Inside Revolution: Boxing Clever

Friday 02 June 2023

Revolution is available online, as a PDF download and on the Revolution app (for both iOS and Android devices). 

Just last month Revolution was introduced to three women who entered the Porsche Club Motorsport Boxster Cup to experience racing for the first time. The Boxster Cup is a new series set up to allow new drivers to get behind the wheel of a Porsche at a level that is competitive, accessible, and fun. In the opening race of the season a quarter of the grid was made up of female drivers.

The Boxster is the entry level Porsche, introduced to the UK in 1996 with the performance-driven S 3.2 following a few years later. The Boxster is rated by many as one of the most fun in the range to drive and the new series promises to be highly competitive, with a field filled with identical Boxster S 3.2 machines from between 1999 and 2004.

Following in the footsteps of the successful Restoracing series, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of the 986 Boxster in a dedicated three-round championship, the new Boxster Cup is much bigger, running over seven races, and involves many drivers competing for the first time.

Three of the women on the grid are racing as team-mates in cars prepared by Sussex-based specialist SW Engineering. Sarah Wood was the first to start her motorsport journey and was followed by Jess Wilkinson. Zoe Kyle-Henney, the third generation Kyle-Henney in motorsport, then signed-up to continue her family’s Porsche racing dynasty. In doing so, Kyle-Henney has been passed the Club level racing torch from brother Matt, who is following his father’s tracks and has stepped up to Porsche GB competition in this year’s Sprint Challenge GB.

The Boxster Cup season takes in rounds at UK circuits including Brands Hatch, Anglesey, Oulton Park, Silverstone, and Snetterton, and it got off to an exciting start at Donington Park in April, where all three SW Engineering team-mates made it to the chequered flag in their debut race.

Although a happy coincidence, the all-female team at SW Engineering are paving the way for women in motorsport. Here the three newcomers share how they got involved and what it felt like after their first time racing on track.

What made you want to get into motorsport?

Jess Wilkinson: I am Canadian and moved to the UK in late 2019. To be honest, I did not even know motorsport was something that people did recreationally until I met my partner! He had been doing track days for many years, so I joined him for my first track day at Goodwood in the summer of 2021 and I loved it. I am quite a competitive person and I used to show horses in Canada but gave it up when I moved to the UK. I missed having some element of competition in my life, and now racing scratches that itch.

Sarah Wood: I used to spend a lot of time watching motorsport as a child, particularly at small club events with my dad. I have always wanted to have a go but it is only in the last couple of years that I realised I could actually turn a childhood dream into reality.

Zoe Kyle-Henney: I played a lot of sports when I was younger and love the competition. My mum, dad and brother have raced Porsches and I spent a lot of time at the racetrack. It is such an exciting sport, and now it’s my turn!

What experience did you have before joining the Boxster Cup?

JW: Very little! I started getting instruction from Chris Dymond at the beginning of 2022 and went to quite a few RMA track days with my Porsche Cayman 981.

SW: This is my first racing experience but I spent several days last year having some coaching with Harry Mailer, who is not only an amazing driver but also the most patient man alive!

ZKH: Not very much. I have just finished my degree, so I had only done a bit of karting – I did get to test a Cayman GT4 at Thruxton with WEC superstar Ben Barker coaching me recently, though!

What made you want to do the Boxster Cup and how did you get involved?

JW: My partner started racing in GT Cup last year and the Boxster Cup was a support race. I watched a few of the races and it seemed like a fun environment for beginners – so I thought I would like to give it a go.

Jessica Wilkinson enjoyed taking Craner Curves flat-out

SW: The Boxster Cup appealed to me because all the cars are the same and there is, within reason, some budgetary control, with only two sets of tyres allowed each season. I also liked the fact there were already women competing in it – Sarah Thomson and Faye Noble-Evans – and it was the fantastic team at SW Engineering who helped me to get involved.

ZKH: My brother, Matt, won the Porsche Club Championship. He had a lot of fun in the Boxster and learnt very quickly, so it seemed the best way to start.

What did you do to get race ready and how did the team help you?

JW: I have tried to keep physically fit, so I am race ready, and I also spend time in the simulator, learning the tracks. I only made the decision to jump into the Boxster Cup in March, so it has been a rush to get the car built. SW Engineering has been incredible, not only building the car but helping me navigate the admin of getting into the championship.

SW: The car was built and prepared over the winter in time for a couple of (very wet!) test days at Donington, so that was my preparation ahead of the first race.

ZKH: I was able to get a few tips from the family and I have been keeping myself fit. However, without any experience I have relied a lot on the team to give me the best car and teach me about racing.

Name the best and worst thing about each of your teammates?

JW: Zoe is brilliant. She is an expert in biomedical material science and is starting what I suspect will be a prolific career. She has been around motorsport for a long time, through her brother and dad, and I love how the entire family supports each other. Sarah is my hero. She is the only one in her family to get into racing and I love that she has independently decided to have a go – it takes bravery to do something new. The worst part about both is that they will probably beat me!

SW: Oh gosh…! The best about Jess is her sense of humour and determination; the worst is that she is clearly going to beat me! The best about Zoe is her clear ambition; the worst is her love of Dolly Parton!

ZKH: It is all good! I am very excited to see how we all do this season.

What makes you work well together as a team?

JW: It is early days and we are all still figuring this out together and supporting one another as we learn, so it is hard to say right now.

SW: It is not what, but who. That, without doubt, is Ellie, the co-owner of SW Engineering. She is the one who has brought us all together and has managed to engender a team spirit amongst us after only one race.

ZKH: We are all used to working in teams outside of racing and we all want to do well, so that is pushing us all on together.

Is there anything unique about being in an all-woman team?

JW: Erm, we probably have the best skincare regimen!

SW: I think so, yes. There is a sense that we are all in this together as novice drivers and first-time racers to, quite simply, have a go.

ZKH: It is bringing some press attention, but the team is not just about the all-female driver line-up; there are plenty of men helping us get the best out of the cars and ourselves. It is nice that we are all new to racing, so we can learn from one another.

What is the car like to drive compared to others you have driven?

JW: It is a bit slower than my Porsche Cayman 981 track car, but the handling is similar. Boxsters inspire a lot of confidence; they are not the most powerful of cars, but they are predictable and responsive.

SW: It feels like it wants to be told what to do and will punish you if you do not take sufficient control of it! But, when you do, everything is perfectly balanced and feels great.

ZKH: The full race-prepared Cayman GT4 on slicks was an unbelievable car to drive; the Boxster is more basic, but has required a lot more thinking to drive.

How tough is the competition?

JW: Any competition is tough, but I feel like this is a very supportive grid. It is geared towards novices and helping people get into motorsport in a non-intimidating environment. The Porsche Club is a very friendly environment.

SW: Very!

ZKH: Although I would like to win, I know that this is a learning year so I am more focused on improving. But it feels competitive already.

What was your biggest fear ahead of your first race and how did you overcome it?

JW: I was most nervous about stalling the car in a standing start. Ultimately, I managed not to, but it was a bit messy! Overall, the biggest fear is just not knowing what to expect when you do something for the first time. It helped that the team was very good, communicating how things worked and what was required of us at every step.

SW: I was terrified of making a mistake and causing a red flag that would then ruin everyone else’s race. I did not really overcome that fear, so I need to work on that before the next race.

ZKH: Not stalling on the grid. I got lucky!

What was your most amazing experience from the first race?

JW: That I was finally brave enough to be flat-out through the Craner Curves! That has always been a psychological barrier for me since I started driving at Donington Park.

SW: A genuine sense of achievement at having completed the race and got to the finish with both the car and me intact!

ZKH: Overtaking down Craner Curves and seeing the chequered flag. I now feel like a racing driver!

What are your personal ambitions for the future?

JW: Right now, I am focused on improving every time I am in the car. I am still in learning mode when it comes to motorsport, but I am getting an education on what other series and opportunities are available – so stay tuned!

SW: My aim is to become more competitive and, slowly, work my way up through the positions.

ZKH: Racing at Le Mans. I have been there twice watching my dad. Walking around at night with all the fans and the noise, this would be fantastic. I hope one day I will make it there.

How is the experience of being a woman in the paddock?

JW: I have always worked in male-dominated industries, so I am used to being one of few women. So far, I have found everyone in motorsport to be supportive. Conversations about gender and racial diversity are starting to happen at every level of the sport, which is an important first step.

SW: It has been a refreshing experience, as everybody has been so welcoming and supportive.

ZKH: I see so many women in the paddock and there are five of us on the grid – that is actually about a quarter of the drivers! Everyone has treated and helped me achieve the first step – to be a racing driver, even though I have only done two races.

What one thing do you wish you had done before your first track race?

JW: I wish I had spent more time in the gym and more time in the simulator. The last eight months have been quite intense for me at work, so I am trying to reset and re-introduce healthier habits in my life.

SW: I wish I had spent more time reviewing the in-car footage from my practice days to help remind me what I should be doing!

ZKH: I wish I had done a proper seat fitting, as I could only just reach the pedals!

Motorsport is about improving your performance; how do you plan to do that?

JW: Learn from the team and my teammates to be the best version of myself.

SW: Try not to run before I can walk and slowly build up my confidence.

ZKH: Compare my data and video against someone who knows how to get the most from the car. I know I will learn quickly when I can compare what I have done with what someone else has – it is the scientist in me!

What three tips would you give someone wanting to do their first track race?

JW: Stay physically and mentally fit because this is a demanding sport; get some instruction if you can, because coaches can help accelerate the learning process and prevent you from developing bad habits; and build a community and strong support system, as you literally cannot do it alone so get the support of people you trust and enjoy spending time with.

SW: Find yourself a driver coach, build a supportive team and do not let others talk you out of it.

ZKH: Go testing, keep fit and remember the nerves go when you are out there driving.

Zoe Kyle-Henney is continuing her family’s Porsche racing history

Sussex-based Porsche specialist SW Engineering was co-founded and is still owned by Ellie Bartley and Stuart Wallace. The pair met in 2015 while working for Parr Motorsport, running Pete Kyle-Henney in Porsche Carrera Cup GB. They have combined Wallace’s mechanical knowledge with Bartley’s PR and marketing experience to fulfil their lifelong passions for motorsport and running their own businesses.

The team made its racing debut in 2017 in the Porsche Club Championship with Andy Muggeridge and since then it has grown exponentially. In 2019, Wallace built a Porsche Boxster and ran Matt Kyle-Henney, son of Porsche Cup driver Peter Kyle-Henney, in a livery matching that of the Carrera Cup car his father drove at Le Mans.

The 2021 season ended up as the team’s most successful year to date when, in a super-soggy season-finale at Snetterton, Kyle-Henney battled through the rain to secure the Class 2 title and the overall Championship crown, while SW Engineering secured the Teams’ Championship. Midway through 2022, new foundations were laid for SW’s first all-female drivers’ team.

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