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Inspirational Woman: Annabel Meade | Race Driver

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I was one of those children who couldn’t sit still! I was very competitive, often challenging the boys next door to obstacle races in my parents back garden, a member of most of the school sports teams and loved to ride my bike for hours. I liked to do problem-solving books for fun, creative in art class and led the school’s Young Enterprise company which made a good profit. Aged 12 my brother and I stumbled across a BMX track and quarter pipes a few miles from home and found that I was naturally drawn to the race track. I pestered my parents for a helmet and built my own bike, researching the best tyres, brakes, callipers, wheels etc for racing. I used to ride the track, experimenting with the fastest technique to ride the jumps, whilst imagining myself racing.

Unfortunately my family expected me to fulfil traditional female roles. I knew would have to find my own way and made a promise to myself that I would make racing happen, knowing that my plans would have to wait until I finished school. Not an easy thing to do when your favourite TV programmes include F1, British Touring Cars, rally and other sports like skiing which all involved racing and speed!

I seemed to have a love of driving from an early age as I used to insist on changing gears for my Dad. This was further fuelled when I started to drive and after passing my test, I immediately found a real pleasure from driving my car as I enjoyed the thrill of acceleration and of cornering traction.

Unfortunately I was involved in a road traffic accident aged 18 however managed my recovery whilst studying HND Business and Finance and then BA(hons) Interior Architecture. A friend and I booked on a few of the race school days at some of the country’s race circuits and obviously made an impression as one of the instructors asked if I had ever thought about racing. This gave me great confidence that I was on the right path.

2 years after graduating I gained my first race license and within 6 months had a budget to enter my first season! This led to further one-off race meetings, some driver training, go-karting and when finances allowed, I entered a select number of races in the high-profile Elf Renault Clio Cup in front of tens of thousands of fans, live TV and pre/post race interviews!

My biggest achievement was probably gaining my race licence and finally entering my first race

What have been your biggest achievements as an athlete?

My biggest achievement was probably gaining my race licence and finally entering my first race, as I had only been pain free following the road traffic accident for 18 months. I had been in pain all through 6 years at University as sitting in lectures and then at a drawing board was the worst thing I could do for the damaged discs in my lower spine (although I’m fine now). So having been through a difficult time, finally knowing it was all worth-while and doing so well in my first season of racing with two class wins, 2nd in the Championship and winning an award at the end of season ceremony too was an immensely proud feeling.

Can you pin point any key milestones or significant memories in your sporting career?

One of the most special memories was at the end of my first season racing in Scotland and attending the annual award ceremony. My team boss mentioned that I had been nominated for Best Female Racer in Scotland but didn’t know if I had won. Then my name was read out as winner of the award and as I went up to collect the award, was given a standing ovation too!

A key milestone would have to be during two days of training I had with a renowned driver coach. I had less than a year’s worth of racing experience and although I had bucket loads of self-belief didn’t really know if I was good enough to compete at the level I was aiming for. Well on the same track and using the same car I ended the day 1.5 seconds behind the time set by a current F1 driver. All I could think was that I had some work to do and how could I improve.

Sometimes significant milestones can be for less obvious reasons and more down to the circumstances involved. As a race driver the thing you want to see is your name at the top of the list, for example, the fastest lap time list and the list of drivers finishing positions. So one of the best weekends I have had racing was at Croft circuit, North Yorkshire. During Friday practise, I set the fastest sector time on a track I had never driven before, beating all the guys who were vastly more experienced than me. That same weekend the clutch broke on my car as I lined up on the start grid, something I had not experienced before. Instead of retiring from the race I carried on, wrestling with an unpredictable car at high speed and then to my surprise setting my fastest lap time of the weekend!

Do you consider yourself to be a Role Model? Have there been key figures that have influenced and/or inspired you?

The most influential figure in motorsport for me is Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna. Not only for his incredible brilliance on track but also the way he inspired the people of Brazil. Closer to home my Grandparents and Uncle were all inspirational people in my life and gave me great confidence as I know they were very proud of what I had achieved.
As for me being a role model, I think that’s for others to judge. I hope I can inspire others to follow their heart with the best intentions knowing what’s right for them regardless of the barriers they may face.

My favourite quote is: The best way to predict the future is to create it.

What are you doing now? Are you still competing in sport?

Yes I am still competing. In motorsport the vast majority of drivers have to pay to race. The recession obviously hit people hard and finances were difficult to come by so I’ve had to take some time away from racing. This is only temporary and as soon as funds allow I will be out on track, working hard to secure podiums, race wins and championships.

My favourite quote is: The best way to predict the future is to create it.

If you could go back in time would you do anything differently?

No. I truly believe I have done my absolute best with the knowledge I had and circumstances I found myself in. I really appreciate the opportunities I have and want give my best in everything I do as I don’t want to have any regrets. Life is too short for that!

You haven’t had a straight-forward start to your motorsport career and have overcome adversity that set you back. What guidance can you give our members about overcoming their own challenges and barriers to career success?

I have read that sometimes the journey to your goals and true potential might not resemble a straight road – sometimes more like one with many twists and turns! This has certainly been the case with me! Having to provide for myself financially and come up with a race budget led me to develop careers outside of motorsport.

Adversity really focuses the mind on what’s important, rather than what’s easy. There’s a choice to be made, give up or carry on regardless. The way I have overcome adversity is simply by refusing to let anything stop me!

Skills I have mastered in my freelance interior architecture career like fantastic spatial awareness, great at problem-solving, an understanding of technical details through the architectural and fabrication drawings I have produced, together with the leadership skills developed whilst project managing are all transferable skills. An attention to detail and various thought processes honed over the years will help me as a race driver.

I have read that sometimes the journey to your goals and true potential might not resemble a straight road – sometimes more like one with many twists and turns!

The decision to learn to trade the financial markets came about after I identified a slowing in the design/architecture industry a couple of years before the recession and realised I didn’t have a Plan B. Trading has given me the ability to manage risk, identify and read charts and execute positions whilst remaining emotionally detached which are all great skills to possess. I have also been surprised to find there seems to be a correlation between motorsport and financial trading as I have met a few traders who race and some racers who trade!

So the skills you acquire from seemingly unrelated areas can be significant when you look back and see what you have learnt and experienced, possibly giving you unique talents to aid your future success. Following your gut feeling about which path to follow is as important as remaining laser focussed on the end goal, your ultimate career success. Being pro-active, having passion, perseverance and patience, whilst remaining positive will get you where you want to go… and never never never give up!

Website – www.annabelmeade.com
Twitter – @annabelmeade

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