SEAT’s Sex Drive Flops
On Saturday I was at Silverstone photographing the first round of the MSA Endurance Britcar championship on the full Grand Prix circuit. You can read the qualification report and both GT and Production race reports along with seeing a few of my photos here.
It was a great race and there were some fantastic cars on show, but it was a yellow Seat Leon that was one of the hot topics of conversation in the media centre and around the garages. It was driven by four Women who won a competition run by Seat UK and TV programme fifth gear Called Seat Sex Drive. Now, I had heard of the competition but wasn’t too sure about what it entailed. Having read a little bit about it and talking to a couple of people on Saturday the competition pitted men against women. The winning team would then go on to gain their race licences and compete in the 2 hour race at Silverstone. Now at this point you would have thought the competition was about driving ability and racing. But no, it seemed to be ridiculous tasks like who could clean the car the best and reversing around corners. Ultimately the women won and they gained their racing licences ready to compete.
So onto race day and a few eyebrows were being raised. This was to be the first time they have ever raced so is it really wise to let these four women with no race experience out on track with Ferrari’s, Mosler’s, Lamborghini’s and the like? Not only did this seem rather stupid but also highly dangerous too. The women themselves seemed unfazed however as talk in their Garage seemed to focus on whether it was better to plait your hair or have it in a ponytail whilst wearing a helmet.
Qualifying came and went and the Seat failed to post a time. It was on track, as I witnessed it almost collide with two cars who caught up with it very quickly after pulling across the racing line in front of them. It seemed to be trundling around causing a mobile chicane for everyone else.
Starting from the back of the grid, the race got underway and the Yellow car set off at a somewhat casual pace. It didn’t take long before it was lapped. They hadn’t even passed the start line twice before the lead cars had put a lap between them. The prize winners were painfully slow. In fact, it was starting to become an embarrassment. As cars were streaming past them lap after lap the pace didn’t seem to pick up at any point as the women got used to the car. They were breaking so early for each corner they had to take their feet of the brake pedal 50-100 yards before they reached the point to turn in.
Amazingly, the highlight came when the Women were given a drive through penalty for pit lane speeding of all things! Even the race commentator found it highly amusing. Also, as the production class ran a two hour race along with the GT class running a three hour race, the Sex drive team were given a black flag for continuing after the chequered flag. Finally the women finished and were unclassified as they were a full 15 laps down with an average speed of just 61mph. I reckon I averaged more than that during the drive up to Silverstone!
I’m not against women in motorsport, far from it. There are some great female race drivers at all levels who are extremely competitive and very talented, from younger racers like Sarah Moore and Louise Richardson who have excelled in Ginetta’s to oval racers Pippa Mann and Danica Patrick to Endurance racer Vanina Ickx. I like to see a good mix of male and female drivers and its good to see great women drivers on track giving the men a run for their money. The real issue I have is awarding a prize like this to people who clearly aren’t that interested or have any ability when it comes to racing when there are thousands who would love to be given an opportunity. It has been a total flop and quite frankly Seat UK should be embarrassed, because I certainly was. Apparently the women were coached by Fifth gear presenter Vicky Butler-Henderson. Was she there to support them on Saturday? No she wasn’t. She was probably sparing her blushes and keeping well away. If only the four competition winners did too.