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In the Driver's Seat with: Alana Carter

Logan Fung
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Meet Alana, the Canadian representative for the Formula Woman Nations Cup - Learn about her family's involvement in racing, the intense process of the FW competition, and how she plans to achieve her future goals!

Hey everyone, Logan from FanAmp here!

I had the chance to sit down with Formula Woman’s Alana Carter, the Canadian representative for the Nations Cup. We chatted about her racing journey, her involvement with Formula Woman, the Nations Cup, and some of the many challenges female racers face in the motorsport industry.

In honor of International Women’s Month, we wanted to highlight women who are paving their own way in the motorsport industry and Alana is an amazing example of this!

Keep reading to find out more!

Q: How and when did you start racing?

Alana: Yeah, so I had a bit of a more interesting background. I didn't go the full go-kart route like most people do. I actually grew up doing oval track racing with my dad and I started in a Honda Accord that my dad and I put a roll cage in and got track ready. Then, when I was about 11 years old, I did my first race in that car!

What's also crazy is that back in that world, it was local track racing in a small town outside of Edmonton, and we didn't really do practice days. It wasn't really a thing because it costs so much to run the track. So the first time I ever drove a race car was at the Green Flag. I had no idea what I was doing. I was just like, ‘hold it to the floor and hope you survive!’

Then I did a few years in that car and moved over to Dirt Oval Track racing where I had a very successful year. I had a Fox Body Mustang and won my very first race, I just kind of swept that season and I remember thinking, ‘okay, what's next?’ So I moved up to a dirt track late model and I had a lot of experience with the dirt oval track racing.

I finished my degree so I had that backup plan and safety net to fall back on, but I was thinking I either need to quit this sport or figure out how to make a career out of it… and I chose the latter! What I ended up doing was switching industries. It was weird because I’m 22 years old and I was starting off as a complete rookie in circuit racing. I still feel like a rookie even though I’ve done some serious stuff already so it’s pretty crazy because I’m like, I’ve been racing my whole life but now I’m starting completely new.

Q: How did your parents feel about you pursuing a career in racing?

Alana: My parents were very supportive and were both fully on board. My mom was very on board but we did have a phase where she wasn’t allowed to come into the pits. I had started winning and doing really well and she would tell me I could slow down! I was like, ‘Mom… do you know anything about racing? Do you understand how this works?’ So I kind of had to tell my mom she needed to watch from the stands for a little while. But she’s good and she raced a little bit when she was younger, she’s a cool mom.

My whole family is actually in the racing world. My dad raced and still races, my uncles raced and my brother raced. I actually just went to the States a couple months ago to pit crew for my dad which was really fun. There was one point when I was on track with my dad, my brother and two uncles and it was just like a whole family affair where we were all in the same class. It was crazy! 

But I’m the first one in my family to try to make a living off of it. Everyone in my family has alway just worked in the automotive industry. They own automotive shops or are mechanics of some sort. My dad owns an auto recycling company and so all of that has enabled us to have this entryway into the sport. I’m the first one to travel outside of North America for racing and to make money off of it, not just spend money on it. My whole family is living through me vicariously right now!

Q: At what point in your career did you learn about Formula Woman?

Alana: So I did an endurance racing school so I could get licensed to do this sort of racing and then I raced at Calabogie Motorsports Park in the Lucky Dog series which is where I met Erica Hoffman, who had won the Formula Woman competition the year before me. 

I watched her go through her journey and I remember thinking that everything she was doing was so crazy. She went from doing maybe a few track days to then partaking in Formula Woman and they really supported her and helped her career take off. I was just watching this girl race a McLaren 570 and I was like wow how did this happen? I need to be involved in that! 

It helps that she is such an awesome person and told me everything about it and answered all of my questions. I guess the rest is history!

It was one of those things that just felt way too good to be true. Especially for me and my family background, I had been wanting to be a professional race car driver for my whole life, but no one in my family had ever done it before. I didn’t have any friends that had done it and all of us were just hobby racers. So to do something like this seemed so far-fetched for me, like I didn’t even realize it was a reality. It was everything I had ever wanted to do.

Q: What was the process of training for the competition?

Alana: When I first found out about the competition, I had kind of dragged my feet on applying. At the time, I was working with the same coach as Erica and he was nudging me and telling me to do it. I don’t know why I was so reluctant but I finally took the time to research it and I was like ‘let’s give it a shot!’ We had to do a bunch of online courses to make sure that everyone knew the basics of racing so that it would be safe. Then we had our first North American round where we did our preliminary evaluations at Calabogie. There were about 50 of us that flew to England. 

We had a camera crew but it literally felt like American Idol. It was so stressful, obviously for the right reasons because it was something we wanted so badly, but it felt so dramatic and intense. I really wanted this, so badly. I spent every day on the simulator and got a personal trainer. I just felt like having this opportunity come up was incredible and I didn’t want to mess it up. It could change my life and I’m not going to let it slip through my fingers, so I became obsessed with preparing for it. I had access to simulators through a car club that I’m a part of  and it is a fully simulator lab with closed doors and everything. I would just surface from the simulator lab hours later with bloodshot eyes and people would be like, ‘you’ve been in there the whole time?’ I just wasn’t playing around at all and I put a lot of pressure on myself to win this.

So we all headed to England and there was a fitness evaluation, go-karting evaluation, and an interview or sponsor relation type thing, basically making sure that we could be presentable and have conversations with important people. After that, they selected only 10 people from the first round. I honestly didn’t think I would make it because I had such a hard time in the karting portion. At that point, I had only gone go-karting a handful of times and we were in these rental karts in the rain and I touched the brakes and spun and kept spinning into the grass. It felt like it was game over but I got back on track and tried to not get passed by any more people. I was pretty fortunate that I was able to make it up in the other areas of evaluation so I definitely excelled in the in-car portion but I think I was the last person to make the top ten! I was the only girl from North America to make it too.

The next day we did a shootout and it basically came down to whoever could drive the fastest lap. We were supposed to have 20 minutes of practice in the morning to get used to the track, some people had seen and driven the track before but there were a number of girls who hadn’t, like myself. We showed up to the track but it had snowed so we basically waited the whole morning for it to defrost which meant we didn’t get any practice time. Basically everyone got the same thing. We were all given one out lap and one time lap and that was it. I had never seen the track before but I had watched YouTube videos of the track all night long. Before even stepping foot onto the track, I knew exactly where my breaking points were and what I had to do. 

None of us knew our times or how we did until the very end. Some girls would come back and say it was the best they had ever driven and then some girls were unsure of how they did. I’m a naturally hard on myself person so I got out of the car and thought of everything I could have done better. At the end of the day, they had us line up on the track and told us how we all placed starting at 10th position and working their way up to 1st and 2nd. It was so stressful and we’re all just standing there praying they didn’t say our name right away. I ended up winning it and they told me I had quite a margin of error, so I felt like I had left nothing on the table. Apparently I was nine tenths faster than second place which was very surreal. 

Q: Have you ever had a female inspiration from the motorsport world?

Alana: Yes, so growing up, honestly, the only female driver that I knew even existed was Danica Patrick. I know that some people have their opinions on her, but for me, she was the only one out there proving that it could be done. She was a woman racing in NASCAR at the highest level and she was basically everything I aspired to be. 

My idols have changed a little bit as I’ve grown up because I’ve become a lot more educated and met even more cool women in the racing world. Someone that I love is Pippa Mann. I think she's amazing and I love what she does. She’s helped open the door for many more women behind her, which is very cool. But a childhood idol definitely was Danica Patrick. She had so many challenges she had to face trying to break into the industry in the time that she did. The world is starting to soften up towards us but she had to fight tooth and nail to be where she was.

Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your career so far?

Alana: The biggest challenges are still getting the sponsorship funding, especially as a woman in the industry. I think a lot of people aren’t comfortable putting their money where their mouth is just yet. People love the idea of women in motorsport and they love promoting it, but when it comes down to actually funding it, they’re not ready to put their money where their mouth is.

So yes, the sponsorships are definitely the biggest challenge but as for some of the other factors, I can’t speak for most women, but I have been very fortunate with the network I’ve found myself in. I’ve received nothing but support for what I’m doing and everyone is so excited to see how far I can take this. I experience a little pushback when I go to an area or race where people don’t know who I am or what I’m capable of, but then I prove myself and I get their support. It’s definitely frustrating that you have to prove yourself to get that support, but other than that it hasn’t been too bad for me. 

My competitors, coaches and friends have all been so amazing and so supportive, and honestly the worst area is the comment section. It’s the online warriors that just get to you sometimes. Even on F1 Academy posts it is just horrible some of the things people have to say. It’s always people who have never driven a car before or who hide behind these anonymous aliases that have the most to say. On the brightside, it means that our posts or content is reaching a big audience and the more engagement the better. So sometimes we feel like, ‘come on, bring it on!’

Q: What is the Nations Cup and what else is upcoming for this year?

Alana: I was honored to have gotten the chance to fly to Dubai to help launch the Nations Cup event for Formula Woman. So basically, Formula Woman is hosting an all-women’s race which will take place in the UAE. There will be 50 women competing and representing their countries. I think we have 50 women from 27 different countries which is so amazing. We’re all coming together and representing our country globally.

It is a bit of an interesting race because anyone who qualified for the final 50 and has made it through our Nation’s Cup qualification is allowed to race. This means it's not necessarily super high level professional drivers, it’s more of an entryway to help women get more exposure as race car drivers and for some of these women, it will be one of their first ever races. We’ll have multiple different rounds, or layers, of the race for different expertise levels.

It’s going to be a really cool event that helps push people who are in the industry onto a higher global stage and lets them get much more recognition and exposure. It is also helping some of the less experienced women get into it further and get to go racing. One of the interesting things about it is it’s helped create an avenue for women who live in countries that don’t really have a motorsport community. I was talking to one of the women at the event in Dubai and they were saying that their country doesn’t even have an FIA anymore so it just increases the barrier of entry even more. We are really helping give an avenue for women in different parts of the world to get into the sport which is very cool. 

We have over 5000 women involved in our community now and these women all range from girls who are trying to get into it on a professional level all the way to girls who have never even completed a race before. We’re also supporting women getting into the engineering and marketing side of things. It’s just an avenue to get into motorsports which can be such an intimidating industry if you don’t have connections in it.

When we did the initial qualifications for the Nation’s Cup, everyone was kind of on a pretty equal playing field, but now we’ve had about two years to begin training, so it will be very interesting to see how everyone has developed. 

Q: What are some of your biggest goals or dreams for your career?

Alana: My first big goal would be to be able to race full time sustainably and be making my profits off of being a driver. Right now, I’m doing a lot of automotive events and I do instructing and all these little things to help pay the bills because my income is not coming from racing at the moment. So that is a big dream but the absolute pipe dream with Formula Woman is to get an all women’s team to Le Mans one day. I would be able to die happy after that. I don’t even care if I reach that goal when I’m like 50 years old, I’m still doing it.

Q: What advice would you give someone who’s trying to get into the racing world themselves?

Alana: Network as much as possible and make friends in the industry. It is wholeheartedly a world of it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. It’s your friends that are going to help you see success. Also, don’t push yourself too quickly to try and do the cool stuff. It was very cool that I got to drive the GT4 car early on, but now I feel I’m taking a step backwards in the radicals and re-learning some things. There is a reason people start in karts and work their way up, it’s kind of like that Daniel Ricciardo quote, “just enjoy the butterflies” and the process. Don’t forget to recognize how far you’ve made it because that’s something I need to remind myself of every day. I know we want more but I need to remember I’ve absolutely smashed my dreams compared to what I thought I was capable of!

Q: Where can people follow along on your journey?

Alana: Instagram is definitely where I’m the most active, my handle is just @alana.carter

It’s definitely where I post the most. You could follow me on LinkedIn but I love being candid with my socials so I like a good Instagram story!

There will be a lot of updates upcoming with the FW Nation’s Cup so you can follow them on Instagram and sign up for the newsletter as well.

Alana Carter interview with FanAmp

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