Having been keen on motorsport from a young age, Isla Mackenzie, who grew up in Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, hopes to make her racing dreams come true after entering the Formula Woman competition.
“The competition is for women who have a driving licence but have never competed in motorsport before,” said Isla, who now lives in Oxfordshire and works in Formula 1.
“The winners will receive a fully sponsored McLaren GT4 seat in the 2022 GT Cup Championship.”
She added: “I think it’s an amazing opportunity and if I do well, it’s a dream come true. I’m looking forward to the driving tuition and meeting all the other girls.”
Applicants for the competition will be invited to take part in on-track, televised assessments at selected venues across Great Britain in September, and 16 finalists will then be selected to take part in a “shoot out” in the winter of 2021/22.
Six of those 16 finalists will be trained and coached between February and April 2022, ahead of gaining a sponsored entry into the GT Cup Championship to compete against their male counterparts.
— Formula Woman (@Formula_Woman) April 4, 2021
Isla, who studied Engineering Systems at the University of the Highlands and Islands in Stornoway and then Motorsport Design Engineering at the University of the West of Scotland in Hamilton, has had an interest in cars from a young age.
“Growing up on Lewis and having a family farm meant I could drive a car from when I was young,” said Isla.
“I’ve always loved driving and when I was old enough to pass my test, my interest in cars grew. There is usually an annual drag race and rally so that helped spark my interest in motorsport further, and I’ve always had modified cars and enjoyed working on them myself.”
Formula 1 career
After graduating in 2017, Isla moved south to Oxfordshire to work as a test technician at a Formula 1 team, and she now works as an engine test technician at Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains.
“I have always loved problem solving and learning new things,” said Isla.
“Working in motorsport is challenging, but also very rewarding. It’s not just about having the fastest car, but also ensuring you are reliable to have both cars finish the race.”
She says the Formula Woman contest is a great way to get more women involved in the sport, and although work has been done to improve gender balance in the industry, it remains very male-dominated.
“I’m seeing more and more women working in motorsport but there still aren’t enough really,” said Isla.
“I was the only girl in my college class, one of only two girls in my university class and then at my first job in Formula 1, I was the only female in the whole department.”
She added: “There are so many great initiatives now to help women in racing, such as the W-Series, so it would be amazing to see a female driver in Formula 1 someday – hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Isla hopes the competition will open doors for her and help her further her career.
“I love Formula 1 and engineering so I am working towards trying to be trackside in a power unit role,” she added.
“In terms of racing, if I did well in Formula Woman and secured sponsorship, I would love to try to compete in Formula 4 and see where that takes me.
“At this stage it’s maybe aiming a bit high, but I would love to then progress to Formula 3, W-Series and beyond.”
She is hoping motorsport enthusiasts and businesses from the north will rally behind her and show their support.
“Hopefully I will get lots of support, particularly from the Western Isles and Highlands, and I’d welcome any support or sponsorship from businesses,” said Isla.
“The competition will attract fantastic media coverage so it’s a great chance for businesses to showcase themselves and their brands.”
And between now and the on-track assessments in September, Isla plans to prepare as best as she can, including keeping fit by running with her two whippets Breagha and Balach.
“The format of the assessment is yet to be announced, but there will be fitness and media assessments alongside being tested on track,” said Isla.
“I am going to continue to build my social media following, try to gain more media coverage and train to prepare for the fitness test. If I secure sponsorship, I am hoping to also prepare on track by finding a coach and getting some tuition.”