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Excuse Me Sir, You Say Women Can’t Race?

Community, Motorsports  /   /  By Shannon McIntosh

A 23 year old woman’s 18 year racing career has a pointed perspective on Sir Stirling Moss’ opinion that women don’t have the mental aptitude to race.

I remember back when I raced USAC Midgets (a 900 pound, 400 horsepower beast of a machine), and someone told my dad “she looks and acts like a girl, but drives like a boy”. That was a huge compliment to me (as it was intended to be), and quite frankly, it still is.

Why? Well, because there is a stereotype out there that says, “girls can’t drive” and a mindset that in sports, doing anything “…like a girl”, is weak and incompetent.  So, I felt like I had in some ways on that day, squashed that mindset.

Yes, I’m going to touch on the subject that is hot in the motorsports world right now, for people who argue that women can or cannot compete (AND WIN) at the top levels of racing.

I’ve been happy to see so many rebuttals (even from male racecar drivers) to Sir Stirling Moss’ recent opinion, in which he stated ,“I think they have the strength, but I don’t know if they’ve got the mental aptitude to race hard, wheel-to-wheel.”

I had to take a few days to take this in, and gather my thoughts in order to put some words down on this personal topic.

shannon mcintosh micro sprint trophy winnerAt eleven years old, I entered into my sixth year of racing, and at probably 4’11” and less than 100 pounds, I began “racing hard, wheel to wheel” on dirt tracks in the Midwest – with adult men (as the only girl)- in cars called Micro Sprints. Micros Sprints are a scaled down version of a Sprint Car that use 250cc dirt bike engines with methanol fuel and still reach speeds in excess of 100mph. Over the next two years, I was winning and beating those adult men, and no, it wasn’t a matter of weight difference.

I did not know that being a girl was a “big deal”, and my parents never made it one. In fact, I distinctly remember getting so much entertainment out of going from our trailer to the concession stand with my mom (while Dad would be working on the car for the next session) and laughing about the stares and finger pointing I would get. I thought it was so cool and quite frankly, I felt like a badass racing against burly, muscular men. Maybe it was just that there were a few in their 20’s and 30’s that I had a crush on. (Don’t forget that visual of a little GIRL at eleven years old and a tiny 4’11.)

Our mind is the most powerful thing in our bodies. It does what we tell it to, and we live as we think. Forget “you are what you eat” because before you are what you eat, you are what you think.

Our minds, like our bodies, do need exercise. I was reminded of this recently as I’ve been “conditioning my mind” on the phone (selling my brand) much, much more than I have in the past year or so and it took me a while to get into the groove again. As an “unemployed” driver, acquiring monetary partnerships to get back into a racecar requires relationships, communication, and working with people day in and day out, to find that person who believes and gets behind you.

shannon mcintosh early race career

That said, in my situation, being out of a racecar will require some time and practice (or exercise) to get back into the groove. As I aim to get back on the path to NASCAR (a type of racing and style of driving haven’t been immersed in for over two years), I must prepare a plan to “exercise” my mindset in order to get that “mental aptitude” I will need to “race hard, wheel to wheel”.

This exact scenario is what brings me to this, Sir: Women always have and may always will, be outnumbered in motorsports. Their opportunities are slim, and when or if someone does believe and get behind in a woman in motorsports, a lot of times (not always) their budget and equipment is (more times than not) less than the best. In motorsports, even if the driver is talented, the equipment, development and team must be the best in order for the driver to be the best.

To all of you loyal eBay Motors Blog readers who may not be motorsports fans, lets compare women in motorsports to a Top Gear episode comparing a 2013 fully loaded Porsche Turbo (MAN) to a hypothetical 1966 Porsche 911 (an impressive 158hp) with bald tires that Sir Stirling Moss used as his daily driver from the time he bought it new when he was just 36 years old until today (woMAN)…OKAY, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic (dang, the GIRL is coming out in me). But my exaggerated example is to say just this; women have historically upheld a statistic that proves; their resources, opportunities and amount of track time have been limited, and don’t match up to those of men. Hence why there hasn’t been a woman at the top of F1, or any other form of motorsports, and dominating.

At the end of the day, I decided, these statements are derived from misogyny and assumptions. (I also just read about another recent comment made by Moss that upset gay rights campaigners.)

Old-fashioned, to say the least, at 86, Moss believes that because it hasn’t been done, it can’t be. I wonder what would have happened if someone like Albert Einstein would have thought this way.  Maybe Sir Stirling Moss’ entire racing career would have relied on the recruitment of extremely fast and strong men who could push start his car the fastest. Better yet, who even needs an engine?

In all seriousness, though, my opinion is simple. First of all, I believe that if anything, women would be outweighed in the competition of “natural” physical strength…definitely not mental. Second, as soon as more women get consistent, equal opportunities (no, I’m not joining the feminist movement, I’m just saying – good equipment and proper support/development and funding), you will see things change. When the percentage of women racers is slim to begin with (albeit, growing), it’s hard to measure them statistically.

can’t decide if comments like these from Moss make me simply laugh because I am confident in what my future holds, or go into my shark mode with motivation to prove these mindsets wrong…I guess it just depends what day of the month it is. J

# # #

Shannon is a tour de force and has mad skills as a pro driver. She loves yoga, staying fit, and traveling abroad when not strapped in the cockpit of a race car. Read all of Shannon’s blog posts HERE

Shannon was named as one of five “Pretty Amazing” Real Cover girls by SEVENTEEN magazine. Tech giant Mashable listed her among an impressive group of seven “Must-Follow Athletes on Social Media.”

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  1. Neil Helfgot April 25, 2013 at 3:46 pm Reply

    Don’t let the small mindedness, or lack of “mental aptitude,” of certain individuals offend you, even if their name is Sir Stirling Moss. Woman like you prove Sir Stirling Moss’s “quote” wrong everyday. I look forward to hearing on the news soon that a woman such as yourself is kicking ass and taking names in NASCAR, F1, or whatever racing path you choose to pursue. I enjoyed reading the article as well so thanks for that.

  2. Aleks April 26, 2013 at 10:19 am Reply

    Keep up the racing – you’ve got thousands of women from around the globe at your back routing for you. We must pave the way for future generations and show that they too can do it.

  3. David M. McIntosh May 28, 2013 at 8:25 pm Reply

    Shannon McIntosh,
    You go girl! McIntoshes were made to race. It is in the genes. Keep kickn ass & taken names of those you lap. Mac

  4. Jefferson Iannelli July 18, 2013 at 7:45 am Reply

    Well, don’t be so rude with Stirling Moss 😉 I think he hadn’t an accurate point of view about the question “Why do a very few women have success in motorsport ?” (anyway, I think that the question was about F1. So his answer may be correct for F1, not for other categories, because F1 requires a lot of concentration to be the best.)

    Sir Moss is influenced by the features of his time and of the sport (I mean : how his sport -Formula 1- was at his time). For example, he maintains that F1 tracks should have metallic barriers all along the track. So, the track would be surrounded by walls, like in every urban tracks. If drivers go out the track, it’s the crash. That’s his opinion, really.
    The reason (of his opinion) : Every driving error would be punished more seriously than today. Today, there is tarmac outside the track (like in Austin for example), so drivers are wasting only 1 or 2 seconds when they’re making a mistake. With the proposition of Moss, it would be easier to know who is a top driver (it would be a driver who makes no mistakes, or a very few ; a driver who knows the limits and was the faster without getting over them).

    So, you understand that his opinions are influenced by the heroic side of his time, a time when riding a F1 car was an act of bravery because the safety was non-existent.

    (I’m further and further of the matter of your article but I come back to the point 😀 )

    I suppose Stirling Moss had the same way of thinking for the question of women in motorsport. From his 1st Grand Prix and while 25 years, running in motor sport was meaning : risking his life (that was a real threat, not like today). So, it was unbelievable to see a woman in this competition.

    That’s why Moss has his opinion. Of course, he’s wrong. But we can’t blame it. He has forgotten that today, safety is almost perfect (except in NASCAR, maybe). A good women driver would have her place in every motorsport category.

    You have understood that I have a great respect for Sir Moss (I love Formula 1, so I respect its champions 😉 ). But I don’t blame you and your article. On the opposite !! That’s a great article, wrotten with care and giving a real idea of the unfair difficulties for women to success in motorsport. So, well done !!

    I’m waiting to read you again 😉

  5. Josh Krome November 22, 2013 at 1:10 am Reply

    Go get ’em! While I highly respect Sir Stirling Moss because of his contributions to the sport, I couldn’t believe he said this. You’re completely correct in saying women are outnumbered and they usually don’t get sponsored as well either which is really sad. Take someone like Ashley Force for example who has great sponsors and backing and look what she’s been able to accomplish so far! Anyways, keep dreaming and hope to see you out on the track some time, Shannon!

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