Rahel Frey is one of the leading members of the Iron Dames team, an Iron Lynx team project that aims to promote women’s involvement in the world of racing.
The Swiss driver, together with her teammates, had results that made her stand out last season, taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and earning two podium placings in the second leg of the ELMS championship aboard the number 83 Ferrari 488 GTE, coming in third place in the final ranking among the teams in the LMGTE class.
You faced your first 24 Hours with Iron Lynx: how has the team grown in recent years?
“Simple, you just need to look at the number of titles won. We’re growing and the team is expanding more and more. The number of drivers and of cars is increasing, not only with participation in the 24 Hours but also in the other races. Now we get on the track with at least three cars. The team is constantly expanding and this also allows us to gain more and more experience.”
In your view, what is the importance of the Iron Dames project for the entire competition? It’s actually the first project ever to support the presence of women in motorsport.
“From the beginning, our founder, Deborah Mayer, conceived this project as something that should have continuity, always looking to the future. And that’s why, even if today’s team already has established and experienced members, we believe that the best is yet to come: with that in mind, those of us competing today are ourselves working for the future of the team, to welcome the next generation, and we are sure that they will have the same positive impact that we are having today.
The project started with a very clear goal: to promote women in all fields, not only in motorsport but in general, in every area. Our motto is ‘We are women driven by dreams’. When you have a hidden dream, pursue it with all your strength: that’s the only way of achieving it. In short, we really want to motivate everyone. We want to make it clear that all of us can be ‘Iron Ladies’, in any field.”
Are there goals that this team can still achieve?
“The first ambition is still success: on one hand, we have to win if we want to motivate women. So that’s definitely the first goal and we work hard every day to achieve it. But it’s just as important, as I said before, to work for the future: the partnership with FIA Women in Motorsport, or with the Ferrari Driver Academy, is essential for this. For example, we have Maya (Weug, ed.) who competes in Formula 4 at just 16. We work to support young women drivers; we work hard so they can grow quickly.
They’re our future and Deborah Mayer, as I said before, had great insight in this area: all of us, whoever participates in the project as a whole, basically, work so that this future is as bright as possible. The fact that Deborah is now the new president of FIA Women in Motorsport bodes well for the whole movement.”
You are an inspiration for many girls who want to approach motorsport: but who was an inspiration to you?
“My family. My father, in particular. He always wanted to be a driver, but he didn’t get the chance. That’s one reason he took me to see kart races when I was a little girl, something I gradually fell in love with. Then, one day, I decided to give it a try. Since then I’ve always been able to count on my father’s support, and together we tried to achieve this dream: become, and make me become, a professional driver. It was really tough, but we did it: having the support of your family helps a lot.
Then, without a doubt, there were great drivers who inspired me, first of all Ayrton Senna: obviously, the childhood dream was to race in Formula 1. I tried to figure out what I could do and what path I should take, then at that point I started working hard to pursue my dream.”
For a woman, what is the hardest obstacle to overcome in motorsport?
“Personally, the biggest obstacle was the financial side, as it often is for many people. That’s also because in Switzerland there are no circuits, so to compete and train I was forced to move abroad. Being a woman isn’t a side issue either.
There are clichés that you do have to fight: you have to know how to communicate perfectly, especially when you find yourself talking to engineers, have to understand complex technical matters. In short, you really have to know what you want, to be convinced of what you want. This is a field where a woman has to put herself to the test twice: on the track and far from it. But if you know the world you want to be part of, if you know what you’ll have to face, my advice is to face it. Otherwise, you’ll never make it.”