Across the whole motorsport spectrum, no form of racing requires greater courage or commitment than rallying. With a diverse range of skill-sets required as the drivers tackle a variety of road surfaces, there is no margin for error if you are to forge a career in rallying. However, Georgia Shiels is one young driver who’s looking to make her mark in the ultra-competitive world of rallying. Hailing from a family with limited motorsport experience, Georgia has learnt her trade quickly and enjoys the irresistible thrills of driving on snow and flying through forests at incredible speeds. Driven, passionate and charismatic, Georgia has what it takes to progress through the ranks and succeed as a top level rally driver.
Can you briefly explain the class you race in and what a typical rally event would involve?
Georgia: I’ve currently been testing my new rally car, a Ford Fiesta R2, and building up sponsorship for the 2017 season as funds unfortunately ran out. However, I’m back stronger (and faster) than ever. A typical rally involves a recce before the event whereby drivers and co-drivers drive the stages at normal speed in a road car and write pacenotes. This is followed by a shakedown stage in the rally car before finally beginning the rally which consist of competitive stages with road sections in between to travel from venue to venue. Rallies can last anything between one day to four days and often include night stages. Everything feels so much faster in the dark! The mixed surfaces make rallying so much fun (!)… Snow, ice, gravel and even closed roads (my favourite!) It really is such a diverse motorsport in which such a large skill-set is required.
How did you first get interested in motorsport, and in particular rallying?
Georgia: My journey into motorsport is a strange one. I come from a non-rallying background with a systems engineer for a Dad and a coffee shop owner as a Mum. It all began at Knockhill Race Circuit Motorshow in 2011 where I had a 10 minute teen driving lesson around a car park. I picked it up really quickly… clutch control, gears, speed! I was approached by the coordinator of the Junior 1000 Championship and asked if I was interested in rally driving. Of course I said “YES!” because I had no idea what it was! That was where my crazy journey into motorsport began and I discovered what I wanted to do for the rest of my life… My dad did ask if I wanted a horse instead though!
Do you have to adjust your driving style depending on the surface, e.g. gravel or tarmac?
Georgia: Rally drivers do have to adjust their driving style depending on the surface. Both gravel and tarmac require predictive driving skills as the driver predicts how to drive a corner including the behaviour of the car based on the road conditions, road width, car speed, racing line, apex and so much more. The quickest corner exit speed is most important. Forest rallying is a double-edged sword as speed can be scrubbed through sliding on the gravel but slide too much and too much speed is lost. The polar opposite of gravel is tarmac whereby the driver experiences much more grip although the downside to this is if the car loses grip, it’s gone… probably in a field somewhere. So gravel stages have to be driven in a flowing motion whereas closed road rallies are driven with more aggressive braking and accelerating, making the most of the grip.
Would you be open to trying a different field of motorsport, such as Rallycross or circuit racing in the future?
Georgia: I would be open to trying a different field of motorsport although rallying is where my heart lies. Rallycross is the closest form of motorsport to rallying but I don’t think you can beat the thrill of driving through a forest at 100mph… and the jumps! I’d miss the jumps! I guess the Isle of Man TT would come closest to the adrenaline rush you get rallying down narrow, winding country lanes.
What advice would you give to any young female driver or engineer looking to have a successful career in motorsport?
Georgia: Advice I would give to a young female driver or motorsport engineer is to just do you. Focus on what you’re doing, have big goals and go and get them. There will be so many knock-backs but keep getting back up and try again. We often only see our heroes at the pinnacle of their success and what we don’t see is all of the times they have failed, been rejected or felt like giving up. I have struggled with funding my rallying career for the last two years and, believe me, giving up has crossed my mind every day but I can’t let that stop me from chasing my dream. I want to be the first ever female World Rally Champion and not just for me, to show that girls can compete in anything on a level-playing field… and win.
How rewarding has it been to study at the University of Bolton to help further your motorsport career?
Georgia: Studying engineering at the University of Bolton has been one of the best things I have ever done. Engineering is such an integral aspect in motorsport and being able to offer an invaluable opinion on developing, fixing and designing cars is priceless. We receive hands-on experience in all of the engineering processes. I cannot wait to have completed my degree in Automotive Performance Engineering BEng and it will be the knowledge I require to not only work with manufacturers in the future but to offer priceless knowledge. I always told my mum that I wasn’t going to go to University because I didn’t see the point but now I see the point. It is priceless.
Undoubtedly Georgia has the talent to succeed and with the considerable progress she has made over the last four year, the best is still yet to come. Shiels is still searching for sponsors ahead of the 2017 season so feel free to contact her on the social media links below if you would like to be part of her exciting journey.
Georgia would like to thank all of her sponsors who make it possible for her to continue rallying career and enabling her to carry on shocking the world. Special thanks to the University of Bolton, Wrights Marketing, Jack Wills, Intelligent Claims Ltd, STA Travel, We Are Northwest, Rockform, Urban Attic, PNG Digital, Harrison Oils, Vicky’s Coffee and Cupcakes and Third Phase Coaching.
You can keep up to date with Georgia’s progress using the social media links below:
New website being launched soon – www.georgiashiels.co.uk
Facebook – www.facebook.com/georgiashielsrallying
Twitter – www.twitter.com/georgia_shiels
Instagram – www.instagram.com/georgiashiels