FOXY Hall of Fame recognises and pays tribute to females who are leading the way and inspiring other women to follow in their footsteps. FOXY’s first honorary ‘Hall of Famer’ is Vicki Butler-Henderson who presents Discovery Channel’s Fifth Gear. If it’s a challenging drive, (including Formula 1 cars, racing bikes and jet fighters no less) chances are Vicki will have had a go!
Not only does she race fast cars but she also features regularly on radio, runs driver training days, writes books, hosts conferences and presents Award Ceremonies. In between all this busy-ness, we were able to interview her recently and this is what she told us about her career.
Q1/ When did you first realise you were a better driver than most men and how did you set about making this your career?
I’m not sure about the first part! Tiff Needell is still a better driver than me. I started racing 100cc karts from the age of 12 to 17 and knew from an early age that cars must be in my life. At 17, I progressed to race cars, as well as start my journalism career in a variety of car magazines.
Q2/ Many women buy cars for practical reasons rather than driving excitement. Safety, reliability and economy are at the top of our FOXY ratings for example. We suspect you probably have performance high on your ‘must have’ list of features so we wondered which car you drive for everyday motoring and whether any others might make it onto your future shopping list?
As well as asking what power a new car has, I’m also interested in the fuel economy! I run a 4.4-litre V8 petrol Range Rover so I know how ridiculous petrol prices are for big engines. For a bit of balance I have just welcomed a Ford B-Max into the fold and am so excited that I can now bypass most petrol stations!
Q3/ Your glossy book “Vicki Butler-Henderson’s 100 Sexiest Cars” does what it says on the cover (and we wouldn’t want to spoil anyone’s enjoyment by spilling the beans about the cars in it) but we’d like to know which car, regardless of cost, is your favourite fast drive of all times and why?
I’m really surprised that a car I drove in 1999/2000 is still my favourite ever car to drive – the Lamborghini Diablo GT. There are no traction control aids on it so it’s very much a proper driver’s car. And I went to Lambo’s HQ to pick it up, which was a bit special.
Q4/ Many women tell us they’d like to know how to handle their car’s performance, particularly when roads are wet, slippery or icy. Is there a training programme you can recommend that’s suitable and sociable for females?
Driving a car is exactly the same for a woman as it is a man, so ANY extra driving tuition you search out will be great. I do run a course in conjunction with Porsche at its fantastic purpose-built facility very close to the Silverstone racing circuit in Northamptonshire. It’s a theory session (lots of giggles) and then loads of time in your OWN car, whether it’s a Nissan Micra, pick-up truck, or Ferrari. You are taught to catch a skid and induce a slide on the very low-friction surfaces, so there’s no wear on your tyres. There are 8 days running this year called YouDrive@Porsche.
Q5/ Knowing many men consider themselves better drivers than most women, how do they treat you when they see that isn’t true in your case?
I’ve always let my driving do the talking, and so far it’s done the trick!
Q6/ We’re thrilled to see Danica Patrick do so well in the USA although we’d prefer her to be acknowledged more for her racing achievements than her looks. How have you fared in your racing career to date and what advice and encouragement can you give budding female racing drivers who’d like to do as well as you and Danica in future?
I’ve been very lucky to turn a hobby into a career, albeit not a racing one. But not many are so fortunate – for every one Formula One driver, I could name you ten who are just as talented but who didn’t have the right luck and money at the right time.
My advice would be to… “Race because you love it, be prepared to work hard for every place on the track, and for every penny of sponsorship off it.”
Q7/ Many of us find motoring tricky enough to get from A to B but you often have to drive with a camera on board while telling us what you think. Does the camera come with a human being, and does this affect your driving concentration in any way?
When we film on a racing circuit, our speeds are so high and the cornering forces are so strong that it’s not feasible to put a cameraman alongside us! So we attach very small cameras to the windscreen and windows to capture everything. The microphones are on our seatbelt usually, and then there might be a whacking great bright light pointing at us from the bonnet! We’ve all been doing it so long now that we are not affected by these at all.