Nathalie McGloin is one of the most inspiring racing drivers in the world. Paralysed from the chest down, McGloin is the only female tetraplegic in the world to be racing cars.
After being granted a race licence in 2015, McGloin competes in the Porsche Club Championship against able-bodied men using hand controls that act as an extension of the pedal. The D2BD ambassador took time to talk about her amazing story and the success of her racing career so far.
When did you decide you wanted to be a racing driver?
I started doing trackdays around 8 or 9 years ago. In 2013, I decided I wanted to get my race licence and this took me a year and a half to get after all the different processes I had to go through to make sure I could get that signed off.
What’s been your greatest achievement so far in your racing career?
Getting the licence is the biggest achievement given I’m the first women with a spinal cord injury to do that. Race results wise, an 8th place overall (6th in class) after qualifying 18th in a 15-minute wet race at Brands Hatch last season is what stands out.
How do the hand controls work that you race with?
The hand controls are a rod system. They attach to the existing pedals, there’s no clutch, and come to a point where they are operated by a hand lever next to the steering wheel. You push forward to brake and push down towards the seat to accelerate and this is all connected to the rods so there are no electronics.
Which aspect of racing do you find most challenging with the hand controls?
I’ve never driven with anything else so I’ve not had to adapt. My disadvantage is that I don’t change gear because I don’t have any free hands and my finger dexterity means I’m not able to use the paddles. So I leave it in automatic which is fairly good but often if going round a long corner, it’ll change up a gear and then I’m in the wrong gear going onto the straight.
I also only have one hand on the wheel so the force isn’t always there on the wheel, but I’ve had the steering rack lightened, so most of the things that could be a disadvantage are easily overcome with adaptations and technology.
How proud are you to be the only female tetraplegic in the world to be racing cars?
I’m very proud that I’ve managed to achieve this and that I’m the first one to have got there. I hope by being out there I can encourage other people with disabilities and other women to get involved as it’s such a great sport. The more people that do it, the more exposure the sport gets, and that can only be a good thing.
What is your favourite circuit on the Porsche Club Championship calendar?
Donington is my favourite circuit, especially the National layout, but unfortunately we’re not racing there this season. We raced there twice last season so I’m a little bit disappointed but I’m hoping they’ll put it back on the calendar for 2018.
How has your involvement in D2BD inspired other women to get involved with motorsport?
I think D2BD is such an important campaign because we need more women in motorsport. The more awareness we can promote that women are involved and are successful, the more it will encourage other women to get involved.
In terms of direct correlation between my own involvement and inspiring others, I had the pleasure of meeting a now good friend at the BWRDC awards dinner in February. She was a racer until she was involved in a road car crash where she tore her neck ligaments. She gave up racing because she didn’t think she could handle the loads anymore, so I explained to her about the neck restraints and carbon helmet that I use. We’ve investigated whether this would be beneficial to her and she’s going racing this year, which is great news.
That’s what D2BD is all about. She didn’t know it was possible until she saw someone else doing it.
Finally, what advice would you give to women or people with disabilities hoping to work in racing?
Just go for it! If you want to work within the motorsport industry, gender, race, religion, it just doesn’t come into it. It is a skill-based industry. If you have the skills, nothing else matters.