Shanel Drewe is a young racing driver, instructor and performance Driver for Mercedes Benz. An astonishingly talented speaker she is hugely inspirational and a great motivator. Perfect for corporate events, colleges and school events where a unique and hugely uplifting story is the order of the day.
About Shanel Drewe
An incredibly strong minded, powerful young woman Shanel takes every day at work as a small step to transforming the views of women in the sport. She is also a massively inspirational and motivational speaker.
And her favourite part of the day is when she is jumps into the driving seat to show her male pupil how it’s really done!
Shanel Drewe has never taken the easy route in life, and has been forging a career in the male dominated motorsport world since her early teens. Motor racing is perhaps one of the very few sports in the world than both men and women can compete on an even field. However, it remains a male dominated sport. When Shanel started out, just a few percent of racing licenses were actually held by females.
Throughout her teen years, Shanel has sacrificed many traditional teenage right-of-passage traditions, to concentrate on her budding career. She is also determined help break the barriers of a female in a male dominated industry.
At the age of just 18, Shanel persuaded her parents to let her have the chance of setting up her own Motorsport company. So instead of embarking on the the traditional university route, she followed her dream and hasn’t looked back since.
Her first words were not ‘mum’ or ‘dad’, but Ford or BMW. Christmas and birthday presents were not traditional girl items, but toy cars, garages and Scalextric sets
As she got older, this passion grew. Whilst in secondary school, one particular progressive teacher recognised something had to be done about it before she boiled over. Very kindly he organised for Shanel to help his brother, who was competing in a national motor racing championship.
There was no turning back for Shanel aged fourteen. Within months she was volunteering her time with a range of Saloon Car and Single Seat race teams. Each weekend her Dad would take across the country so she could spend long days helping out. This involved doing anything from washing wheels, helping with repairs through to pit lane support.
Heading to the Track
As a present for her fifteenth birthday, her parents managed to organise for a race instructor to instruct Shanel to drive on a race track herself. By the end of the session, Shanel was actually beating lap times of more experienced adult drivers. As a result, the instructor recommended it might be a good idea for her to enter an official Junior Saloon Car Racing Championship.
Coming from an average family, with no racing experience, or money to meet motorsport demands, this seemed to be perhaps a step too far. However, her Dad knew how passionate and driven she was so something had to be done.
Having recently recovered from two separate almost fatal illnesses, Shanel’s father had developed a different outlook on life. So, in a rash moment, he sold his car to buy a junior Saloon Racing Car. There was no additional money and they had no experience on how they would go racing. What Shanel has was determination and focus. She set her target at just one race!
Furthermore, Shanel put her whole effort and time into this. She discovered if she worked hard at school, and did her home work in the lunch time, she would have more time to concentrate on her racing. Her evenings and weekends became dedicated to personally promoting her ambition to companies and managing directors.
In her first season she and her dad managed not only to find support to do one race, but managed eight races. They were a father and daughter team, with the least money and experience of anyone on the grid.
Her ability shone through however, and Shanel managed to find support to step up at just sixteen years old to race in an adult championship.
She was the youngest and only female on the grid.
The season saw Shanel finish as Vice Champion in the Michelin Clio Championship Road Class, with a single point separating from first place. She also won Bristol Young Sports Personality of the Year and was Runner up in the Henry Surtees teen racer of the year award.
Shanel also equalled the championship record of the most podiums in a season, and completed the most overtakes of anyone on the grid. Her first win was at a major event at Donnington, where in extremely wet conditions. She went on to win by over 17 seconds, despite having never driven in the wet before.
Unfortunately, she encountered some pretty dire reactions. Her main rival, being much older and an experienced racer certainly didn’t like a young female threatening his championship. Not did he like her becoming a dominating part to the grid.
It was at this point that Shanel first experienced the serious realities of surviving in a man’s world. Consequently, she had to become experienced at handling such challenges overnight.
Around the same time, Shanel was filmed by the BBC taking on an Ice driving course just an hour or so away from the Artic Circle in Sweden. She also appeared on BBC Breakfast TV.
Aged 18, Shanel set up her own company, Shanel Drewe Racing, and became the youngest female at the time to obtain her ARDS Professional racing instructors’ licence. She wanted this so she could help others the way she was helped. To learn the dynamics of car control.
Sexism and worse
However, the challenges never went away. One the very first day instructing as part of her new company Shanel was subjected to inappropriate behaviour. She had to take the difficult decision of reporting a customer to the police, who felt that just because she was a young female, he could cross the line.
Subsequently Shanel has had to quickly learn how to control both a car on a race track as well as the passenger on many occasions. That is because many people who think they know better than a female, which has made her a powerful and experienced communicator.
Shanel continues to face these challenges but nothing puts her off her goals. She puts in a huge amount of time to generate vital sponsorship which enables her to continue her racing.
Incredibly determined Shanel is one extremely focused young woman
Shanel has built her company up, is a regular instructor at Thruxton Race Track alongside the likes of Tiff Needell, is currently embarking as a performance driver for Mercedes Benz, and works with some of the country’s leading experience day Super Car organisations.
"We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to Shanel for sharing her story last night and how she has resiliently and bravely stood up to challenges to follow her dream."
Organiser for Hampshire Police and Hampshire Fire and rescue – Inspire network for women