We are delighted to introduce to you Shanel Drewe, a Great British racing driver who with little experience and financial backing, managed to finish as vice-champion in her first Michelin Clio Championships. Shanel is a huge believer in community, and is also ambassador for a Community Driving School.
Hey Shanel! Great to meet you. Tell us a bit about yourself!
Hello, I am Shanel Drewe and I am a British Racing Driver. I have been racing since the age of 14 and face two different obstacles within my sport which are very unique. Number 1, I’m a female in a male dominated world, and number 2 I don’t come from a wealthy background like most competitors.
We know you were a massive car fan from a young age, at what age did you first get behind the wheel and realise this was the path for you?
My motorsport journey was started by one of my teachers at school. I never expected to be in the driving seat one day competing… let alone age 14! My teacher noticed my passion and offered for me to volunteer in his brother’s racing team. I did everything from washing wheels to mechanical fixtures, until one day, as a birthday surprise, I got behind the wheel of an MX5 for a bit of fun. It turned out I had quite a unique talent. I beat the lap time of an experienced track driver in a BMW M3! From here my instructor urged us to take it further and pointed us in the right direction to the Junior Saloon Car Championship where my career started.
We love the story of your favourite teacher inviting you to his brother’s race. How much of an impact did that day have on you?
It was a life changing opportunity and I am very much community driven because of this. With the help of others anything is possible. The message I want to carry throughout my career is to never stop believing the impossible is possible. So many people give up on their dreams because of life and adulating, yet grit, determination and resilience can get you anywhere!
Having a community of people around you to give you the opportunity to get into motor racing was clearly important for you. Is there anyone else you attribute to your success so far?
My father has been a big role model throughout my racing career. He may not have raced himself or been involved within the sport but he taught me to never give up on a dream when I could have so easily done so. I consider myself very driven and different to the majority of people my age. Unlike most of my friends my weekends were spent at the track and in meetings trying to get to the next race. It was often hard to fit in at school because of this.
Motor Racing is very much a male dominated sport, and you are making all the right moves. What are some of the toughest barriers you’ve had to break down to get where you are today?
Moving up the motorsport ladder, being the minority in a male dominated world is definitely not easy. Even though I have received such amazing sponsor support from males throughout my career, I’ve faced great discrimination along the way. My first day at work in my instructing job ended up being a very difficult day after having to report a customer to the police. Unfortunately he became rather inappropriate and sexist after finding out I was to be his instructor for the day. Although sexual assault may be at one of the more extreme circumstances on the matter, other forms of discrimination aren’t uncommon.
There have been a lot of cutbacks in sports funding over the past year. This is something you dealt with at the beginning of your career…could you tell us about how you used to generate race money as a teen?
After a long day at school I would come home and do my homework before sitting down and writing hundreds of emails and letters to people for sponsorship in order to compete. I can remember going to lots of car shows and walking up to company owners, introducing myself and what I did… the look of shock I got 90% of the time was priceless! We still face these challenges now in order to find support.
The last 12 months has been incredibly tough for everyone, particularly sportspeople. What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic?
The pandemic has taught me the importance of mental health and physical health. My 2020 plans were scuppered by the pandemic and it was a bit upsetting to face another year out of the racing seat with support at an all time low. Maintaining moral and working out without the gym and weights has been very different but I think we have to look at the positives of being able to learn to enjoy ones own company for a while.
What personal goals do you have for 2021, both within Motor Racing and outside?
For 2021 I will be competing in one of the UK’s biggest motorsport events as a support race to the BTCC in the Mini Challenge on ITV. My goal is to raise the support in order to complete the entire season and along the way inspire others to push themselves to the limit. I am an ambassador for the Community Driving School and hope to help the students with mindset and skillsets via my experience in racing to help their futures.
Outside of racing my goal is to try new sports. I love my physical fitness and want to try another sport by the end of the year, something adrenaline filled.
We have seen you are also a gifted motivational speaker. Tell us a bit about that, and other hobbies that you have?
I love sharing my story and struggles with others to show how those obstacles can be used as fuel to drive you even more. As one of my jobs I speak to groups about mindset and discrimination within sporting and general life.
As for hobbies I am usually very busy with racing and sponsorship hunting so that doesn’t leave much time for other things. However I do enjoy weight lifting. Nutrition and sport is something I find very interesting and I love how food can change your mood and energy.
And finally, we know about your pre-race chilli…but what is your dream 3 course meal?
I am plant based so it is difficult at times to get my dream foods when I am out and about. My dream 3 course meal would be a fresh loaf and olive oil starter, a carbonara main and for desert party rings. I absolutely love party rings! They are a guilty pleasure of mine, a dream sponsor for the future!