We speak with Ida Strømsaas of Cyan Racing about her decision to become a mechanic, what it’s like working as a female in this field, as well as some of the more memorable events of this year’s WTCR.
Motorsports has been a predominantly male hobby since day one: the first recorded race between motorized vehicles, an 1867 street race between steam carriages, took place three decades before the first instance of women racing motor vehicles, when a group of Parisian women raced around a horse track on motorized tricycles. Men may have raced before women, but women were never as far from the sport as one might expect, despite their lack of legal liberties early on. For decades, women have made huge contributions to the industry as drivers, engineers, mechanics and in administrative roles.
One such example is Ida Strømsaas, Mechanic at Cyan Racing’s racing team, the defending champions of the World Touring Car Cup. We speak to her about her decision to pursue a career in motorsports and the challenges faced by a female working in this industry.
How did you get into the motorsports field?
It started when I was four years old and I got my own quad bike. But even before this my dad was driving rally-cross, so motorsports has always been in my family. When I turned nine, I got my own go-kart and I traveled around Norway with that and competed in 10-15 races each year. When I got a little older I decided I wanted to be a mechanic – I was watching the World Rally Championship, standing outside one of the tents watching the car servicing and there I saw a female mechanic. At that moment I said to my dad, “I want to be like her!”.
I told myself when I was younger that I wanted to be the first female rally champion, but then the older I got, the more I began to realize that this could be quite difficult, as there are not many drivers in the world that can make a living by driving. Then I became interested in becoming a mechanic as it is a more stable job. I’m happy it turned out the way that it did.
At that moment I said to my dad, “I want to be like her!”
How did you get your first job as a professional mechanic?
At the school I went to in Sweden they offered internships at a touring car team, and later that team decided to employ me to help with the races on the weekends. It started there in 2012 and the year after I was offered full-time employment. I have been part of the Cyan Racing Team since October 2018.
2020 has been quite a difficult year for all of us – a lot of motorsports has been cancelled or delayed – what has been your most memorable race so far this year?
The first event was nice as we had been waiting for so long that everyone was looking forward to getting back on the track. Also, the Nürburgring Circuit as we knew that it would be a challenging one – it was our driver Santi’s second time there and Nürburgring is a very special track. It’s always nervous going there as the track is long and dangerous in many ways.
The track is long so the weather can change depending on where you are on the track. Santi was fast but he crashed twice so that was more work for us, but that’s just part of the game. Its always a nice feeling when you manage to fix the car in time and get it back out on the track. Nürburgring was definitely our best memory, even though it was not our best result.
What do you think of the stereotypes that women are not interested in cars?
I have been thinking about this – why is it that cars are for boys and dolls are for girls – but I think it is something that already happens from the moment we are born. It has changed now but when I was born you either got a pink blanket or a blue blanket. And then when you give gifts to the kids, you give cars to the boys and dolls to the girls. The world has changed a lot in the past 15 years but we still have a long way to go. Even for me, when I see a girl driving a big truck I think “wow that’s cool!”, which I would never think if a boy was driving. Everyone should be a little bit better and care less about gender.
How would you encourage females to become more involved in perhaps more male-dominated roles and industries?
I have always had people to support me and I think it is very important to have people around you to tell you that it is possible, no matter whether you are a boy or a girl. It doesn’t matter which gender you are – do what you think will make you happy and follow your dreams. That’s what I have done and so far I am happy with my choice.