Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Michelle Gatting

Michelle Gatting is a Danish driver who has won races in single-seaters and saloons. In 2019, she entered Le Mans for the first time.

She began racing in 2011, after winning two Danish karting titles. A Formula Ford was her first senior racing car and she wasted no time in getting on the pace, finishing fourth in her first race. During the second half of the season, she was a constant presence on the podium and won her first race at Sturup. She was third in the championship.

In 2012, she moved to the VW Scirocco-R Cup in Germany, supported by the FIA Women in Motorsport commission. This was the first of two seasons in the series. She was eleventh in her first year, and fourth in the Junior standings after one class win. She also drove a Scirocco in the Merdeka Endurance Race in Malaysia, but did not finish.

Her second season was much more successful and she became one of the championship’s quickest drivers, managing four podium finishes. These were a third and three seconds early in the season. She was fifth overall.

In 2014, she moved into sportscar racing, and raced in the Porsche Carrera Cup in Germany. Her best result was 15th, in Oschersleben. Towards the end of the season, she did two rounds of the International GT Open. She was eleventh in one race at Spa in an Audi R8 LMS Ultra.

She did not race competitively in 2015, but she did test a Thundersports car, with a view to entering the championship in 2016. Her debut Thundersports season in 2016 was a good one; she scored one win, at Bellahoj, as well as two second places, finishing eighth in the championship. Her car was a Dodge Challenger.

2017 was another strong season, with seven podium finishes and seventh in the Thundersports championship.

In 2018, she raced a BMW in Supertourisme in Denmark, continuing her good run of form. She was third in the championship with three wins, at Rudsborg and Padskogen.  

Later in the season, she joined the Kessel team for the Gulf 12 Hours, having proven her mettle in big-engined, powerful cars. Kessel was running an all-female team. They were second in class and sixth overall. This led to an offer of a drive in Europe with Kessel, including the Le Mans 24 Hours. The team, consisting of Michelle, Rahel Frey and Manuela Gostner, is supported by the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission.

The FIA WiM also supported Michelle in joining another all-female team for the Sepang round of the Asian Le Mans Series, in a Ligier LMP3 car. Her team-mates were Margot Laffite and Katherine Legge. They were running as part of Keiko Ihara’s R24 team, which had two female-crewed cars in the race. Michelle’s team was eighth in the LMP3 class.

Michelle was initially named as a candidate for the inaugural W Series women’s Formula 3 championship, but dropped out in favour of joining the Kessel team and racing at Le Mans. She was one of the Kessel "Iron Dames" with Rahel Frey and Manuela Gostner. They scored the first finish for an all-female team at Le Mans itself for about ten years, ahead of the "sister" Iron Lynx car of their male team-mates. Although the Dames were troubled by their share of car-related difficulties in the European Le Mans Series, they still managed second places in class at Silverstone and Paul Ricard, leaving them fourth in the GTE class overall.

The Iron Dames entered the Gulf 12 Hours again in 2019 and were closing on third place with Michelle in the car. A collision with a backmarker who did not let the faster car through in time put them out of the race.

Driving solo, Michelle did some rounds of the Denmark Super GT championship, driving an Oreca-powered prototype. She won twice at Bellahoj and also picked up a fourth at the same track.

(Image copyright Kessel Racing)

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Natalie Decker

Natalie Decker made history in 2018 by becoming the first woman driver to start the Daytona ARCA race from pole. She was fifth overall.

This was the start of her second season in ARCA with the Venturini team, who ran her in seven races in 2017, driving a Toyota. Her best finish was seventh, at Elkhart Lake, and she also finished in the top ten at Pocono, the race before.

She did almost the full ARCA championship in 2018, nine top-ten finishes from 20 races, including two fifths at Daytona and Elko. She only missed the Michigan round after undergoing surgery for a hernia.

Her first attempt at a major race was in 2016. She tried to qualify for a Camping World Trucks race at Martinsville in 2016, after being supported by the Alan Kulwicki driver development programme. She did not qualify. She was part of a three-woman Decker family team, with her older cousins Claire and Paige. The two sisters just managed to qualify.

She returned to the Trucks series in 2019, driving for David Gilliland. Her first race ended in a crash. By her third, at Las Vegas, she was into the top twenty for the first time with a thirteenth place.

At the end of 2018, she was announced as one of 60 drivers on the longlist for the women-only W Series Formula 3 championship, despite having no single-seater experience. She made the initial cut and went on to test an actual F3 car in Spain, although she was not selected for the races themselves..

It was back to Trucks for the 2019 season proper. 2019 was not a vintage year for Natalie or her N29 team; eight crashes dented her chances somewhat. Her best finish was a thirteenth place at Las Vegas.

She crashed out of her K&N Pro Series East guest appearance, but her first of two ARCA races gave her a sixth. This was at Daytona at the start of the year.

She was part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity programme in 2015 and has competed in late models and local truck and stock car events since 2013. She admitted in 2019 that she has been affected by juvenile rheumatoid arthritis for some years.

(Image from

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Hailie Deegan

Hailie Deegan is the first female driver to win a race in the K&N Pro Series.

Hailie, born in 2001, only began racing seriously in 2017. She finished two CARS Super Late Model Tour events and was unspectacular, if reliable. Her career only really got started in 2018, when she signed up for a full season in the K&N Pro Series West, driving Bill McAnally’s Toyota. She was still only 16. In her early teens, she had been a successful off-road racer with junior titles to her name.

Her season began with a promising seventh place at Bakersfield, then it wasn’t long before the “firsts” began to stack up. She earned her first top-five finish two months later, coming in fourth at Orange Show and then fifth at Colorado. Her first pole position was at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track; she finished second. However, her next race, at Meridian, yielded her first win, from fourth on the grid. Before the end of the season, she had racked up another pole at Bakersfield and two top-ten finishes.

As well as the Western Pro Series, she did some rounds of the Eastern championship. This was far less successful, beginning with a non-finish at Smyrna due to electrical problems and ending with crashes at Iowa and Gateway. In between, she managed a best finish of thirteenth at Memphis.

Away from championship races, she won a heat of the 2018 Star Nursery series at Las Vegas. A second attempt at the Star Nursery in February 2019 led to a fourth place, from pole.

2019 started with the first race of the Pro Series East championship, at New Smyrna. Again, Hailie had to retire her Toyota with electrical problems. Back in the West series at her favoured Vegas track, she earned another win after a last-lap dash to the front. She had started from eighth on the grid. She won again at Colorado, from fourth, and was second at Roseville from pole. In all, she scored six podiums during the season and was third in the championship.

Her part-season in the Pro Series West was not as stellar, often due to non-finishes. She started with a pole at Smyrna, but could only finish 16th after electrical problems. She was ninth at Bristol and Gateway, her best Western results of the year.

Hallie’s on-track nickname is “Dirt Princess”. Her father is motocross racer Brian Deegan.

(Image from