She’s been a rally driver, she drives team transporters, she’s part of a team pitcrew and does the refueling in longer races. She’s even a grid girl. She’s been involved in some way in nearly every aspect of Motorsport. We caught up with her at a recent British GT round for a quick chat
Hi Rachel, so what was the thing that first got you first interested in Motorsport?
Since I was a young girl I have always loved anything with an engine, I was always going to circuits & track days.
Can you tell us about the rallying, how did you end up competing? Although we’ve heard you’ve currently stopped?
In 2011 my mum, step-dad & myself decided to take a leap into the world of rallying. From always wanting to have a go at some racing and knowing that going round and round in circles was not really my thing we decided thundering through the forests on gravels roads would be the route I was to go :o)!! We built the famous Peugeot 106 or as everyone in the rally world knows him ‘Percy Patterson’. I competed in the BTRDA Forest Rally Championship for a few years where I came 2nd overall, winner of the ladies title and picking up several other bits of glassware on the way. I sold Percy earlier this year due to my career being a ‘Motorsport Truckie’ taking off and the fact I am never at home anymore.
Do you think you’ll be back?
I would love to be able to get back behind the wheel soon although it all depends on where my work takes me.
So how did you end up becoming a ‘Truckie’?
Again it would be from a young age that this idea of my driving a truck could be a possibility in years to come. I left school when I was 15 and spent a few years in the Armed Forces. Shortly after leaving the forces I then decided going about gaining my HGV license.
In British GT this year you’re a truckie, a pit crew member and a grid girl! Which job came first?
It all actually started out with me being a Grid Girl last year, I also chipped in with the tyres and generally enjoyed getting stuck in with the team as I was always very hands on with my rally car. If there were jobs that needed doing I was never afraid for to get stuck in myself.
So British GT weekends must be very busy with you doing all the different jobs in one day?
The busiest day for me is the Saturday before race day, with free practice & qualifying I need to make sure all my tyres are sorted and in order ready for each session. I then make sure they are all cleaned, scraped and ready for the race.
Do you prefer one of the jobs over another?
Hmmm that’s a tricky one, but in all honesty I love all my jobs. Simpson Motorsport are an incredible team & I am so very lucky to be working with these guys. They always let me get stuck in & are never afraid when I pick up a spanner. I still love doing my Grid Girl duties and gives me a reason be a bit more girly & have a catch up with the other girls before we head out on the grid.
You were also briefly a truckie in the BTCC this season, are you hoping to return to that championship?
I was very lucky to have worked a very brief season with championship winning team ‘Dynamics’ but unfortunately due to circumstances the third car was removed for the remainder of the season. I have a big soft spot for the whole team as they had been great with me & taught me many new things to help in my truckie career. I am still in touch with the team and I guess we shall see what happens in 2017. I decided that for the remainder of this year I am already committed to too many championships which leaves me with very little room for BTCC.
Something good came out of that ending though didn’t it? We heard you got a job in a much bigger championship?
Yes! A very big mahoosive thank you would have to go to the lovely Matt Neal on this one. Shortly after the ending with Dynamics I was extremely luckily to be getting a call asking if I would like to do some work with Haas F1 Team!! I immediately jumped at the chance as opportunities like this do not come around every day. I have done some work with them at the Barcelona Grand Prix and then I have a few more rounds lined up with them. I Cannot Wait! wahoooooo!. [Rachel smiles broadly!]
Going back to your grid girl work, some people think there should be grid girls as they think they stop women wanting to get involved in motorsport. It’d be hard to find someone more involved than you, so what do you think of that view?
I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion but I don’t think people will ever fully see that we are there because we actually enjoy Motorsport and more so than half will have done some sort of racing whether it be in cars or on bikes etc. I love and always will enjoy my grid girl duties as it’s my one excuse to get a bit glammed up and chuck a pair of heels on! [Rachel laughs]
How would you feel if they did stop using grid girls in motorsport, given that you’d still be involved in your other jobs?
I would find it a bit sad as I do believe us ‘Grid Girls’ do bring some fun & enjoyment to the motorsport world and also within the team, the marshals would also be at a loss as who would they have to boss about at the start of a race & make sure we get in order! [Rachel laughs again].
So although you went into rallying as your chosen motorsport, would you like to try circuit driving one day?
Absolutely…. If there are any nice people out there who’d like to lend me a car one day it would be much appreciated! Although I think the closest I will get to driving on a circuit is when we sneakily drove our trucks round the circuit at the first round of BTCC at Brands Hatch!
What your advice be to other women who would like to get involved with motorsport?
Go for it, if you want something bad enough anything is possible. I’m not one for this ‘woman in motorsport’ stuff as I don’t look at my work in that way. If I’m just as capable as a man then what is there to be questioned? Sure there are times where I need help but all I need to do is ask and the boys will be there lending there muscles, I have the one-up on them as have yet to see a mechanic stick on a pair of stilettos and strut their stuff on the grid!
What are you hoping to do in future in motorsport?
Gosh – not even I have thought that far at the moment. I am enjoying my work and taking every day as a new learning curve as there is always something to be learnt. I am hoping to be a super truckie like so many of my fellow truckies so we will just have to wait and see what’s next in the life of Rachael Patterson…
Wow, it sounds like we’ll have to do another interview with you in future as it sounds like you have an exciting future in the sport! Thanks for chatting to us and good luck with all your motorsport work.