Racing Pride: LGBT network for motorsport launches in Pride Month
W Series' Sarah Moore and Michelin Le Mans Cup's Charlie Martin among driver ambassadors for new initiative raising awareness around inclusion
Last Updated: 05/06/19 11:40am
Racing Pride - a network for LGBT people and allies in motorsport - has been launched in the UK, with driver ambassadors and industry partners on board.
The initiative has the support of the equality charity Stonewall, the organisers of the Rainbow Laces campaign which is backed by Sky Sports as a member of Team Pride.
W Series' Sarah Moore and the Michelin Le Mans Cup racer Charlie Martin are among the drivers who will serve as ambassadors for the new network, while Team Parker Racing will help to raise awareness at this weekend's British GT event at Silverstone, following on from Martin's activation at last year's meeting.
Richard Morris, who races for Spire Sports Cars, is a co-founder of Racing Pride and will also fulfil a driver ambassador role. "This network is all about the power of the collective," says the 28-year-old. "It's not about any one person or series, but what motorsport can do when we all pull together."
Motorsport, with all its history and glamour, has long proved to be a challenging environment when it comes to conversations around inclusion. The launch of W Series has been one response to counter lingering perceptions of an industry that has traditionally presented many more opportunities to men than it has to women, with inherent stereotypes of masculinity and femininity having been a by-product of that culture.
LGBT visibility has understandably been minimal; the only high-profile male professional drivers to have come out publicly in recent years had already retired, such as former Le Mans Series driver Danny Watts and the multiple Le Mans winner Hurley Haywood. Both have talked openly about how they felt they had to hide their sexuality in order to compete, and the toll this took on their mental wellbeing.
For Morris, a lack of visible role models presented uncertainty and trepidation. "When I was starting out, I didn't have anyone to look up to, and I didn't know whether I'd be accepted as a driver who is gay.
"I've worried about being open with teams, about whether it would affect my relationships with mechanics, or my ability to get drives or sponsorship."
However, having built up his own confidence through his 20s and seeing awareness grow in other sports through Rainbow Laces and similar initiatives, Morris has been inspired to create change for the benefit of all those in motorsport roles. Working with his Racing Pride co-founder, journalist and commentator Christopher Sharp, the duo have devised a strategy that will look to highlight the successes of LGBT people across the industry, thus creating role models for the next generation and making conversations around inclusion easier, from paddocks to press boxes, and from pit-lanes to podiums.
"Motorsport can be better," says Morris. "Racing Pride is a positive initiative to demonstrate that there is support for inclusivity within motorsport and to bring the whole industry together to proactively bring about a change in attitudes.
"It's about putting in place the role models that motorsport has been lacking, and actively demonstrating that motorsport is open to everyone."
'Inclusivity is important'
Moore, who has secured top-five finishes in both of the opening W Series races this season, is equally committed to providing visibility. She won a clutch of titles and awards as a junior before claiming the Britcar Endurance Championship crown last year.
"I believe that LGBTQ+ inclusivity is as important within motorsport as in any other sport, or in day-to-day life," says the 25-year-old from Harrogate.
Telling her family was the hardest part of her own coming out journey. "Because I'd built myself a bit of a profile within motorsport through becoming the 2009 Ginetta junior champion, I was worried that my family thought coming out would affect my career and chances of sponsorship," she explains.
"It took them a while to get used to it, but now they couldn't be more supportive."
Last month, Moore posted to Twitter and Instagram to celebrate her four-year anniversary with her fiancé. "I've never been one to worry about what people think of my sexuality. I'm very proud to be a lesbian and I can't wait to get married.
"I do still receive comments, mainly from men saying that it's a shame I'm gay, saying why would you want to be with a woman... my usual answer to that one is 'probably for the same reason you do'! But I'm not one to let it get to me. I'm more the one to laugh about it."
However, she knows that for many people who are LGBT, it can be difficult to build self-confidence. "I have had other people in and outside of motorsport approach me worrying about coming out and how it could affect their careers, so it's nice that people see me as an approachable person to talk to about it."
Martin has also been blazing a trail for women drivers in recent months, competing in the Michelin Le Mans Cup series this season as she pursues her dream of becoming the first transgender driver to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
"Visibility is one of the most effective ways to inspire positive change, so I think Racing Pride is a really important step forwards, and I'm excited to be a part of it," she said.
Nick Reeve is a 17-year-old racing driver who has recently competed in the UK Clio Cup Championship. He explains to Sky Sports why he's proud to be a part of Racing Pride...
My central message is always to be yourself - don't let anyone else change who you are. Just because you're not like everyone else should never stop you from being happy and enjoying what you love doing.
Being young and gay is definitely easier than it used to be. However, when I was in school it was still hard to come out - there were some people who held negative points of view, and I'd get worried that me being out would make them more vocal.
You can see this throughout motorsport too, and it means that a lot of people who are LGBT simply don't feel comfortable coming out. I think the biggest issue when it comes to those opinions is the suggestion that if you're gay, you're not as 'manly'. However, this is just an old stereotype, something that's been said forever by lots of different people. Another issue is that few people in motorsport appear to be that comfortable even talking about people who are part of the LGBT community.
When I was racing in the Fiesta Junior Championship, I knew that I was gay. I'd already told my family and friends but I was advised that I shouldn't say anything because it might harm my career. This meant I hid it a lot, and tried to 'act straight' whenever I was at a race track. I was always worrying about people finding out - it hindered my performance as I couldn't focus on just racing. As soon as I did come out, I noticed no one actually had an issue with it - although no one really knew what to say or how to act. People would go quiet when it got brought up as they were uncertain. This made it difficult for me because as a driver, you rely a lot on your team to support you and help you progress.
There were some awkward moments along the way. Once I was at Silverstone in a BTCC garage when a car pulled in and in the front seat was a grid girl. My team boss and my mechanic both said "oooh, that looks nice!" I replied, "yeah, the colours look really good" before realising they were actually talking about the girl, not the car! It's funny looking back on it now, but at the time I cringed.
There have been other occasions with mechanics where they haven't known I'm gay and if I just start talking about my boyfriend, they look at me and go to correct me with 'you mean girlfriend?' before realising it wasn't me that's got it wrong...
For both LGBT people and allies, you can be supportive of Racing Pride just through showing that it's OK to be who you want to be. If we all stand together, we can all follow our dreams. In return, I want to be someone who goes through their career being out, and who is happy to be a role model for future generations of drivers.
For more on Nick's career and ambitions in motorsport, visit his website at nickreeveracing.com
Allies and champions
The role to be played by allies - people who are not LGBT+ themselves, but who support those in the community to be their authentic selves - is another important part of the Racing Pride strategy. Former Formula One world champion Damon Hill is among those lending his voice in support of the network.
"This is a great step towards making motorsport a more inclusive environment," says Hill, who spent five years as president of the British Racing Drivers' Club and is now a Sky F1 pundit. "Motorsport has only ever asked that people give their best, whether they're drivers, engineers, mechanics or organisers. If people from the LGBT+ community in motorsport feel it's a difficult place for them to do that, it's incumbent upon all of us to change those conditions.
"That's why I'm supporting Racing Pride and I look forward to the day that they no longer have to campaign for acceptance."
Positive media coverage around Watts' coming out announcement in 2017 was a source of inspiration to network co-founder Sharp, a member of the Autosport Academy of young writers. The Autosport website and magazine were among the outlets chosen by Watts as he shared a personal story of struggle as a closeted gay driver in a heteronormative world.
"The idea for Racing Pride really started when Danny came out," says Sharp. "At its heart, the network has been set up to help people in the motorsport profession who don't feel able to be themselves, who feel they have to hide their true selves when they really shouldn't.
"Some people may say there's no problem with homophobia in motorsport, that it's a non-issue - but I think that's because they haven't been made aware of it.
"We're here to raise that awareness and also provide a way to help fix the issue."
Stonewall's director of sport, Kirsty Clarke, says the network's launch is another important milestone in motorsport's journey towards being fully inclusive, echoing the Rainbow Laces campaign slogan to 'make sport everyone's game'.
"It's fantastic to see Racing Pride launched to actively tackle this issue in motorsport. Having role models like Richard, Christopher and Charlie as part of this network can inspire young LGBT people by letting them know they are not alone and that they have a place in sport."