Rising Stars Profile Vol.4 – Mariana Machado & Toni Kayla Naudé

FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars profile series:
Vol. 1 – Jessica Edgar & Maya Weug
Vol. 2 – Milla Sjöstrand & Doriane Pin
Vol. 3 – Ella Stevens & Kinga Wójcik

In June, The FIA and its Women in Motorsport Commission announced the launch of “FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars” program, where 20 young female drivers will participate in a selection program. The best out of the program could be awarded a one-year contract to join the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) programme for an FIA Formula 4 season in 2021.

This week, we continue with the FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars profile series, and give you Mariana Machado & Toni Kayla Naudé.

Mariana Machado

Mariana Machado is 15 years old from Portugal. In 2015, in the Juvenil category, she became the first female driver to win the Portuguese Karting Championship. In 2020 season, Mariana continues to compete in the X30 class in Portuguese Karting Championship with her new team Dino Motorsport.

© Photos provided by Machado family

Paddock Sorority (PS): Can you tell us about your first exposure to motorsport and how you started karting? Do you remember your first experience in a go-kart?

Mariana Machado (MM): Well, my father is a fan of motorsport and I was born into a racing community of sorts. Our neighbours always had race cars which they prepared and there was always some sort of racing event to attend when I was a kid. Then, one day while on a karting track, one of my family’s friends really pushed for me to try out a kart. It started as a playful thing between family friends. I was only 5 years old and I have to confess that the first time I didn’t really enjoy it that much. I was scared! And that’s when my family intervened. If there’s one thing my parents taught me, and keep teaching me, is that there’s nothing to be afraid of and that work and commitment are tools to overcome those fears. So my father insisted I kept at it and he was right. I overcame that fear and my love for karting and motorsport never stopped growing! I’ve never stopped racing since then…

PS: What made you decide you want a career as a professional driver? Currently what’s your career goal as a driver?

MM: The passion. If there’s one thing that keeps me going on is this passion. I really enjoy driving. I really enjoy racing. I really enjoy everything thing that happens around racing. The fact that I’m doing well just pushes me to keep going! Career wise, usually we try to keep our feet on the ground. Obviously, everyone might dream of racing in Formula 1, but I know where I come from. To be fair and honest, if I ever get a chance of becoming a professional racing driver in any series I’d be quite happy. As we know there aren’t many women that made it. I’d be extremely happy if in a few years I could earn a living by doing something I love this much and also try to be inspirational to a new generation of female drivers.

PS: Is there a racing idol for you? How have they impacted you and your racing?

MM: Yes, in fact I have several. Among them Lewis Hamilton, Ayrton Senna, Niki Lauda, ​​Tiago Monteiro, and so many female drivers such as Tatiana Calderon, Carmen Jorda, Jaime Chadwick, and Beitske Visser… When I come to think of it, I believe they all stand for one thing: they overcame adversity, they never gave up and in the end they became very successful. They’re all inspirational figures from which we can all learn a lot, even for people who don’t really follow motorsport. That’s what I try to do as well, keeping in mind that these people also struggled with very difficult situations never gave up. That’s something that pushes me forward and keeps me focused on achieving my goals.

PS: How are your family supporting you in your career?

MM: Well, in every way, really. Financially, psychologically, technically… The only way I could go karting was having my father with me as my mechanic and this is still true. I always have them by my side so I can say that they do everything they possibly can to help me pursue this dream and keep fighting for opportunities.

Mariana with her family

PS: What has been your best memory in your career so far?

MM: There are always many good memories and it’s difficult to choose just one. But on the top of the list, so far, are winning the Portuguese Karting Championship, being the first girl to do it, and I have to say being selected for this program and having this opportunity to participate in the FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars Program. For someone from my background, something like this has a lot of value. If not for this, a career in single seaters wouldn’t ever be imaginable.

PS: How are you juggling school work, training, and racing?

MM: This is something I’ve learned how to do from an early age. It’s something that I always did and it feels quite naturally. In this aspect I don’t feel I struggle a lot. The fact is that I never had the opportunity to have very dense racing programmes… I do only a few races a year and we don’t have the possibility to test a lot either. So it is quite natural and “easy” to balance it all. I focus a lot on school in order to have options in the future and then I follow my plans to keep fit, healthy and prepared for racing. Even if I don’t have many opportunities to go on track in-between races, I try to study the tracks, study onboards and watch all the races I can. This is something I can do because I have people beside me that have put their trust in me and help me juggle all of this. I have a personal trainer that has been with me for many years and helps me a lot with the physical parts. I have the support of Skywalker Racing Management that have done an incredible job creating a well balanced structure for me, finding me the best opportunities, and pushing for me to become a better driver and person.

PS: How are you preparing for the shoot-out in October?

MM: I’m obviously very excited by it and this means I want to be super prepared. Physical training is obviously something I’ve been doing and we’ve prepared a special plan for it. This also means a balanced diet and some special cares, even more in a situation like the one we are living. Staying healthy is a very important part of this journey. I’m also working to become more psychologically prepared. There are always a lot of uncertainty and sometimes, in situations like this, the way you manage your stress can be a game changer. So this is also something I’ve been focusing a lot.

Toni Kayla Naudé

14-year-old Toni Kayla Naudé was born in South Africa and raised in Switzerland. She started racing in 2016. In 2020 season, Toni is competing in the OK class of WSK Euro Series and FIA Karting European Championship with Exprit Racing Team.

© Photos provided by AG Media unless otherwise noted

Paddock Sorority (PS): Can you tell us about your first exposure to motorsport and how you started karting?

Toni Naudé (TN): My adventure with karting started almost by chance. In 2014 I was in Menorca (Spain) on a family vacation. My father, who is a huge motorsport fan and also drives karts himself at competition level, took us to the local go-kart track. We drove the rental karts which was so much fun. Once I got home, I kept asking to drive a kart again, so my father arranged a session in a racing kart at my local track in Switzerland. From there I joined a team and started driving racing karts in competitons.

PS: Do you remember your first experience in a go-kart? How was it?

TN: The first time at the wheel of a competition kart was thrilling. I remember every moment. How different it was to a rental kart! The sound, the speed, the adrenaline was amazing. I thought to myself: I want to do this. It is a very particular feeling and one that is at the basis of my passion for this sport.

PS: What made you decide you want a career as a professional driver? Currently what’s your career goal as a driver?

TN: My objective is to reach the highest possible level as per my abilities. Motorsport is an extremely vast world with many possibilities. There are numerous factors that influence the success of a career. To set an end goal now, when I’m still in karting, is perhaps a bit premature. I would love to have a career in motorsport. We will see where it takes me.


PS: Is there a racing idol for you? How have they impacted you and your racing?

TN: My idol is Charles Leclerc. He is young, talented and I like the fact that he can have fun. For example, during the twitch stream, he wore a banana suit and made all the other drivers laugh with his jokes. He is an incredible talent that only recently moved to F1 and is already giving the other drivers a hard time. He is a nice person and supports his brother and other young drivers. I think it’s important to have fun doing what you love.

PS: How are your family supporting you in your career?

TN: My family plays a crucial role in my career as a driver. I know that every time I put down the visor and grip the steering wheel, they are by my side. I consider this a fundamental element for my growth as a driver. My parents always say they are my biggest fans. They support me and do everything they can to help me.

PS: What has been your best memory in your career so far?

TN: I have many but one of my most memorable moments was in a DKM race in Kerpen, Germany. I had a good qualifying in 7th. About 10 minutes before the race was about to start, it started to rain heavily. At the time, I wasn’t very confident about driving in the rain. I told myself before the race to just go for it. And I did. After the start, I had already gained two places and then I just continued to overtake one by one. I was very close to winning that heat, but coming second (with the fastest time) was an absolute thrill to me and really boosted my confidence.

PS: How are you juggling school work, training, and racing?

TN: Racing is very important to me. It is what I like doing most, but it is not the only thing I do. I consider education to be fundamentally important. I am lucky that my school and my teachers have been very supportive of my racing, so I do my best to make it work. I also have many hobbies. Along with school work, training and racing, I try to make time for those as well.

PS: How are you preparing for the shoot-out in October?

TN: I am very excited to be part of the inspirational FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars program. I have always had a full calendar in terms of racing and training. I have chosen to take part in the most competitive racing in Europe this season to help me prepare for the shoot-out. I am very lucky and proud to be part of the Exprit Racing Team who are helping me develop as a driver. I have also stepped up my physical training program and I plan to do several simulator sessions as well.


Next week, we give you Esmee Kosterman from the Netherlands and Astrid Almlöf from Sweden.


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