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Marcia Dawes on managing, manoeuvring and loving motorsport

Published:Sunday | July 21, 2019 | 12:00 AMKajamba Fitz-Henley - Automotives Writer

This week, Automotives caught up with a true representative of the multifaceted sphere that is motorsport in Jamaica. As the vice-president of the FIA Jamaica Millennium Motoring Club, vice-president of the Drivers’ Rallysport Club, one of the prime coordinators of Rally Jamaica, and rally co-driver alongside Kyle Gregg, Marcia Dawes gave us some insight into her diverse responsibilities, as well as her experience as a female in motorsport.

Interest in racing and co-driving

Dawes always had an interest in racing. However, it began to manifest itself more clearly in the early 2000s. “I passed some guys racing out at Caymanas on Mandela Highway. It turned out to have been a rally that they had over at Caymanas North and South at the time because they used to have courses over there. I was always interested in racing, I just didn’t know that they did it there, so I asked questions and found out where they met. I then started going to meet up with them,” she said.

Dawes started to participate in actual competitions shortly after. “I think I started racing for the first time in 2004 because my first event was in 2004, which was a dexterity event. I’ve actually driven Sprint and Rallies, and I’ve entered Rally Jamaica before as a driver. Prior to that, and between driving at dexterities and sprints, I started co-driving.”

Dawes described rally, the form of racing in which she now actively co-drives, as the most “interesting and fun” of the motorsports she’s done. She also described some of the elements of co-driving that make it a suitable and exciting role for her: “It’s not that I have a preference of one over the other (co-driving over driving). I’ve been good at both. But I’m actually a really good co-driver, and I guess it came from my profession because I’m an engineer and I used to do mapping. My first introduction to co-driving was when I was helping to set up a rally stage. The co-drivers get their information from what is known as a ‘route book’, and it’s set up with tulips (diagrams depicting route instructions), distances, and instructions in terms of mileage from one point to the other. It was easy for me to read, which I guess they thought was not typically normal for somebody to grab at the first time, so I became interested in it. And apart from that, I like the fact that the co-driver is the one giving the instructions that help to determine how the person drives on the stage.”

Perspective of a woman in the male-dominated sport

Though she is very aware of the challenges that are imposed on women in male-dominated areas, Dawes revealed that she is not overly affected by them: “It’s actually true, it is male-dominated, but then, I guess for me it seems normal because I operate in what you would consider a male-dominated field (engineering and construction); I’m always in that environment. So there are things that I wouldn’t notice because it’s the norm for me, always being in this environment, but I know that there is a challenge for females getting into the sport as it moves along male-dominated areas. you know, there is prejudice.” However, the engineer maintained that thanks to her personality and role in a traditionally male field, she is able to exist beyond the prejudice.

Still, there is the desire to see more females involved in all aspects of motorsport. “I think if more females became involved, it will cut down on that disparity over time, then it will become more accepted, which is something that I think, worldwide, the FIA is trying to do – to get more females involved in the sport from whatever angle, whether administrative, competing, officiating or organising the event. This will help to cut down on the stigma because we have just as much to contribute as the males in the sport,” Dawes told Automotives.

Balancing responsibilities

As a stakeholder in so many facets of motorsport, Dawes is no stranger to having to shift, organise and prioritise her various duties. “I’m not sure if I’ve found balance yet,” she told Automotives with a laugh. “ it’s a work in progress that I’ve been doing over the last two years, actually. I’ve been trying to dial back in terms of the number of things I do and trying to delegate more to the other persons to get them informed in some of the areas that I would normally do so it takes some of the burden off me in that sense.”

Though she has no intention of abdicating her organising responsibilities, Dawes is definitely attempting to shift more of her focus to her own racing, which she only restarted last year when long-time friend Kyle Gregg requested her as a co-driver.

The freedom of racing, and Rally Trinidad

The co-driver has an intense love for the feeling of freedom inherent to racing: “What I find is that as you go into the car, it doesn’t matter what stress I went through to prepare for the event (including actually organising it) or whatever is happening. it’s like it literally totally disappears for the next day or two. It’s just pure fun, and it doesn’t matter what you go through in the car – it’s never stressing in that sense – so it’s just a sense of freedom.”

Dawes was able to fully experience this feeling at Rally Trinidad in April, despite a previous illness threatening her chances of attending. “When I came out [of the hospital], I was still having side effects from the illness to the point where I wasn’t sure I would have made it to Trinidad. The mere fact that we were able to go, and that we won on top of it, was great,” she said.