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Caitlin Wood secures three class podiums on Porsche Sprint Challenge GB debut

Barbie Ambassador Caitlin Wood made her debut in the Porsche Sprint Challenge GB championship with three class podiums in Snetterton, returning to competitions after 12 months and tackling changeable weather while learning the new car.

Caitlin Wood, Porsche Sprint Challenge GB, Snetterton
Photo credits: Richard Styles

Australian racer and Barbie ambassador Caitlin Wood returned behind the wheel for her debut in the Porsche Sprint Challenge GB Championship, thus making a return to competitions after a 12 month hiatus from the sport - and she did so with a triple podium finish in the CS Pro class, securing two second place finishes and a third at Snetterton.

Wood announced her 2024 racing program in April, having signed a deal with Barbie as part of the iconic brand's 65th anniversary: its ongoing ‘You Can Be Anything’ campaign to inspire girls couldn't in fact be better represented by an athlete that has always fought for her dreams in spite of any adversities.

The 27 year old Australian moved to Europe in 2016, committed to a career in sports cars after a background in single seaters in her home country. She was accepted in the Reiter Engineering's Young Stars program and went on to race in some of the most competitive GT4 and GT3 series, including the GT4 European Series, the Blancpain GT Sprint and Endurance Cup and Lamborghini Super Trofeo, before making her return to formula cars once the all-female series W Series was launched.

Wood was selected as one of the race drivers and, over two seasons, she collected four point-scoring results, with two fifth places as her personal best. At the demise of the W Series project, Wood made her return to endurance racing - albeit in sparse appearances due to a lack of funding. Nevertheless, she continued to fight for a seat and contested select races in the Nürburgring-based NLS, becoming the first Australian woman to win in class at the mighty Nordschleife.

Over one year later, her partnership with Barbie was therefore a monumental moment in her career, as she aimed to inspire the youngest generations on and off the track with her eye-catching pink and blue Porsche Cayman in the Porsche Sprint Challenge GB, a series that acts as stepping stone to the Porsche motorsport ladder and that is integral part of the TOCA package supporting the highly popular British Touring Car Championship.

The series held its 2024 curtain raiser at Snetterton in changeable weather conditions - which represented an extra challenge for Wood, who would have to familiarize with the car and the format - having most recently competed mainly in endurance racing.

Nevertheless, Wood made significant progress through the weekend and showed her potential by collecting a treble podium overcoming the mixed weather that made for a difficult learning process.

Caitlin Wood, Porsche Sprint Challenge GB, Snetterton
Photo credits: Porsche Sprint Challenge GB

Caitlin was third in class in the combined practice, recording a best lap of 1:59.638 on used tyres. The driver of the #65 Porsche Cayman operated by Clean Racing then tackled her first qualifying of the year on Saturday morning, in a wet session that saw Wood finishing outside the top three for the only time in the weekend.

The track dried up for the first race later in the day, and Wood seized all the opportunities to bring home a good result on her series debut: she moved up to second when CS Pro class competitors Ben Mulryan a and Samuel Harvey made contact on the first lap and, as the safety car was deployed, she settled in second. At the restart, Caitlin ran on par with the cars around her and, as she got increasingly comfortable, she also lapped faster than the class leader, who preceded her by a few seconds with three cars from different classes in between them.

In the second half of the race, Wood defended from Paul Porter, but she ran good laps in the 2m00 and opened a gap in the closing stages, ultimately coming home with a second place finish on series debut.

On Sunday, conditions were again damp for the second race of the weekend, which Caitlin started from third in class. She immediately gained a position overall as well as in the CS Pro class on the first lap, as Harvey dropped down the order. Oskar Dix again led the class, a few places ahead of Wood; the driver of the Barbie-sponsored machine tried to clear some CS Am class entries but eventually held second, having also opened a healthy margin to George Jaxon behind.

Despite being thrown in at the deep end, it was a back-to-back class podium for Wood.

“The race weekend's been a little bit like a baptism of fire", Caitlin explained. "Each session has been completely different whether it's been wet or dry, half wet, half dry. It's been really tricky for me to get a rhythm with this car considering it's my first round in the championship, but I know it's ultimately been really good."

Caitlin Wood, Porsche Sprint Challenge GB, Snetterton
Photo credits: Porsche Sprint Challenge GB

A heavy thunderstorm halted on track operations over the next few hours and cars hit the track once again for the third and final contest of the weekend in the afternoon. The track seemed dry enough for slicks, but then rain started to fall again and Wood switched to wet tyres.

From second in class, Wood lost track position as Samuel Harvey got past in the hectic start; Caitlin nevertheless gained positions overall in extremely difficult conditions, as heavy rain again hit the track. She made no mistakes and brought the car home in third place, completing a very encouraging start of the season that now sees the Australian second in the CS Pro standings on 22 points, 11 off the class lead.

“Race three was interesting", she said. "It was a bit chaotic before the start because we were all going to be on slicks and then it started to rain so we ended up switching to wet tyres. I'm not fully satisfied. I feel like there's much more room for me to grow as a driver in this championship, we still finished third in class which is great."

“My lesson from this weekend is I need to be on it a lot quicker. I'm used to endurance racing therefore I'm not quick enough out the gate. I must get back into that sprint-race mind frame and work on being able to carry that into the next round."

While there's little doubt that she will continue to progress as she gets more mileage under her belt, Wood's return to racing was a big step in her career - with the #65 Barbie liveried Porsche inevitably being a fan favourite.

“Ultimately, the reception here has been unbelievable", she continued. "It's been awesome and very heartwarming to see all the young girls and boys coming up and being excited about the car. Along with the charity and inspiring girls yesterday was also a really cool moment to have so many young women involved."

Wood in fact also had the chance to hold a meeting with ‘Inspiring Girls UK’, a charity that has partnered with the racing driver on her mission to empower and inspire young girls.

Her mission will resume at Oulton Park on 22–23 June for the second round of the championship - although the work goes on at full speed behind the scenes:

“I can then hopefully raise the sponsorship and the budget to be able to continue to race as well", Wood said. "It’s a full-time job to get on the grid. We're just working one round at a time to be able to do that. 12 months has been a long time without being on a racetrack and it was 12 months before that as well. It's been very sporadic racing for me over the past couple of years so it's nice to be back on track."

Caitlin Wood, Porsche Sprint Challenge GB, Snetterton
Photo credits: Porsche Sprint Challenge GB

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Jun 14

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