Michelle Gatting: "Looking forward to a driver's track like Chennai"
A chat with Michelle Gatting, one of the six high-profile women drivers in the brand-new series that aims at reviving the status of motorsport in India.
Last weekend X1 Racing League kicked off at Buddh International Circuit, Delhi. The first professional franchise-based racing series, co-founded by racing drivers Armaan Ebrahim and Aditya Patel, aims at reviving the status of motorsport in India: after a short stint from 2011 to 2013, Formula 1 left the freshly built Greater Noida facility, leaving local fans without a major international competition on Indian soil.
While X1 might not be able to fill that gap yet, the inaugural weekend in Delhi saw a massive audience turnout and thoroughly entertaining racing.
Among the most interesting concepts introduced by the championship is the presence of six international female racing drivers, one per city-based team.
The invited racers for the opening season are W-Series drivers Alice Powell and Gosia Rdest, ELMS drivers Michelle Gatting and Rahel Frey, Indycar driver Pippa Mann and local Mira Erda, who entered the competition standing in last minute for endurance regular Christina Nielsen.
After the first round of the championship, GT teammates Gatting and Frey looked like the most competitive on track, with Powell and Mann also taking podium honors in one of the four weekend races.
Bangalore Racing Stars, Gatting's team, dominated most of the sessions, despite the Danish lady not feeling 100% satisfied by her car's performances.
The 25-year old from Aarhus, Denmark, had a remarkable karting career before switching to GT cars: notably, she competed in this year's edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans driving Kessel Racing's Ferrari 488 GT3, together with Rahel Frey and Manuela Gostner. The all-female crew, supported by the "Iron Dames" project, completed one of the toughest races on the planet in Pro-Am class top-10.
Earlier this year, Gatting was also invited to Almeria, Spain, for the 2020 W-Series evaluation tests. She later dropped out of the selection, deciding to focus her efforts on her endurance racing program.
We joined forces with Indian motorsport blogger Soumil Arora, who had the chance to chat with Michelle Gatting during her X1 Racing League debut at Buddh International Circuit.
My aim is always to be the best, no matter if it's against women or men.
SOUMIL: The Bangalore team has been really successful this weekend. How has it been for you personally?
MICHELLE: First of all it's been an experience to visit India: it's was my first time here and it's really a once in a life-time experience to see cows and monkeys on the roads. We're not used to that in Denmark!
The racing of course it's very different. I think the track has been absolutely amazing to drive on; the car, taking into consideration that it's an old car, has been running OK. Like you said, the team has been doing very well, we've been performing very well as a team. Personally I'm disappointed with the performances of our car, it's simply not satisfying at all.
It's losing more and more power.
The track is very engine-related since there are straight lines everywhere. Everyone has already told me about Chennai, so I'm looking a bit more forward to that, as it's more of a technical track, more of a driver's track and less engine.
S: How have you adapted to this car in particular and how would you rate your performance this weekend?
M: It's a different car: now I'm getting used to the Ferrari that we're racing in Europe - that is a monster and a different car. I've never been racing that much formula cars, but I really love them.
The shifting [of this Formula BMW car] is a little bit different, so you definitely have to adapt your driving style. It took a bit longer for me because we were struggling a lot with the downshifting and that was really frustrating to me. I wasn't performing as I wanted to, because I know what I can do in a car, it doesn't matter if it's a GT car or a formula car.
S: A quick word on the team: there are five drivers and we've seen a relay race. How did you manage that out?
M: We're working very well together as a team. It's fantastic to work with my teammates and our team bosses are doing an amazing job to really support every one of us.
The relay was an experience, because it's something that's never been done before! Our strategy was really good, unfortunately cars from the other teams had technical problems, which is always sad to see because that's not the way you want to win a race. But I think we've shown from day one that we've been the strongest team, and I'm here for the team and nothing else.
S: A quick word on the competition: we have six female international racing drivers competing. What's your take on it, how's the competition been like?
M: It's fun, obviously I know all of them - I know Rahel [Frey] very well as we're teammates in Europe so I know what she can do in a car and there's no doubt she's been my biggest competitor here. She's the one I've been comparing myself with and she's done a great job.
The other girls, they're getting there I would say. It's a really good idea what Aditya [Patel, series co-founder] did, to get six fast girls together, racing against each other. But my aim is always to be the best, no matter if it's against women or men.
I think we've shown from day one that we've been the strongest team, and I'm here for the team and nothing else.
Watch the full interview:
X1 Racing coverage is made possible thanks to the cooperation with Soumil Arora. Check out his social profiles and give him a follow!
Cover photo credits: SoumilArora.com