Ready set go!
The quiet atmosphere was electrifying. All you could hear was the low deep hum of thirty four Toyota 86 Race Series cars, lined up bumper to bumper like a long colourful decaled train.
Exhaust fumes lingered in the air from ad-hoc revs. The drivers were prepared, geared-up, focussed and on alert in the marshalling area. Countdown was close as they waited for the wave of the green flag to go onto the track and commence their formation lap before the race start. The accompanying support crew cars were aligned parallel, in readiness to reach the pit lane. You could feel the tension and anticipated excitement as spectators watched, waiting for the signal.
Townsville’s 26 degree winter was perfect for the first race of the day. For two of the drivers, it was their first performance in this particular capacity and the only females in the male dominated arena. Although they were from diverse backgrounds they shared a common denominator, they wanted to win and they had earned their positions on the grid.
Earlier that morning I spoke with Emily Duggan and Madison Dunston, they were more than capable of holding their own. They appeared cool and relaxed as they spoke about racing like we speak about driving down the street to the local shops. However their unspoken confidence was evident.
How did they get there?
An independent, driven, 26 year old from Sydney. She has her own Emily Duggan Racing team having bought and built up a Toyota 86 that she will run in the remaining rounds of the 2018 season. She has no previous background in car racing and didn’t start her career in karting or Formula Ford so it meant Emily has needed to work harder. She is fully committed and now in her fifth year since she began.
Her passion started in her Hyundai Excel. “You put the foot down and it actually goes pretty hard believe it or not. Four years ago I decided life is too short to not go after your passion and live out your dreams”. Emily researched various cars and decided that Supercars (pinnacle in Aust motorsport) was the way to go after watching them on TV, loved it and wanted to drive one.
The V8’s are expensive so starting with the next category; the Toyota T86RS, was a perfect option for Emily. “It is professionally run, has an outstanding amount of coverage as a Virgin Supercars Championship support category and being a one-make series means the results are determined by driver ability”.
Emily is strong, determined and has clear objectives. She is committed, disciplined, passionate, focussed, balanced, intelligent, knowledgeable, confident and cares about her team. Emily is quick to recognise that her success is attributed to their incredible skill and support, none of which she could achieve without them.
“Sponsorship is something that is extremely hard to get, and I don’t think that it is easy for anyone in motor sport or any driver to get”. Emily doesn’t rely on family or friends, and has minimal help in terms of chasing sponsorship. “It is all about going out to network events, meeting people, creating relationships. Basically getting them to live out your dream”.
Her belief, ” for a hundred no’s, you may receive one yes”. In 2016 she approached 300 businesses and eventually received three yes’s. “You have to keep going, you bank them up”. Lachlan, one of her team members provides media articles support and she just keeps persisting.
Only recently Emily has sought mentors now she has hit the big league and enlisted Power To Potential to occasionally assist on preparation for race events. “I need to be relaxed and happy when racing. If stressed, it affects my driving. I need to be mentally prepared. Every time I get into my car I do it to the best of my ability”.
Emily sometimes turns to specific individuals and for this series experienced Supercar drivers Jason Barbwire and Warren Luff have been helpful. Jason has been great with the Toyota 86 Series and is a mentor for everyone however “at end of the day we are all competitors”.
Future aspirations; to retire in five years after winning races in the V8 championship. Get pole positions and have silver-ware (trophies) sitting in her lounge room, but it is a long road ahead.
What does Emily normally drive at home? “A Nissan Pulsar 2001 automatic” she laughs. All her money is spent on racing but it gets her from A to B. The Nissan is loaded with all her track gear, no room for guests or boyfriends. Front seat carries a jerry can of petrol.
Mechanical engineer, Sarah Drage, is one of Emily’s key cogs in the wheel and stands quietly in the background. I am in awe of them both and felt a strong bond from our first encounter. On our second catch up I was already wearing an 84 Emily Duggan polo shirt.
A 19 year old local Townsville girl. She secured her first ride last weekend in her Townsville leased car from Gavan Reynolds’ Newcastle-based Denstoj Racing team and is hoping to be able to compete in the full season in 2019.
In contrast, Madison has been racing competitively since she received her first kart as a birthday present at age seven and with an innate ability and three generations of family motorsport heritage, she secured many regional and state titles.
“I didn’t really have a choice, dad just threw a go kart at me and goes, this is what we are doing today and I said, oh okay. I was a bit scared at first so he pushed me around the whole track before he started the engine. Then he started the engine and ever since then I just loved racing, anything with four wheels mostly.”
In 2016, Madison stepped up into the Aussie Racing Cars Championships and notes her outing at Symmons Plains in Tasmania last year as a career highlight. She reached the first top 10 in Qualifying and took home her very first trophy in the Aussie Race Car Series. Madison was keen to get into the Toyota 86 last weekend with incredible support from her sponsors, family and fans and it is “another step in pursuing my dream to drive Supercars,” she said.
Madison’s inspirations come from her father, he is her biggest role model; he puts her into the competitive mode to do the best she can. She smiles and comments that boys respect her until she beats them, but normally they are nice to her. She also watches Simona de Silvestro in the V8 Supercars who inspires her as a female driver.
She chose the T86RS as this race was in her home town, but found the car a lot bigger as it was the first time to drive one. However as soon as Madison puts on her helmet “she doesn’t look nor think of anything else”. She has some fear and gets nervous until she hits the accelerator and admitted it is a great adrenaline kick.
These ambitious young women are a force to be reckoned with, watch out boys!
Remaining 2018 races: The Bend Supersprint August 24-26, Sandown 500 September 14-16, Bathurst 1000, October 4-7 and finally Newcastle 500 November 23-25. Regular updates, https://toyota.com.au/86/racing-series.