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Carol Glenn leading from the front in a man's world

THREE’S COMPANY: Glenn with David and Sam Brabham

FOR ALL Lewis Hamilton’s considerable success black people are still underrepresented in motorsport. Carol Glenn is a British motorsport official seeking to smash remaining glass ceilings.

She is the first black woman in this country to hold both a race and speed licence. “It’s a real achievement that helps change the face of motorsport,” Glenn told the Voice of Sport.

“Lewis has been good on the driver front. I remember being invited to my first British Grand Prix in 1989 and I got to sit in front of the main crowd and I remember people asking ‘what’s she doing there? Why is she there? How come she’s got a seat?’

“You hardly ever saw a black face or any other kind of minority face. Now you’ll see not only black spectators but black people in teams or in racing PR companies, all around. It’s changing but it needs to change even further.”

Glenn, whose work has taken her to such legendary racing circuits as Le Mans, Monte Carlo and Silverstone, has a clear personal aim. “I want Charlie Whiting’s job,” she declares with an enthusiastic smile.

Whiting’s roles at the FIA include Formula One race director, safety delegate, permanent starter and head of the F1 Technical Department.

Following in his footsteps is some aspiration but Glenn, who started as an official in 1988 and now does much of her work with the south-east-based motor club Borough 19, is starting to achieve wider recognition for her passion and dedication to the logistics of a race day.

She has never been cowed as a black female face striving to make her mark in a white, male-dominated environment.

“It’s very much a man’s world and while there are more women these days it’s often perceived as a man’s job.”

Last year she claimed Borough 19’s ‘official of the year’ award and received a trophy engraved with her name from former Formula One driver Martin Donnelly. People say they’ve never seen me speechless before,” she joked.

Glenn, who works voluntarily, started off as a track marshal and rose to the position of a championship co-ordinator before standing poised to become a ‘clerk of the course’.

The clerk is often responsible for an entire race meeting. Responsibility for ensuring that cars are in racing nick, that drivers are in a position to compete, that all officials and stewards are in place – even the decision to halt a race or send out a safety car can fall on the clerk’s shoulders.

It is a remarkable elevation for someone from a family with no affinity for motorsport, yet Glenn relishes her responsibilities despite the reservations of her family.

“When I explain to them that I have to be there at 6.30 in the morning on weekends, which is earlier than I arrive at work during the week, and that I don’t really leave a race meeting until after 7 at night. They thought I was bonkers!
I’m out there in the wind, rain, everything.”

It requires a passion stoked by cherished childhood memories of James Hunt lifting the Formula One world title and a desire to effect genuine change.

Glenn will not rest in her quest to make motorsport more diverse and inclusive. “My biggest wish is for a black female Formula One driver to come along and be taken seriously.”

Given that only two female drivers have ever qualified and started a race in Formula One’s 65-year history it is a tall order.

Such notions do not dishearten Glenn, who is still overcoming barriers of her own.

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