident. She decided to take his spot in an event because he got hurt right before it took place and, because of that, Erin was the only one left in the family that wasn’t involved in motorsport, which made her question if she should be.

“All of a sudden they were speaking this new language and I realised that I was never going to have another conversation with them again if I didn’t figure out what this was all about,” Erin tells Females in Motorsport. “I went to the track with them in 2009 and was immediately hooked.”

Three years later she started taking racing seriously and started racing together with her dad who introduced her to more people in the field. Importantly, women working and competing in motorsport started telling her that more women in motorsport were needed, which encouraged Erin to continue racing.

Another reason she continued racing was and is her career as a performance driving instructor. She was nominated to become one after she took part in some track days with the Audi Club of Southern California.

Credit: Jordan Lenssen

“I wanted to make sure I knew as much about the sport that I was trying to teach as I could,” she says. “But I never thought I was going to take racing super seriously.”

Her job involves teaching and coaching students how to drive their car on a racetrack, from the basics and physics of driving, and recently that’s mostly been in novice classrooms.

“People come not knowing much at all, but they think they’re going to be a great driver because they’ve been driving on the street for 20 or 30 years,” Erin says. “They have this thing that they think they know how to do well, but they have this epiphany about how much they don’t know.”

Alongside her job as a performance driving instructor, Erin is competing in the GT World Challenge America. Engineer Jim Bell noticed she was curious when he was working with her at an event. He decided to take her under his wings and became her mentor. Alongside him, she also has a great coach in her co-driver Michael Cooper.

Credit: Sam Cobb

“They’re both very open and willing to share and answer any questions I have,” she says. “I’m learning how to understand what I’m feeling from the car and how to give good feedback, so we can get a good set-up on the car.

“It’s more than just the driving. It’s about becoming the whole package. Both of them are very complete in that way, so it’s been a great learning experience.”

She’s certainly achieved success in that series. She became the first female driver to win a race in the GT World Challenge America and the first female driver to win in the Pro-Am class.

She was also part of a historic podium for women in motorsport at Watkins Glen. Erin Vogel secured her first pole position and finished the first race in third, while Taylor Hagler won the race. Having both women on the podium together was special for Erin.

“That was another goal of mine,” she says. “When I knew there were going to be two of us in the series, I really thought it would be cool if we could both be on the podium at the same time.”

A podium always means a lot because of the great result that you’ve achieved, but Erin adds that the visibility it provides is even more important and special to her.

“A lot of times you hear women say that it doesn’t matter if we’re out there doing it if we’re not winning, and I used to believe that, but I don’t think that’s quite as true as some people believe,” Erin says. “It’s important for us to just be in numbers because how else are you going to get us to be winning if there aren’t more of us?”

Something that motivates Erin to keep racing is that visibility. She wants to be a part of the conversation about women in motorsport and wants to be a role model and mentor for women and girls that aspire to work or race in the field.

“During autograph signings, I’ll have children kind of glance at me out of the side of their eye and look at someone else and ask if we’re all racing drivers,” she explains. “I’ve actually had them say to my face ‘but where’s the driver?’ and I’ve had to respond that I was actually the driver.

“I get it more from that side because of the lack of visibility. They don’t see a lot of female drivers, so they don’t believe it’s possible. That’s why it’s important for me to be here.”

Erin feels that she is respected in the paddock, but she also senses that this may haven’t been the case initially. This affected her mindset and made her doubt her decisions and achievements.

“For a long time I had the mindset of ‘there’s no point in taking it seriously because people aren’t going to take me seriously,’” she says. “It wasn’t until later when people started taking me seriously that I realised that more people than I thought believed in me and thought I could do it, so I decided to give it a try.

“There was definitely some doubt in a lot of people’s minds. I proved that I could not only learn how to do it, but that I was also driven to do so, which earned me quite a bit of respect. Now I don’t feel like I struggle with that as much.”

Credit: Jordan Lenssen

She’s hoping that her visibility and story will help make the transition easier for women and girls that are now coming to the sport.

“We’re proving that we’re not here to take anything away from anybody, we’re here to be here with the guys,” Erin says. “We’re not a threat, but we’re here to participate. I think that that’s slowly helping to open doors.”

Part of the stereotypes derives from cultural ideas. It’s important to continue the conversation about women in (motor)sports, which will hopefully also create new spectators.

“We need to continue to have this conversation over and over again, which probably everyone in the paddock is tired of hearing.

“We’ll also create a different group of fans and spectators, and that’s important too. There’s a whole subside of people that think that motorsport is a male sport, so it’s important to be drawing new fans in, and we will with the more women we have in the sport.”

Follow Erin Vogel on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook and check out her website.


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