Well, This Is How It Happened…
…I had heard of Georgia as she is a near local. What I didnt connect, was that she is the daughter of an old friend and colleague from my BAe days, Vicky and husband Anthony. Georgia was bringing her car to Lytham for the Club Day parade so I thought would be great to do an interview.
Georgia had NO idea what rallying even was before she was 15! Her rallying career began with a 10 minute teen driving lesson around a car park at Knockhill Motor Show… and she was “bitten by the bug” straight away. Then began the Junior Championship when she was 16 years old with dad as her only mechanic and having only had 4 hours of driving experience.
Me: So, it all snowballed from there?
GS: Yes! If someone had told me that I was going to be Novice Forest Rally Champion 2013 and a development driver for Abarth in 2014 I would never have believed them. It’s crazy!
Me: It seems the skill is both mental and physical, how do you stay in peak condition?
GS: It is a particularly strenuous sport. I train physically twice a day and eat healthily pretty much all of the time. Mentally, I prep in many ways.
One is with my sports psychologist Third Phase Coaching who I work closely with to ensure my mind is purely focused on driving the rally car and keeping my confidence boosted. It’s easy to underestimate the difficulty of concentrating for such long periods of time. Sometimes up to 25 minute long stages while driving on the very edge. It’s also very important to keep hydrated and energised in the rally car!
Me: What does a typical (training) day consist of?
GS: I check the car’s tyre pressures while warming the engine up as it can damage the engine driving it while cold. Then a few slower-paced drives through the forest to bed in the brakes and heat up the tyres. Then it’s the fun part! Driving flat out all day with short checks in between!
Me: How did you go about getting sponsorship?
GS: I am still looking for sponsorship for the 2016 season as I need £100,000 to compete in the Junior European Rally Championship which is the first professional level of rallying on a huge public platform – televised on Eurosport TV with up to 220 million viewers!
I describe my sponsorship packages as a unique marketing ploy for businesses who would like publicity, particularly through social media as I have a huge social following of thousands of fans and businesses. This is an amazing opportunity for a business to network too as I hold my own corporate days including a passenger ride in my rally car through the forests. I enjoy scaring people!
Me: Are there many female rally drivers?
GS: Not many at all. I think that there are 2 or 3 of us currently competing in the UK and a few more in Europe. My ultimate goal is to be the first ever female World Rally Champion. It needs to happen! I plan to mentor other young drivers in the sport, including girls.
Me: Have you a sport (or any other) role model/hero?
GS: I don’t have any idols really. I admire hard work, determination and dedication. I try to learn new things from everyone I meet.
Me: On the basis that it is a male dominated sport, do you feel you have to be “one of the boys”?
GS: Sometimes I do, but I always have! Even when I was 3 years old, I wanted to ride any bike and generally do anything thrill-seeking. But you certainly don’t have to be one of the boys. I love clothes, bags, shoes and make-up like a lot of girls do and I don’t try to hide it. I think that it’s important just to do what you want to do, defying stereotypes is much more fun!
Me: What would you recommend to be the first step of getting involved in the sport?
GS: Join your local motor club. You don’t have to be a driver or a co-driver, many people marshal, spectate and organise rallies!. If you are interested in rallying, single venue rallies are a great place to start. They’re relatively low cost and some of them are lots of fun. Especially if it rains!
Me: What are your next 12 month goals?
GS: I need to secure the sponsorship money to compete in the Junior European Rally Championship 2016 and win some podiums. I also want to gain lots of publicity outside of motorsport too. I will be taking part in LOTS of charity events as well as regional and national shows, starting with the national RSOC Ford Show at Donington Park on the 19th July 2015. I will be driving my car at silly speeds around the circuit!
Me: Do you have a lucky mascot/ritual?
GS: I don’t really have a lucky ritual, just that when I’m feeling really nervous in the car I’ll stretch my arms and legs as far as I can (there isn’t much room in the car!)
Me: What does your brother think of your career, jealous or what?
GS: My brother is not interested in rallying at all, he is certainly the academic one. I’m the nutty child!
So thanks Georgia, it has been really interesting! Watch very closely this Lancashire lass and visit Georgia Shiels website.
Georgia’s logo was designed by Urban Attic.
She would also like to give a mention to Dave Paton a sports psychologist at Third Phase Coaching.