You would be forgiven if you believed the grandchild of a pioneering motorcycle engineer might follow in her grandfather’s footsteps. But for Cat Hele, 32, from Oxfordshire, her sights are firmly on the four-wheel variety – qualifying through the Formula Women programme – which could lead to achieving her motorsport ambitions.
Formula Woman provides not only a foundation for likeminded women to pursue their aspirations in motorsport, but through the programme and assessment days, could open up the opportunity for Cat to race in the world renowned Formula Woman GT Cup Team currently comprised of the winning drivers from the previous Formula Woman competition draught of ‘21/‘22.
From an early age, Cat has been encouraged to pursue her racing ambition – from very early days on a quad bike, building and designing her own mountain board as a teenager, and track racing in a ‘Young Driver’ programme. But once she was permitted to race karts, there was no looking back.
“I’ve always had a passion for motorsport – both two and four wheels – encouraged by both my dad and god parents who have motorsport connections. But it wasn’t until much later that I realised what a pioneer my grandad was, and most probably where my enthusiasm for racing had started.”
At world-renowned Norton Motorcycle’s and later Triumph, Doug Hele developed and built a slew of race winning motorbikes in the 1950’s and ‘60’s, but was known for being a quiet, humble man, about his achievements, so his grandchildren knew little about his incredible career.
“I had the remarkable opportunity to go and see grandad’s bikes on display at the National Motorcycle Museum recently. They’re just so ahead of their time, and when you talk about him, people speak in awe of his genius. I guess I can say it – he was a bit of a legend for his time.”
In her late teens, Cat dreamt of a career in motorsport but it was far less an option than it has been in recent few years.
“There were just a handful of professional women racing drivers across all formulas, and the opportunities that we have today just weren’t there. So, I went to university to study design, and my spare time was spent at karting tracks, where I could really build on my race technique and skills.”
Eventually working part time at a track in Bermondsey, London, her manager, Denis Pulle added,
“Cat was committed to improving her track performance, with her race craft and mindset under pressure really outstanding for someone who couldn’t race professionally at the time.”
Today, Cat is readying herself for her Formula Women assessment at the end of November at Bedford Autodrome where an invited group will be put through their paces both on and off the track. With a personal training regime and a track simulator at home designed to replicate the race experience, Cat is keen to accelerate her fitness to perform and racetrack technique in readiness for her November assessment.
“I am doing everything I possibly can to help me achieve qualifying for next year’s Formula Woman team. And just like my grandad, I am focused on achieving my motorsport dream.”