The 100th edition of the Indianapolis 500 takes place in May and when the race comes around at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway everyone’s eyes will be on Grace Autosport. The all-female team is operated by Beth Paretta.
Beth was very kind and granted Paddock Eye an interview to discuss the project. I started by asking her:
Where did the idea of setting up Grace Autosport come from?
Adrian Sussmann, who manages Katherine Legge came up with the idea while walking through the Formula 1 paddock. He saw two female engineers and thought, what if it was a whole team? He mentioned it to Katherine, she liked the idea, then he called me to ask my opinion and discuss feasibility. He asked me to be part of it and we’ve grown it from there.
Do you have any plans to compete in any other IndyCar events this season alongside the Indianapolis 500 programme?
Yes, we do, but it’s a bit too early to tell the whole plan.
Where did the name Grace Autosport come from?
I came up with the name and worked with my good friend Christian Lallo to develop it in the way that I wanted for the name to mean what we wanted it to mean. Grace can mean many things, on purpose. Grace under pressure, being a graceful winner, a graceful loser, amazing grace, girls race. There is a video on our website, www.graceautosport.comthat illustrates why we chose Grace. Ultimately, we also want a woman’s face to grace the Borg Warner trophy.
What is your personal favourite circuit on the IndyCar calendar apart of course from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
I love that Road America is coming back and is on the schedule for 2016. Track favorites are usually sentimental. I like Sonoma, too.
When will know who will be your engine supplier for the race?
Soon. I have been in talks with both manufacturers and they both have been interested in supportive.
Formula One commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone said recently that he doesn’t think female drivers in Formula One if they were capable of racing would not be taken seriously in F1, firstly what is your take on this?
I feel Bernie Ecclestone is tone deaf on this point. He has been successful and grew his business in a different time, but there is a need to evolve the thinking. To have women at the top levels of motorsport, we need more girls to start karting and to stick with it to develop their talent. It’s a numbers game. In the broadest sense, if you start with 1,000 in the funnel, and only 4 ultimately get to the top level, you’d have to have 500 boys and 500 girls at the start to hope to have 2 women and 2 men at that top level. It isn’t an issue of aptitude, it’s an issue of opportunity and interest. Girls need to see other girls or women succeeding at the different rungs of the development ladder to know that it is an option for them. We’ll get there, eventually.
how have you found the IndyCar communities response to the team?
How has the IndyCar community responded? Extremely well. It’s a friendly paddock to women. Most every other team owner has reached out to offer support or advice and welcomed us. It helps that we know many of the people in the paddock already and they know our intentions are sincere and what’s good for IndyCar is good for all. The series has been very welcoming, too.
Why do you think IndyCar is more accessible to female drivers compared to Formula One?
I don’t know, maybe because it’s almost 40 years older? Not entirely sure unless you point to the top leadership. But I don’t know that it’s that clear. Europe, which is the spiritual center of F1 enjoys a fair bit of equality when it comes to governmental leaders (Thatcher, Merkel) yet we lag behind in that department in the US. We owe the welcome attitude to strong women like Janet Guthrie and Lyn St. James who faced a less-welcome paddock at their respective times. We are grateful for them and all the women before us.