Catie Munnings, one half of the Andretti United Extreme E team, discusses the role of women in motorsport and much more.
In the very first season of Extreme E, Catie, along with her teammate Timmy Hansen, has navigated some of the most challenging locations on the planet, all whilst behind the wheel of a fully electric SUV.
That is Extreme E in a nutshell, but the series has also been making waves off the track, too. Along with the series’ comprehensive sustainability goals, Extreme E has split its driver lineup equally between men and women, putting people like Catie right at the heart of one of the fastest growing motorsports in the world.
“I think it’s really positive,” Munnings told the Everything EV Podcast. “I’m always for one for comparing yourself to the fastest driver whether that be a boy or a girl, that’s the way that I grew up in in rally.
“Extreme E creates seats for girls which is fantastic because the fact that we’re on BBC and ITV and Sky Sports quite frequently, it’s mainstream and I think that’s the most important thing; they can be sat at home on a Sunday afternoon, turn the TV on and then see a female driver against the guys. I’ve been to schools and stuff before with the Women in Motorsport commission and we would ask the girls ‘who wants to be a Formula One driver’ and the amount of girls that would say ‘I didn’t know you could be because I thought that was just a man’s sport’ highlighted how much talent we were losing out on.”
But it is not just a tick-box exercise from Extreme E to have women at centre stage, instead it is about showcasing the talent of female drivers and giving them the platform to inspire the next generation, as Munnings pointed out.
“It’s also about making sure that you have females that are serious about it and that they are there for the right reasons. That was really important for me. We’ve seen teams enter girls for PR and media reasons and they often don’t get the same opportunities as the guys – They’ll be out the front doing the media interviews and the guys will be developing the cars out the back and that stuff really does have an impact. Experience is kilometres in this game and it’s expensive to test; we can’t just pick up a tennis racket and practise, so for me that equality is really important.
“With Extreme E, it is in everyone’s interest for the girls to be as fast as the guys and get as fast as they can because ultimately the team result will not be there if they’re not performing. Having spoken to the other girls, it’s opened up a lot of other doors and other forms of motorsport for them just from a visibility point of view.”
Looking back over their first season, Catie and Andretti United have had a steady first campaign. There have been highs, such as the teams first win in Greenland, but Catie also admits there have been lows, most notably in Senegal.
“Senegal for us was an event that was tough,” she said. “We weren’t comfortable on the bumps and it was bumpy everywhere, so it was a real challenge for us because we had to limit our speed and we weren’t in a positive place where we felt we could push without damaging the car.
“Saudi Arabia was new to both Timmy and I. We managed to get two Polaris buggies to driving in the sand dunes trying to learn every day, so that we had a little bit of training but when you consider we were up against people that have won Dakar and people from America that race in the sand dunes all the time, it was it was a new surface for us. I think we adapted really well to that and we had a decent result on the podium.
“From my side, Greenland was the most familiar surface as I’m used to mainly tarmac and gravel, but no so much the sand so we felt really at home in Greenland. We’ll have fond memories of that looking back.”
After another disappointing weekend in Sardinia, Catie’s attention has quickly shifted to the season finale, her home race in UK, which will take place on the 18th – 19th December in Bovingdon, Dorset.
It may be a race on home soil, but the familiarity of the surface and conditions has Catie confidence of a strong finish to the season.
She said: “I think Dorset will be a surface I’m quite familiar on. I’ve grown up in the countryside with muddy fields around me. We’re obviously racing on the mud in Dorset so hopefully it will be quite similar to my childhood and I’ll be able to have some skills. I’m sure it’s going to be slippery, especially with our power and our car and our weight. And probably the rain; I don’t know what the forecast is but you’re pretty much guaranteed on one of the three days we’re going to be driving it’s not going to be clear blue skies.”