Spinal Track hosts first all-female rally experience
Spinal Track, the charity dedicated to giving track and rally experiences to disabled drivers, hosted its first all-female rally experience day on Monday 22 May at the Bill Gwynne Rally School. Spinal Track has been running these events since 2019, but this was the first time an all-female day had been held.
Spinal Track was created by Nathalie McGloin in 2016 with husband Andrew Bayliss. For Nathalie, who is the only female tetraplegic racing/rally driver in the world and the first with a spinal injury to be granted a race license in the UK, Spinal Track is all about providing opportunities that weren’t available to her when she first got involved in the sport.
“Spinal Track was born out of me wanting to give other disabled people the opportunity for them to do what I love when I started racing,” Nathalie comments. “I broke my neck in a car crash when I was 16 and became a tetraplegic, so when I started racing in 2015, I got a lot of messages from people asking how they could have a go, and there just wasn’t anything available.
“As a result my husband and I started a trackday programme for disabled drivers to drive a Golf GTI around Silverstone. Skip to 2023 and we now have a rally programme as well as our trackday programme, and we offer everyone who has a driving license, and the ability to control the cars, to have a go at rallying and driving on gravel – things that I absolutely love!”
Monday’s programme was the first all-female day since Spinal Track’s creation. Utilising the rally school’s course at Turweston Aerodrome in Brackley, six ladies took part in a day of driving a specially-adapted BMW E46 Compact and Toyota GT86, fitted with hand controls and a left-foot throttle. With a total of four sessions for each driver, completely free of charge, the participants were accompanied by instructors for each of their runs as they learnt all about the art of driving – sideways – on gravel.
“I felt the need for a female-only day because we only have a small percentage of women who sign up to our programmes and I didn’t really know why,” said Nathalie. “I asked in some forums to see if anyone was interested, and people absolutely lapped it up!
“We got fully signed-up within a day and have six fantastic ladies, all sliding cars around on gravel, using either hand controls or driving with their feet, depending on their disability.”
Mary, one of the six participants on the day, was thrilled with the chance to give it a go: “I’ve been wanting to do this for years, but I just hadn’t found the opportunity!
“I love motorsport, but mainly watching – I’d never considered myself to have an opportunity to actually take part, and it wasn’t until Spinal Track was born that I realised there was a chance. There are going to be younger women out there who see this, and in 5-10 years’ time they might be all over it!”
Days like this one are exactly what Nathalie, who also holds the position of FIA Disability & Accessibility Commission President, had in mind in the early days of Spinal Track. However, support is required to keep the opportunities coming, especially since Nathalie and Andrew run the charity on a voluntary basis.
“The ambition with Spinal Track was to always run it as a charity because I want everyone to be able to do this, not only just people who can afford it. I think our aim for the next 2-3 years is to get some more partners involved to make us more stable and to be able to expand the program to get more people doing what we love.”
For more information about Spinal Track, click here.