W Series' Sarah Moore sees inclusion awareness growing in motorsport and F1
As a racing driver, Sarah Moore has big ambitions and wants other women to achieve theirs too. On Lesbian Visibility Day, she describes how motorsport is beginning to accelerate on equality
Last Updated: 26/04/20 1:15pm
Sarah Moore has the run of all the F1 Grand Prix circuits at the moment - but she hopes it will not be too long before she can get back on a racetrack for real.
For Moore and her fellow W Series drivers, motorsport mostly means simulations and stretching during the shutdown. "I've actually been quite enjoying it. I've never had so much time on my sim before," she tells Sky Sports. Alice Powell is one of her main championship rivals but online, it's much less intense. "We've got our own 'room' to mess around in. It's been a bit of a laugh."
However, she knows she has to take her physical fitness seriously. "It's pretty difficult. I'm focusing on flexibility - being sat around at home isn't good for drivers. I do a few cardio and weight sessions a week but really it's about preventing your muscles tightening. We just don't know when we're going to get the call to go back racing again."
Moore is eager to build on her own eighth-place finish in the inaugural season and help to maintain W Series' momentum. As a project to raise the profile of women in motorsport, she feels it's got off to a fast start and with 2019 title winner Jamie Chadwick having also landed a role as development driver with Williams in the last year, the career prospects for the very best on the grid look promising.
"I'd like to think there will be a woman driver on the F1 grid in five to six years' time," says Moore. "We've got Jamie now in that F1 paddock, and Tatiana Calderon [the Alfa Romeo test driver]. The W Series is helping to open a lot of people's eyes to the talent that is out there - I remember going to Austria for the initial selection process and it was surprising even for us to see so many female drivers in one room. In terms of F1, we're getting there."
The younger generation of fans would be forgiven for thinking there has never been a female F1 driver to officially enter a Grand Prix. That's not the case, but you have to go back almost 30 years to find the last one. Italy's Giovanna Amati drove for the Brabham team in 1992 but failed to qualify for the three GPs she entered. Incidentally, her replacement, Damon Hill, was then borrowed from Williams for his F1 GP debut and twice achieved what Amati could not. Brabham collapsed midway through the season, Williams gave Hill a seat for 1993, and within four years he was world champion.
Moore has grown rather fond of the odd F1 history lesson and regularly gets them in person and via Twitter from Matt Bishop, the W Series comms director. "He puts out these daily updates, all these things I'd never have known. There is a bit of an age gap between us, to be fair," she laughs.
#OnThisDay in ’92, at Interlagos, Nigel Mansell & Riccardo Patrese delivered an effortless Williams 1-2. Pic: Giovanna Amati DNQ’d her sluggish Brabham BT60B, the most recent time a woman has attempted to enter a GP, 28 long years ago. #WSeries aims to change that. #RethinkRacing pic.twitter.com/Y66OyA7A3e— Matt Bishop (@TheBishF1) April 5, 2020
It was also Bishop who introduced her last year to a new initiative called Racing Pride, which is working across the motorsport industry to create a network of LGBT+ people and allies and thereby raise awareness around inclusion. Moore signed up to be a Driver Ambassador alongside co-founder Richard Morris and endurance racing's Charlie Martin - they have since been joined by W Series newcomer Abbie Eaton as well.
"It's come on leaps and bounds and it's been great to see," says Moore. "I've got the rainbow on my new race helmet so I'm flying the flag, so to speak. Having Matt involved too means W Series has really embraced it."
'Visibility makes others more comfortable'
Moore was recently named in the Visible Lesbian 100, a list compiled by suggestions from readers of DIVA Magazine to mark Lesbian Visibility Week. She has been with her fiancée Carla for five years and they are due to be married in Edinburgh in November. "I'm just hoping everything will be back to normal by then!" she laughs. Moore herself is Yorkshire born and bred from a motorsport-mad family, while Carla hails from Wigan. There are sentimental reasons for choosing Scotland for their wedding venue; Moore was very close to her late grandfather, a Glaswegian, and he will be in her thoughts on the big day.
Representing the LGBT+ community as a racing driver is important, she feels. "Having people who are visible can just help others feel that little bit more comfortable, especially if they're at that stage of wanting to come out. And for those who aren't LGBT+ themselves, I hope they'll be more comfortable to just talk about it."
Moore's own self-confidence developed while growing up with three brothers. "There was a lot of play fighting and messing around. That's made me the way I am - I've never taken too much to heart in terms of comments. But I know many people do find it tough."
Having said that, she describes her own coming out story as rather awkward. She had a boyfriend for five years but that relationship ended in her late teens. By that time, she had already been named Rising Star by the British Racing Drivers' Club after winning the Ginetta Junior Championship as a 15-year-old, and was regularly competing at famous circuits such as Spa, Snetterton and Donington. She continued to race in karting too, and it was at one of those events when her youngest brother caught sight of Moore with her then best friend, sharing a kiss.
"My brother and I laugh about it now but at the time, it wasn't exactly ideal," she says. "He saw my friend and I together and decided to keep this news to himself for a while. I was 19 then and he was 13. I was out at work one night when our whole family was round at our house and he decided then was a good time to open his mouth and tell everyone. I'd just come out of this long relationship with a guy so I can imagine for my parents that it was pretty tough."
Lesbian Visibility Week
Learn more about the awareness week celebrating women in the LGBT+ community, which runs until April 26
For a time, the word 'lesbian' felt like an unwanted label. "A lot of people go through a phase of calling themselves bisexual, which is what I did for quite a while when I first came out. But when I realised I was never going to get back with a guy again, it was easier to just be myself.
"It was one of those things - I'm very easy going so I just tried to go with the flow. I think it probably took my parents around six months to get their heads around it all but after that, things kind of went back to some kind of normality. Ever since, they couldn't have been any more supportive so I can't ask for much more, really."
'F1 involvement would be a game-changer'
Moore accepts that being a woman in a male-dominated sport has helped her to develop a thick skin. "I was always a tomboy growing up but as for being a lesbian in motorsport, it doesn't really come into it at all. I'm a big believer in that you love who you love and you've just got to go with it. When it does come up in conversation, nothing ever really gets taken seriously."
She recounts the story of a 24-hour race she once drove in as part of an all-female team. "They were using grid girls back then but for me, they'd gone to the effort to find a 'grid guy' which put a smile on my face. He must have felt a bit weird but I guess he got paid, so he probably wasn't too fussed!"
Why does coming out in sport seem to be a more serious business for gay and bi men? "You look at men's football and rugby and in the past, it's been about who's big and 'manly'. It's not as bad these days but God knows how long it will take for things to change so that everyone feels accepted.
"If you are LGBT+, it's about getting the right people around you. There will always be somebody who's going to be against you, but surrounding yourself with a community who supports you will help. In motorsport, that's what we're doing with Racing Pride and it's been fantastic."
The visibility of women in F1 is increasing with more being appointed to key roles, while the W Series has been placed on the support bill for the United States and Mexico GPs this autumn. That's certainly assisting the drive for equality, although Moore accepts it's more complicated to talk about LGBT+ inclusion in many global territories. However, Racing Pride would still like to have those conversations. "It would be a big game-changer. There are a lot of motorsport fans who are LGBT+ so I think if F1, Le Mans or those top-level series could get involved more, it would do the world of good."
Le Mans is where Moore's own ambitions lie. Her older brother Nigel has competed in both the LMP1 and LMP2 classes of the famous 24 Hours race. "Nigel has achieved everything that I want to, so that's where I dream of being at." For now, she must continue to focus on those sim circuits. When it comes to her own ambitions, the sporting shutdown is only a bump in the road, after all.
Sky Sports is a member of TeamPride which supports Stonewall's Rainbow Laces campaign. If you'd like to inspire others in sport by sharing your own story of being LGBT+ or an ally, please contact us here.