Clare Rhodes has been living the dream after spending a season as a rally driver thanks to the Silverstone Rally School Lady Quest scholarship.
Rally fan Rhodes beat-off competition from nine other hopefuls at the Lady Quest final in September last year to win the £35,000 sponsorship package and the opportunity to compete in adrenaline-fuelled rallying. She has now spent a year contesting the male-dominated sport behind the wheel of a Silverstone Rally School-backed 1400cc MG ZR with full support from the school.
Lady Quest – a talent search for the next female rally driver – is open to all ladies with no previous motorsport experience and sees contestants firstly go through an assessment day, where one lucky lady is picked to go through to the final. The 10 finalists then meet for a day of head-to-head action to decide who will be the winner of the exclusive prize.
Although she had never competed before, Rhodes, who lives in Southampton and works as an account manager in a digital agency, had enjoyed watching the World Rally Championship on television and had experienced karting and rally gift days prior to her Lady Quest win.
“I had been go-karting quite a bit and had always been quite good,” she said. “I've always been a confident and a bit of a daring driver too. My interest in rallying all started when I was bought a rally day for my birthday about four years ago. I was the only girl and I beat all the boys and from then on I was hooked.
“About a year later I was bought another rally day for Christmas, this time at Silverstone Rally School, and I had another amazing day. My instructor seemed quite impressed and told me about the Lady Quest competition that they ran and thought I should go for it so I did and it all started from there.”
Since her victory, 28-year-old Rhodes has gone on to complete six rallies, integrating the sport into her everyday life with the full backing of her husband Alex, her family and friends.
“My husband, family and friends were all really pleased when they found out I had won and have been very supportive throughout the season and constantly asking how its going every time I speak to anyone - even if its meant I haven't seen much of them at times,” she said.
Rhodes made her competitive debut with the gruelling Lombard Revival Rally, a four day endurance event in November last year, co-driven by British Touring Car Championship contender Fiona Leggate.