Motorsport has been quite unique for a long time in that competitors can take part at the same level regardless of gender and even with physical limitations. This is one of the great strengths of motorsport but sometimes it can be seen as a macho sport, fast cars have always been stereotypically regarded as the domain of “boy racers”. We can show that this certainly is not the case with female support and participation in many different roles within Scottish motor racing. We hope these stories can help encourage others to get involved.

First of all we chatted with Kate Haston who has been involved in Scottish motorsport for many years and has held the role of SMRC Race Controller for 20 years, she is also a safeguarding officer for the club.

GA: Hi Kate, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. One of the key messages for the Celebrating Inclusion theme is “providing opportunities for all to participate and removing barriers”. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey into motor sport and how you got started?

KH: I can’t remember a time when motorsport wasn’t a significant part of my life but it was through my father, Robin Traill, that I became part of the furniture at Ingliston. I sold programmes from the mid 1960s – child labour – and in the next few years carried out a variety of roles: results runner, soup maker, marshal sign on, competitor sign on and general dogsbody. Under the guidance of Bernard Buss I became Secretary of the Meeting in charge of competitor reception and completing the paperwork required by the governing body. This was a role I carried over to Knockhill.

GA: How did you end up in Race Control?

KH: Following the untimely death of Sue Fenwick, who taught me the skills required for the role, I took over after her passing. Like my dad before me, I was a director of SMRC for a handful of years although, unlike him, was never Club chair. It is very much a family passion and my daughter Jen has also caught the motorsport bug, much to my delight.

GA: One of the themes is “removing barriers” to encourage women to get involved. Having female role models is very important. Did your involvement serve as an inspiration for Jen getting involved?

KH: There will always be barriers to participation in motorsport regardless of gender. It takes persistence, dedication, determination, teamwork, and often a sense of humour at whichever level your involvement. There are financial barriers too, as with most sports. Fortunately the barriers of sexism seem to be becoming less although motorsport is still seen as largely male dominated. Jen wasn’t so much inspired by my involvement but rather had a choice – it was come to the racing or stay with Granny. She and her brother both ‘hung about’ the circuit until they were old enough to choose for themselves. Her brother opted for sports involving a ball but Jen became more deeply interested and involved in motorsport, choosing to do work experience at Knockhill in her senior year at school. I hope I’ve been an inspiration or at least a good example for Jen to follow.

GA: People reading this may wonder what is exactly involved in Race Control. Can you shed some light on what you do and why it is so rewarding?

KH: Race Control: Somewhere few people get to see on a race day. Competitors have to be invited there by the Clerk of the Course, usually to discuss some incident on the track. The Clerks of the Course (CoC) are housed there, each having different responsibilities on race weekend. The Secretary of the Meeting also has a base there – at present that’s Jen or Jackie Spencer, another WiM! The race controller has radio communication with all points trackside and off track. We receive and record all reports from marshals about race incidents, track conditions, off-circuit concerns and even the presence of wildlife which might compromise the racing, especially at Knockhill! The logging today is on computer but used to be handwritten. The reports are monitored by the CoC who instructs the post via the race controller. It is also my role to pass information in the case of recovery or rescue being needed or when track repairs are required. Having done this for the whole of the current century, I have built a ‘radio’ relationship with the volunteers which I hope supports them and shows how much their work is valued. The role is rewarding for many reasons. The friendships and teamwork are fabulous; the sense of achievement when we’ve had a successful event; dealing with all manner of incidents, and the mutual respect between marshals, officials, rescue and recovery crews all make this worthwhile. I have learned so much in this responsible position. I always to say that it’s not often you meet a middle aged woman who knows what type of recovery vehicle to send depending on the kind of vehicle to be recovered!

GA: You mentioned your safeguarding role, there can be many pressures for people involved in motor racing and I don’t just mean competitors. What are your views on this?

KH: One of my concerns has always been the welfare of volunteer marshals and, in recent years, especially their mental wellbeing. The SMRC has really taken this seriously with a number of more experienced SMRC volunteers receiving ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training). Positive mental health is high on the agenda, and we are aware that we have a team of volunteers, most of whom meet the statistics for high risk of suicide: Males under 50 and people of any gender under 35. Our marshals, competitors and their teams should be aware that there is someone to talk to in confidence should they wish. In the 2023 season we held a barbeque for volunteers on the Saturday evening of the TOCA weekend and raised a princely sum for SAMH (Scottish Action for Mental Health).

GA: We are seeing much more involvement from women in motorsport in all roles these days, what advice would you give to women who want to get involved?

KH: I’d tell any woman (or man, for that matter) to go along to their local venue and find out more. If competing is what they are interested in, try track days or karting experiences. If it’s volunteering, look on the internet for local clubs or get in touch with SMRC or SMMC. They provide taster sessions, full training and a pathway to fellowship and skills.

GA: Kate, thanks for taking the time to talk to us, it’s been really interesting hearing about your involvement and we hope this inspires others to get involved. Speaking of which, we’re now going to hear from your daughter Jen.

KH: Thanks Glenn. 50+ years of involvement and I still get goose pimples at every race start.

GA: Jen, we’ve just been talking to your mother and you have very much followed in her footsteps. Can you tell us about your path into motorsport?

JH: Similarly to mum, I can’t remember a time when we weren’t regularly going to Ingilston or Knockhill. It was always something we did, first with grandad and then with mum. We have always been racing fans. My dad’s family were also garage owners and my dad competed in sprinting, racing cars he built himself. Initially we played while mum did all the jobs, then when I became older I helped at signing on the marshals and organising their lunch. I then became a runner for the timekeepers, getting information back and forth and finally settled in driver’s sign on. Once Mum became Race Controller, I took over as Secretary of the Meeting. Now I share this role with Jackie Spencer and also act as Race Controller at times.

GA: You’ve mentioned that you are from a racing family with both your grandfather and mother being involved. Not everyone will be in a similar position and may wonder how they actually find out information and get started. Is there any guidance you can give to someone in that situation?

JH: I think a lot of people involved in motor racing join in with someone else. We’ve a lot of family connections in the team, it’s really special. Any kind of racing is run on volunteers and without them events wouldn’t be able to happen so we are always keen to welcome in new members. Anyone interested in coming along for a taster sessions should visit and fill in the form there. One of our marshal reps will then be in touch.

GA: As we look to the future of cars and motor racing there is a lot of uncertainty with EV racing and sustainable fuels being main focuses. Motor racing needs to move with the times and as it has been in the past, can be a test bed for future technology that can transfer to the road car industry. It is an exciting time with lots of opportunities for the future, diversity and inclusion are really important as we need to encourage a wide range of talented people to get involved. What do you think you’ve gained personally from your involvement in Scottish motor racing?

JH: One of the biggest gains for me is definitely the friends I’ve made! A lot of us have been part of the team for a long time and it’s great to see the same faces back year after year! I’ve also had the chance to travel to other circuits and see how it’s all done elsewhere. As with any hobby you develop a variety of skills which you can transfer into other parts of your life. Things move fast on circuit so as a marshal or official you have to be able to make decisions quickly, solve problems, be organised and aware of everything that is happening around you. My day job is an Additional Support Needs Teacher and some of the skills are actually very similar!

GA: Is there anything you wish you’d known about before getting involved?

JH: How early you have to get up and how long the days are! My role is one where a lot happens before the first wheel even turns so we’re often among the first at the circuit and due to paperwork we’re often some of the last to leave!

GA: What are your plans for the future, would you like to try any other roles or even compete? There are many role models as drivers such as Chloe Grant, Hannah Chapman, Emily Glanvill – the list goes on and on.

JH: It’s always great to see the growing female contingent in all areas of motorsport, I hope in the future we can continue to grow our representation further. As a sport we need to continue to develop in all areas to ensure our longevity. For me I think the plan would be to continue to be involved but probably only ever in the organisational side, not sure competing would be for me! Recently I have taken on a new role as one of the communication representatives on the SMRC marshal’s committee. The committee has recently been increased to include new roles, one in particular being an equality representative to ensure representation for all members of our team. After that you never know what’s next, our team continues to grow and the roles are always changing, maybe one day you’ll see my name in the programme as Clerk of the Course!

GA: Jen, thanks for taking the time to talk to us and we look forward to seeing where your motorsport journey takes you.

JH: Thanks Glenn, thanks for highlighting us and what we do!

About the author

Glenn Alcock

Glenn Alcock