2020 was a memorable year for Ireland’s top female racing driver ,Nicole Drought.
Finishing 2nd in her debut GT Championship, signing a three-year deal with John Campion’s CJJ Motorsports and driving a Jordan 193 Formula 1 car at Palm beach to cite a few achievements, it’s safe to say 2020 was action packed. That is without mentioning what could be argued as the highlight, her triumph at the Britcar Endurance Campaign in a Porsche 718 GT4 just before Christmas.
“We went into the season knowing that it was going to be tough and that we had a challenge ahead of us, but I just put the head down and even though there were some really tough days of really hard learning to do, we got a couple of wins and couple of podiums and so that was absolutely massive and gave me great confidence then coming into 2021,” the Roscrea native said.
As a successful woman in heavily male dominated sport, Drought is passionate about elevating the opportunities for women in motorsport.
As it is, relative to the mainstream sports, motorsport receives a limited amount of exposure from the media. To add to that, with male participation clearly outnumbering females, the 25-year-old describes the importance of “showing the younger girls coming through that you know it’s not just a boys sport and girls can compete too”.
“It’s very important because I suppose motorsport is a minority sport and as well as that women are the minority within the minority” she says.
Growing up around cars, the Tipperary woman spent many weekends attending rallies where her dad was competing in his Honda Civic, and she was acting as “chief inspector when he came in from each stage just to make sure there was no damage!”
With little doubt as to where her love for motorsport came from, Drought took an alternative entry route and began competing in 2015. As she became infatuated with the excitement that cars brought, she adopted a determined mindset that she “didn’t care [she] just wanted to go out and drive”.
“There was a lot to learn in short space of time and I’m still learning loads so I was kind of thrown in the deep end without much experience but if I had done the karting route, I probably would have been a lot better for it” she says.
Working with one of her childhood heroes Rosemary Smith in an ad campaign for International Women’s day last year, Drought reflected on the experience and recounted that she was in “total awe” of the aura of the “elegant and fierce” ex rally driver.
“She’s an absolutely amazing woman and you can just see that fight within her. She would have needed that fight back when she was rallying because I’m sure she had to put up with a lot of crap within the sport” she says.
Idolising Smith as well as Sebastien Loeb as a child, Drought steps into a role-model position herself nowadays, giving inspiration to younger girls coming down the tracks.
One such onlooker is Hollie Dunnion, a young karter from county Meath whom admires Drought and her accomplishments.
“I suppose she’s looking at her future and as her dad says she’s looking and what I’m doing and she thinks ‘I want to do that and I want to compete in those Championships’. That’s really something special” Drought says.
The Tipperary woman has many milestones that would allow for such reflection, driving F1 cars on two occasions (2019 and 2020) and sending her heart palpitating at just the thought of the thrilling experience.
“My heart is actually beating now thinking about it!” she says.
“The roar of it was just so intimidating and you know everyone kept telling me it’s a really hard car to actually take off because it wants to cut out and to give it loads of throttle like this but don’t burn the clutch at the same time! So luckily, I took off without stalling in front of everyone in Mondello Park and I did my laps, and it was just incredible. Then my final warm down lap all the marshals were out clapping and everyone on the pit wall was out clapping so it was a very special day that I won’t forget”.
With her plan for 2021 to stick to racing the Porsche 718 GT4, Drought is steadfast in her commitment to the sport and also encouraging more girls into the hot seat.
“I don’t know if I’ll be like Rosemary Smith, but if I can get more girls in and inspire girls like Hollie Dunnion to keep going in their career then that is absolutely brilliant” she says.
Watch the full interview below!