In 2020, FIA launched FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars program. Maya Weug came the first female driver to join Ferrari Driver Academy as a result of the Rising Stars selection. This year, the FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars program continues for a 3rd edition. 14 young women, 6 in the Senior Category and 8 in the Junior Category, went through the Shoot-out and Training Camp in August at the Circuit Paul Ricard. Four finalists from each category came out of the Shoot-out and will go into the Final at Maranello in November.
Just like in the prvious two editions, we are rolling out the profiles of drivers participating in the program. Today, we give you Chloe Chong, one of the Senior Category finalist, and Siri Hökfelt from last year’s program.
Chloe Chong is 15 years old from the UK. She is one of the four Senior Category finalists in the 2022 FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars program. Chloe started karting at the age of six. She is currently racing in the Junior X30 category of the British Kart Championship.
Photos © Chloe Chong
Paddock Sorority (PS): What was your first exposure to motorsport.
Chloe Chong (CC): It probably was when I was about five or six. Me and my dad were quite close because my mom was always at work, so he would take care of me at home. Every weekend, it’d be this special time where we would watch the F1 races on television. It got me really into it, because me and my dad had this time together and I could put this towards growing a passion. I guess that’s what made me want to try it myself.
PS: How did you actually get started with karting? How was your first experience in a go-kart?
CC: I just remember always asking my dad, “dad, can I go in a go-kart? Can I go in a go-kart?” He was like “Chloe, you’re not old enough.” We eventually found this place that would allow me as a six year old to drive a small little go-kart. It’s called Buckmore Park. I think the most vivid memory that I had was my dad telling me, this is the track that Lewis Hamilton started. I was always watching him as the only Brit at the time in F1. It kind of brought forward that passion as well and motivated me to want to drive fast.
PS: So is Hamilton like a racing idol for you?
CC: He definitely was at the beginning. But after I started karting, we used to watch the Super One British Kart Championships on YouTube. That was where I saw Abbi Pulling driving. She was at the time in Junior TKM. She has been my inspiration from that point onwards, just because I can relate to her and her path.
PS: At the beginning karting was a hobby, then what made you decide to want be a professional driver?
CC: I think at the beginning, it was always about having fun at first. I try to get faster but also have fun. After a few years, it became about me having this drive to win and do well. I think it was in 2019 where I really wanted to make a career out of it. There was a lot more opportunities, especially with the W Series coming about. It seems very real to me that I can make this work.
PS: Your dad brought you to the sport, how are your family supporting your racing career now?
CC: It’s quite hard as a big family. I’ve got two younger siblings and then my mom who’s always working. So it’s a bit tough with the logistics and all. But I’m really grateful that they can help me and that they are supportive for me. My mom stays at home, takes care of my other siblings when my dad and I go out for the weekend to do the races. It’s always good to know that my mom’s watching the live timing and live streaming and being supportive.
PS: What has been your best memory in your career so far?
CC: I think my best memory was probably getting that email being selected for the Rising Star shoot-out. I just remember me and my dad had been in a bit of an argument that morning. My mom was at work, we’d call her every half an hour brawling. Then when we got that news, it was kind of this disbelief and we wanted to call my mom, but my mom didn’t want to pick up because she thought that we were going to shout at her. But after we told her, it was a very emotional moment and definitely the best moment in my racing career so far.
PS: Has there been a very difficult time in your career? How did you get through it?
CC: There’s no one difficult patch in my racing career. I think that there’s been quite a few. Most of the time it’s because I feel like I’m quite a perfectionist, so I always want to be up there. I always want to be fighting at the top. It’s just the emotion of not being there. I think the way I dealt with it is by realizing that I’m always learning. As long as I’m improving, it’s all right. You’ve just got to take the pressure off yourself and cool down.
PS: What do you think are your strengths as a driver?
CC: I think the strength that I have is that I’m always quite calm and collected. I can always be quite analytical about my driving. I think a lot before I do something on the track. I think that helps me, especially in wet conditions where it’s slippery. I’m just pushing the car forward where I need to put it.
PS: Some of the other girls have single-seater experience, do you think that could be a disadvantage for you?
CC: Obviously, it gives them a bit of an advantage knowing how the car works. But I think the fact that I’m new to this also gives me an advantage in the fact that I’m ready to learn, and I haven’t learned stuff that I have to unlearn or that I have bad habits. For the final, it’s definitely gonna be hard because they want to see you improve and they want to see that you’re fast. It’s a bit of both.
PS: Could you share a bit more about your experience in the selection and your takeaways from the week?
CC: The experience was amazing. It was definitely the most professionally run event I’ve ever been to. I think I’ve probably learned about 5 years of experience in those 5 days. I really enjoyed experiencing the Paul Ricard kart tracks, the F4 cars, OKJ kart. The FIA put on some really good workshops about fitness, mentality, and tyre management. It were really jam packed 5 days, but you learn so much from it. The girls in the selection were really close together, and we all got to know each other.
PS: How are you preparing for the final?
CC: It’s quite busy. I’m trying to control my exercise routine while taking care of my new puppy right now. We’re trying to find dates that where I can test an F4 car or do some sim work with a sim company.
PS: More in the long term, if you want to keep going up the ladder, what do you need to still work on?
CC: I think the main thing for me is that I’ve got a bit of a mental block, so I feel there’s a certain expectation of me every time. I think I’ve got to lower the pressure for me to unlock my potential in karting. But then also what I learned from the shoot-out is that I definitely need to improve my fitness. That is one of the top aims from my preparation that I want to do. In a single-seater, it’s a different type of physicality. You’ve got all the shoulder and the upper arms you need to work on instead of just the hands for a kart.
Siri Hökfelt is 16 years old from Sweden. Siri started karting in 2016. She is currently racing in the Senior X30 category in the Swedish Karting Championship. She has also participated in the inaugural Electric Karting Championship in Sweden this year.
Photos © Per Hökfelt
Paddock Sorority (PS): Can you tell us about your first exposure to motorsport and how you started karting?
Siri Hökfelt: My family, especially my mother, has always been into horses. So my sisters and I started riding at a very young age. But at one horse competition, the only thing I wanted to do was as if it was a four-wheel drive. I sat on the four-wheel drive all day, so I could drive it at the end of the day. Somebody came up and said you shouldn’t be doing with horses, you should be doing motorsport. And that’s how we kind of got the idea and then karting came up and I tried it and loved it from the start. So continued from there.
PS: How was your first experience in a go-kart? What made you want to be a professional driver?
SH: It was very scary of course, but very fun. The gas pedal was amazing because suddenly I can go fast. I’m after driving and loving the sport, there is no other option than going pro, I guess. If I can do this for a professional thing, and for the rest of my life, that would be awesome. I want to do what I love.
PS: From whom did you learn the most about racing and driving?
SH: I have learned a lot from my trainer. He is my driver coach and also looks after my physical training and mechanics. He is the 6 times Swedish Champion. I started working with him last year. I think I’ve learned the most in this year than ever.
PS: Could you share with us your training schedule?
SH: My goal is to train four times a week, and sometimes I go climbing for an hour. When I train I do a 40 minutes jog or sprint, then 200 sit-ups and 120 push-ups. I do them in intervals, for example, 1 minute push-ups and then 30 seconds rest, you go until you get to 120 push-ups. I just started at a new school, which is a lot harder than the one I used to go to. Sometimes when I get home, I don’t want to do anything. But I have to. It’s just about finding the time to train and do as much as possible. Sometimes you can’t do all of it, but a little goes a long way.
PS: How are your family supporting you in your career?
SH: My family supports me a lot. My father doesn’t have any racing background, what he’s been doing is very impressive. My mother and my sister are also very supportive. They kind of complain that I go on races a lot, but they don’t make you feel bad about it. They’re very supportive.
PS: What has been your best memory in your career so far?
SH: Everything is a good memory in karting. I think the Girls on Track – Rising Star selection in France last year was a huge thing for me. It was a very good time to learn and realize that there is a future in motorsport for me.
PS: Like you said, everything is a good memory, then has there been a difficult time in your career?
SH: Yeah, I sometimes still feel I’m slow. I feel like ‘what am I doing in the sport’. But you just train harder and know that you are actually fast. It’s just the mental side of feeling slow. It’s not easy.
PS: What are your strengths as a driver? If you want to keep going up the ladder, what do you need to still work on?
SH: I learn quickly if I need to. I’m also good at overtakes when I want to, even though it’s very scary sometimes. You just commit and do what you can. I still need to work on my communication a lot. I also need to calm down in the car. It’s difficult.
PS: Tell us a little bit about your experience in the selection, what are your takeaways?
SH: The experience was very good. It was very professional. They talked to us a lot and they really wanted us to communicate to them and say things soon. For example, the seating position of the kart was decided on the first day of training. After that, it was forbidden to touch the seating position. And that was very difficult for me because I forgot about it. When the races came, I realized that I couldn’t drive like this, but I wasn’t allowed to change it any more. I learned a lot, for example, about how to get better and what my downsides are. It was a lot of learning in a very few days. I didn’t really realize it until almost a week later. Everything would be like, I know this now, and I know this now.
PS: What have you been up to this year? What’s the plan for next year?
SH: I compete in the Senior X30 category. I do a series in the Swedish Championship. In April, I also competed in Trofeo Andrea Margutti. I’m just doing a lot of karting to get better and gain experience. For next year, one plan is Formula 1000. Another is a new series of full electric Mini Cooper. Only juniors are allowed in this new series. They drive around Sweden and one of the street circuit. It would be very exciting to drive. It’s a whole new thing. If none of that works out then it’s just karting again because I love it.
PS: What’s your long-term goal as a driver?
SH: My goal is to get up into Formula 1, climbing the single-seater ladder. But that’s very hard. So to get experience on driving I’m trying everything. I feel like electric racing is the future, so I’m also trying the electric Mini thing. It’s a very exciting thing to try and be one of the first in that. The dream is Formula 1.