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.
We are continuing with the profile series of drivers participating in the program. Today, we give you Macie Hitter from the Senior Category, and Shriya Lohia from the Junior Category.
Macie Hitter is 15 years old from the UK. She is one of the six drivers who participated in the Senior Category shoot-out in the 2022 FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars program. Macie started karting in 2016 and won Female Champion Driver in HKRC MSA Kimbolton from in 2018 and 2019. She has also won “Drive for Diversity” presented by Young Racing Driver Academy in 2020.
Photos © Macie Hitter
Paddock Sorority (PS): What was your first exposure to motorsport? How did you get started with karting?
Macie Hitter (MH): My dad is actually a bike racer. So I grew up around motorcycle track and bike tracks watching him. I actually started on the bikes, I did motocross from when I was three years old. When I got to seven years old, my cousin put his kart here and said I could have a go. So I tried it out and fell in love. That’s how the journey started in karting. I did Honda cadet for four years and then moved up to Junior X30, which is quite a big jump, because you normally go into a class with Mini X30. But we made the big jump straight up to Junior. That was my progress of getting into motorsport.
PS：How did you make the choice to switch from two wheels to four wheels?
MH: I had a couple crashes on the motocross bike, so my dad was like ‘no, we’re not doing this anymore’. Lucky, the day after I had a little crash, my cousin said I could have a go in the go-kart, so it kind of worked out really well.
PS: And when did you decide you wanted to make a career out of it?
MH: Obviously, even when I was younger, I always wanted to be involved in motorsport. But I think, in the last couple years, it’s gotten a bit more serious. I realized that this is what I want to do as a career. I do want to take it further. I’ve definitely made much bigger effort towards a sport now than I did when I was younger.
PS: You said on your website that Hamilton and Ricardo are your racing idols, why are they your heroes and how have they impacted your racing?
MH: After what happened with Hamilton losing the title last year. I think the way he dealt with everything just made him a true racing driver. The fact that he just went back to the gym and got on with his training for the next year, shows how important it is in motorsport to be able to take that on the chin and move on. It’s just phenomenal. So I think that was quite a big thing to me. Then I think Daniel Ricardo is such a big character in F1. I’ve got a sense of humor myself. So I really enjoy watching him. Even after he’s had a bad race, he always got a huge smile on his face. So I truly adore that as a driver.
PS: You mentioned how Hamilton overcame difficulties, have you had difficult moment in your career?
MH: We definitely had difficult times. Motorsport is extremely expensive. You do have to deal with it at times, sadly. But I think I’m not a stressor and I just get on with it. I hit the gym quite a lot. I’m preparing myself mentally for racing. I think I do deal with this type of things quite well. It’s a struggle for my parents, because seeing them not getting their daughter on track is quite hard. But I think everyone can agree that you do have tough times in racing and that is gonna be one of them.
PS: How are your family supporting your career?
MH: My parents have been my racing team my whole life. There’s been the three of us just working on it. We work so hard together, they’ve gotten me to where I am now. So I really can’t thank them enough. They are the people who’ve got me here.
PS: We talked about difficult moments, what about some highlights in your career?
MH: Definitely the Girls on Track – Rising Stars shoot-out. This year, to be picked as the six girls out of the world is absolutely amazing. Being a part of that has been truly phenomenal. It has definitely been a highlight of my racing career. I used to race in HKRC MSA Kimbolton. I won Female Champion Driver two years in a row. I think that’s another highlight because it just shows that females can be up there.
PS: What do you think are your strength and weaknesses as a driver?
MH: I think my strength definitely is I learn quite quickly. When I went to Paul Ricard (for the shoot-out), I did learn the track quite quickly which I made up about seven seconds in one day. So I think that’s very good. Personality is also a huge thing in motorsport, so I think it’s definitely helped me in my career. Honestly, I don’t really know what my disadvantages are. I think I’m still learning into that.
PS: Can you share a bit more about the selection? What are your takeaways from the week?
MH: There are so many things I can say I can take away from it. The experience we had is honestly life changing, because I can take all that information away with me for my whole career in motorsport. Even though my strength is learning quickly, it was also about just switching on so fast. You have to get there, and you have to be straight on it. I felt like I learned even quicker when I was there, because we were constantly pushing ourselves.
PS: Who have you learned the most from about racing and driving?
MH: When I was in karting, my parents always tried to put me in the best teams out there. The driver coaches and the team managers definitely helped me a lot with the advice and coaching they’ve given me. The advice they give you and the help towards racing is massive.
PS: What is your training schedule like? What is a typical day like for you?
MH: This is my last year of school. I’ve got a personal trainer, I’m with him twice a week, and then I go to the gym once a week myself. I’m also a swimmer. I used to do it three times a week, now it’s down to once a week. My school is a sport school, so I have quite a lot of hours of sport there as well.
PS: Is swimming just for physical training or did you practice it as an athlete? Was there ever any consideration to do that competitively?
MH: I’ve been a swimmer for 11 years. When I was younger, I actually did it to compete in things. As I made up the rankings in motorsport, I kind of had to stop swimming competitively. I now look at it as extra fitness toward racing. It’s good for your core and general strengths. Racing is definitely more my passion. I was never going to take swimming up as the profession.
PS: You are testing F4/GB4 cars, is the plan to go into F4 next year? How are you making progress of getting to that next goal?
MH: Fingers crossed that I can get into British F4 next year. But as I said, money. It is super expensive. I’ve got a good team with me now that hopefully can try and sort something out for me.
Shriya Lohia is 14 years old from India. She is one of the eight drivers who participated in the Junior Category shoot-out in the 2022 FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars program. Shriya started karting at the age of nine. She won Outstanding Woman in Motorsports in 2019.
Photos © Shriya Lohia
Paddock Sorority (PS): What was your first exposure to motorsport and how did you start karting? How was your first experience in a go-kart?
Shriya Lohia (SL): I was on a road trip with my family once, and we found this karting track nearby. It was just a fun karting track. I wanted to try it out, so I tried it out with my sister, and I ended up liking it a lot. Because I felt speed for the first time and ended up liking it. Then I asked my dad if I could go into it professionally. He agreed, and then after that, we started training. When I went for a proper training, I really like the speed, and I really like the competition with everyone else, and fighting with everyone else. I was like ‘this is what I want to do’ because it was the first time a sport ever hit me. I want this to be my future.
PS: Have you tried other sports before?
SL: I did play a few different sports. I tried basketball from school. I also did scuba diving. My sister is a shooter so I also did a bit of shooting. But nothing professionally.
PS: Is there a racing idol for you?
SL: It would be Charles Leclerc. Almost the same time as I started my racing career, he entered F1. He’s just been so consistent ever since and he drives so well.
PS: How are your family supporting your racing career?
SL: My dad is the only one who can travel with me for races. My mom is a working mom, so she’s quite busy with work and my sister with her shooting and her studies. My family is very supportive. Even if they are not all there, they always call me and always motivate me and tell me that I can do it and that I shouldn’t give up.
PS: What has been your best memory in your career so far?
SL: My best memory would probably be a few weeks ago when I won in the Rotax Championship in India. I started 10th because of a bunch of penalties. It wasn’t a great weekend overall. I kept getting penalties because other people would always collide with me and then my bumper would fall off. But I still did my best. Then it was the final day, I was starting from P10, I didn’t really know what I was gonna do. I didn’t have high hopes. I was thinking I’ll just push as much as I can and whatever happens is not in my hands. I ended up finishing first, so that was a really good race.
PS: That sounded like you overcome an obstacle to get to the top. Are there other difficult moments in your career?
SL: There’s never really been a lot of low points, but it’s just that if you’re disappointed about something, if it wasn’t up to expectations, it’s fine, you deal with it. It’s fine for a few hours.
But then the next day you get up and you’re like ‘I won’t give up. I’m gonna keep trying’. It doesn’t matter what would happen, but I’m gonna give it my best. If it doesn’t happen, then it wasn’t meant to be.
PS: In the selection, what do you think are your strengths and weaknesses as a driver?
SL: Physically, I was in quite good shape. My disadvantage in the program is actually out of my hands. It was the difference between Indian and European karts. It was a bit hard to adjust to. The track also sounds a lot different. Maybe if I had a bit more time to practice, I would have done better.
PS: Have you ever considered moving to Europe to race there for a few years?
SL: I’ve not considered moving, because financially it’s quite difficult to manage it like in India. It’s quite difficult to manage the sport financially already, moving would be a bit out of our budget. But I would definitely try to go to Europe for a few races. I don’t think settling would be an option.
PS: What are your takeaways from the Rising Star selection?
SL: It was really nice. They told us about points where we can improve on our strength. They also did mental assessments with us and told us about our reflexes and how we can mentally improve and keep up with our mental health. It’s an important part of motorsport. Maya was there as well, and she was helping us out a lot. She was watching every single driver and she told us where we could improve individually. All the mechanics and everyone were also really involved. They were definitely making sure the karts were fine. They were asking us whether we were comfortable with the kart and if we needed any changes.
PS: More in the long term, if you want to keep going up the ladder, what do you need to still work on?
SL: Overall, I think I’d have to work on my consistency, because it does fall back a bit. The distance is quite far every time traveling to a race, I travel from the north part of India to the south part. So it gets tiring. The performance is there, but then sometimes mentally, I lose a bit of motivation. I think that’s something I definitely need to work on and that I can always keep pushing.
PS: What’s the plan for next year?
SL: I’m 14 right now, and I’m in the Junior category. Next year, I hope I’ll be in the Senior category in karting. I want to perform well in that, and then also do single-seaters side by side. There is a racing series in India called LGB 1300. They are not really F4. I definitely want to try that and then F4 as well.