Shifting Gears: How Emma and Sabrina Are Contributing to The Auto Industry
What inspired you to become a mechanic/involved in racing, and how did you get started in the field?
Sabrina: My father has been a panel beater/mechanic for over 35 years and has a successful business run from our family home. I would always be out in the garage with him and trying to get my hands dirty whenever I could. My father then got the opportunity to help a good friend run a motorsport team 20 years ago. From as young as 6 I can remember being at Mondello park to support and help my dad on race weekends. Over time my duties would become more important for the race team. What started out with cleaning wheels and polishing turned into becoming a very important member of “Sean Woods Racing” Team. It was from there that I knew I wanted to be involved in the motor industry in years to come.
“SWR” (Sean Woods Racing) became my second family. After experiencing, from such a young age how close a race team could be and how much fun it was to be a part of a team I knew that it was going to be an important part of my life.
Emma: I was very fortunate to be born into motorsport, we had a very successful family run motorsport team from the late 80s up until most recently.
Through these years I watched both my older brothers have successful careers as racing drivers, they would have been my biggest inspiration to become a racing driver myself.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to race myself as a youngster as the focus was on the boys. But in my late 20s I decided to fulfil my dreams of being a racing driver and formed the 1st all Female motorsport team involved in the 6-hour Fiesta Zetec Endurance race in Mondello park which was featured on the RTE 6 O’Clock news.
Can you describe the typical response you receive?
Sabrina: I suppose the strangest reaction I get is “Oh you can’t be mechanic you’re a girl”
This has been mentioned to me more times than I can count over the years but once they speak to me and see how knowledgeable I am they soon change their attitude towards me. This just goes to show that I am judged by my gender before my education. But its all more satisfying for me when they realise that I know my way around a car and a female can fix anything just as good as anyone else.
Emma: Having grown up in this motor industry I’m well use to the usual comments, nothing is strange or weird anymore. In fact its normal to us if a customer is surprised by a female mechanic or female racing driver. Unfortunately, we are a minority in the motor industry and motorsport in general so there are no surprises that it’s a surprise to them. But I guess we get the best comments mostly from other Female Customers who are delighted to have their cars serviced by another female counterpart.
Describe what steered you towards your profession?
Sabrina: When I was in secondary school, I had a Careers meeting with a guidance teacher, we discussed about potentially going on to do a PLC course in child care. However, in my heart I knew that the motor industry was where I wanted to be but I just assumed because I was a girl that it wasn’t possible. It was actually my guidance councillor that suggested to me that I would be suited to mechanics as I was always completing projects about cars. It was from our discussion that pushed me to complete a mechanical PLC Level 5 Course which I then led me to complete my full apprenticeship.
Emma: I knew I always wanted to be involved in the motor industry from a young age, I just wasn’t sure what exactly. I got the opportunity to work for Honda the main manufacturer in the UK, building Honda cars on their production line.
After working here, I knew the motor industry was where I wanted to be.
From here I progressed my career into motorsport and joined my dad’s race team as a race mechanic. After a number of years, I moved home to Ireland to run my own race car/team, I was then approached by my “now” boss and good friend Graeme Colfer to help him open his 3rd Successful car garage.
What advice would you give young women interested in pursuing a career mechanics/ racing?
Emma and Sabrina: Go for it! If its what your heart wants to do then just go for it. Although there are challenges along the way it will all be worthwhile and will only make you stronger as a person. If we don’t have more female visibility then we cant entice the next generation to become a mechanic or a racing driver, it is all about seeing and believing.
For more information or to chat with Emma and Sabrina check out Colfer Autos