I had the pleasure of meeting up with Nathalie McGloin at Brands Hatch this weekend just passed, a delightful lady who currently is the only female within the UK with spinal injuries to hold an ARDS. We had been chatting throughout the previous week after I’d seen the youtube video of Nathalie completing her required 7 second emergency exit. From the very second I saw the video, I knew I wanted the opportunity to interview her, at first I was in awe, let’s face it I would struggle to make the 7 second exit requirement on the best of days. This quickly fell away to wanting to know more about her, knowing she must have a strong character to have chosen motorsport as her thrill.
She completed two races this weekend and amazingly she finished 12th in her second ever race, considering at one point earlier in the day she’d been on two wheels, this was an amazing comeback to what must have been a confidence knock. I was fortunate to be up at Stopwatch Hospitality and had a fantastic view of most of the track, the group I was with were also supporting Nathalie, if only she could have heard all of our shouts of encouragement and at times our amateur advice on braking and when to get back on the gas, although this would probably have been more a hindrance than a help, Nathalie is after all the one who knows what she is doing. What was clear even to all of us was that we were witnessing an improvement in every lap, she was certainly fearless and made a few overtakes and more importantly made them stick. Overall I was so impressed with Nathalie’s talent, that it’s clear she will only improve over the season and with more race experience and I, for one cannot wait to see what happens. Bring on the next round!
Here’s what Nathalie told me of herself and I got to ask her some questions too :-
Being in a car crash aged just 16 Nathalie was left paralysed from the neck down, she spent a year in a spinal injury rehab centre and afterwards returned to school to obtain her A Levels and then on to University studying English.
Nathalie with her nature to be stubborn wouldn’t accept any help with care and was determined to live a completely independent life. Signing up to wheelchair rugby got her the fitness she needed and she was soon invited to her first tournament, she fell in love with the sport and even said she loved the aggressive nature of the sport and how you were allowed to hit one another with the chairs! She quickly decided she wanted to be a serious competitor, she started to train to make the national team. Studying at university and training for the GB wheelchair rugby trials at the same time, once she had graduated she knew she wanted to move to London to play for the London team. The more she trained the more her passion grew for the sport. She went from the ‘girl in the wheelchair’ to an ‘athlete’ and she felt she was conquering her injury.
After the Paralympics things began to change within the sport, politics became heavily involved in team selection and she forgot the reason she once fell in love with the sport, so eventually she left the GB squad and continued to play on a recreational level ,but it wasn’t enough.
Nathalie has always loved cars and has been known for buying fast cars even if they were wholly impractical for a wheelchair. She had been tracking her 911’s for about 6 years, she looked into getting her racing licence and discovered how difficult it was going to be but that didn’t stop her, she made it her next challenge.!
Nathalie passed her ARDS test in October 2013. She had to complete several sprint events, a medical and seemingly impossible 7 second car exit to qualify. The determined women she is this didn’t stop her, she was set up with a race team at Silverstone and bought a Cayman S and decided to enter the Porsche Club Championship in May 2014. The date grew closer and Nathalie realised she needed more time to gain experience or time to complete the sprint events and that she wasn’t with the right team.
After a messy departure she met James Cameron who runs Mission Motorsport, a charity that rehabilitates injured soldiers back into working life through motorsport. Nathalie spent half a day with them she knew they were the right team for her and even though she had no army background they wanted to help.
The Cayman was handed over to them and she realised there was a lot of work to do for the wrongs of the previous race team. The cage was not suitable for her to use , barely getting into the car how could she make that 7 second exit? A lot of time was spent sorting the problems but by the end of the season only 3 out of 4 required sprints were complete.
Her race car was out of action she had to complete in her heavy 4WD 911 Turbo for most of them, the 500hp engine was a big advantage and to her surprise she finished 1st in class in her first ever sprint. She took this confidence into the winter season and and booked her last required sprint for the next season in March and got focused for the racing come May.
Before Christmas, Nathalie traded in her 4WD Turbo for a GT3 so that whilst the preparations were ongoing, she had a car to practise in. She fast realised she would need to change her driving style to ‘keep it on the black stuff’, learning her craft and falling in love with her new car so when her sprint date arrived in March she felt nervous but ready.After a year and a half Nathalie completed her sprints, sorted the car and nailed that 7 second car exit. Her race license was rubber stamped just over a week before her first race. After how long it has taken to achieve it she felt ready and knew it has been totally worth it all.
Q) What adaptions have you got in your car for you?
A) I have Radial controls in my race car, they are a type of hand control located to the right of the steering wheel. You push down for throttle and forward for brake.
Q) What are your targets for the season?
A) I’d like to finish all of my races and I don’t want to come last!
Q) Do you get to pick your race number? What is it be and why?
A) I did get to pick my race number, I chose 5. It was the lowest number available and single digits are always good. It doesn’t mean anything now but I’ll stick with it and hopefully it might mean something in the future.
Q) Tell me about your helmet design?
A) Its carbon, it’s light and it looks ace!
Q) In 3 words describe your racing style?
A) Immediate boundary pusher!
Q) In 3 words describe yourself ?
A) Driven, enthusiastic, passionate.
Q) How’s the training and preparation been going for this weekend?
A) Erm….training? My plan is: turn up and drive. My race car has only just been finished this week so training has been somewhat limited. But I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
Q) Have you got any other formulas you have your eyes on for the future?
A) With getting my race licence and car sorted I haven’t really had time to think about anything else. We’ll see how this season goes first.
Q) Have you found any of the wheelchair rugby skills that have swapped over into useful for racing?
A) They’re both adrenaline junkie sports that require huge amounts of discipline. Obviously the stakes are much higher in Motorsport, but what you do on court affects your team mates and what you do on the race circuit affects your competitors. You have to make the right judgement calls and this transfers over both sports.
Q) You are going to dinner with up to 4 people that have influenced you in your life,or heroes of yours who would you choose & why?
A) Noel Gallagher. I grew up with his music and I absolutely love the guy. I wouldn’t need anybody else there!
Q) KFC or McDonalds?
Q) Dirty Dancing or The Terminator films?
A) Dirty Dancing.
Q) Tom Boy or Girlie Girl??
A) Neither, I just like what I like and do what I do!
Q) How does it feel to be the only spinal injured female with an ARDS??
A) It’s an honour to be the first, I hope I’m not the last.