We’ve all had nervous moments in our careers, occasions where we are forced to step out of our comfort zone, or venture into unfamiliar territories.
Whether it’s public speaking or business trips, pitching a story to a member of the media or tackling an Excel spreadsheet, feelings of anxiety or trepidation can creep up on us a moment’s notice.
For Cosworth’s Marketing Manager Minaxee Prajapati, having the chance to attend this year’s Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours was the opportunity of a lifetime: a motorsport fanatic’s dream-come-true.
Minaxee is no stranger to the automotive or racing worlds, and certainly isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty when it comes to servicing her own cars. But that doesn’t mean a trip across the pond to the Brickyard was all plain sailing. As a relative newcomer to Cosworth, and having never ventured into Gasoline Alley, the trip was fraught with very specific pre-travel nerves.
“I am relatively new to the industry,” she says, “so attending races in a marketing context is quite new for me. Obviously, I’ve done things in previous roles, but this was on a completely different scale. I was out of my comfort zone, so I had to really build up my confidence. It was more than doing the job, and representing the company, though, this was also about being an Asian female and dealing with concerns associated with a male-dominated industry.”
Indy 500 brings with it an experience unlike any other race in the world. There’s a reason why it is cited alongside Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix as one of the sport’s big-three. Most first-time visitors would have a sense of nervous excitement, but for Minaxee these feelings were exacerbated and tinged with uncertainty.
“It was very daunting, but I came out of the Indy experience a very different person,” she admits. “Being a female played on my mind, and there were moments where I couldn’t come out of my shell. You don’t see other Asian females, and that brings a sense of isolation. Don’t get me wrong, I was extremely privileged to have the chance to go to Indy – and then to Le Mans. There are so few people get to experience that, especially women.”
A tweet last month from a keyboard warrior once again raised the question of acceptance in motorsport. “Meet Naomi Schiff, Sky Sports latest Formula 1 commentator. Can you guess what her main qualification for the job is? Hint, it isn’t Formula 1 experience” read the post, above a picture of Schiff in her racing overalls from a W Series event.
Naomi herself shared the comment with three yawn emojis, generating a wave of support and compassion. Lewis Hamilton also got involved. “Still have a long way to go to change these attitudes in sport,” he tweeted.
“It’s upsetting that people have a platform to put stuff like that out,” commented Minaxee about the tweet. “In this day and age, it’s not right. Comments like that undo all the effort we put in to overcome our anxiety, our fear of not being accepted. Reading that tweet, my heart sank; we are all human.”
Minaxee is intent on using her personal experiences as a catalyst to do more for female representation in motorsport. There are already communities and initiatives in existence, from Women in Motorsport to FIA Girls on Track, but it requires combined and continuous effort.
“I want to get a committee of females together within Cosworth to talk about our experiences and motorsport in general,” she says. “I’d love to set up a networking event at Cosworth for this and do some PR and promotion around it. Motorsport is incredible and I am proud to have had the chance to be at Indy and Le Mans.”
She continues: “The access we had was incredible, the sight and sounds of the cars, the atmosphere from the spectators, the whole thing was amazing. I know I’m incredibly fortunate to have been there, and to have been supported by the Cosworth team and so many great people in the paddocks.”