Jade in Focus
As Jade put on her helmet, I searched for something to hang on to. The light went green, our Focus ST left bats out of hell standing and we hurtled towards the first corner on the Llandow Circuit.
The cone was heading towards us at such a speed, someone seemed to have fired it at us. “Head for the apex,” she said calmly, slamming it into third gear. “Use the width of the track! Move over to the right!”
We went sideways, then straight and flat-out. The tightest of tight chicanes headed our way; I’ve no idea how we got round it, but it involved bumping straight over a big kerb.
When I mentioned it later, she went all Crocodile Dundee: “Kerb? That’s not a kerb! The big ones’ll have the underside of the car showing.”
I just about managed the rest of the lap without closing my eyes, although I wished I hadn’t had lunch. Then it was my turn.
I’ve done quite a bit of track driving, including drifting Mustangs around the track in Detroit, and I love it. But I’ve got zero talent and too much imagination. I’m always terrified, not only of hurting myself, but also of the embarrassment of being the only hack to damage a car. So I like to have an instructor to show me how to get the best out of the car and track (and it gives me permission to go faster).
Jade was great, she showed me the lines and where to brake and change gear, but then trusted me to get on with it, yelling encouraging things like: “Off the brakes off! Off! Off! Foot down, 4th gear now!”
By the end of a few laps, I really felt I was getting into the rhythm and my speeds were climbing, but Jade probably reckoned she could jog faster. Next I had a go in the Fiesta ST, and it was excellent fun. We had some entertaining drifts and wheel squeals, but I always felt very safe and in control.
Keeping it in the family
Motor sport is the Edwards family's passion. Jade’s grandfather Jim Edwards Snr races and her dad Jim Edwards Jnr won the Clio Cup Championship in 2000 before going on to drive in BTCC (click here for an incredible overtaking manoeuvre). Jade and her sister Chloe have both raced in the Ma5da MX-5 championship: Chloe isn’t driving at the moment due to funding, but this is Jade’s third season. She’s been on the podium from a field of 85 (mostly men).
As with all racers, finding adequate funding is tough. Jade's main sponsor is lingerie company HANRO of Switzerland (click here for UK website, or you can find the brand in Harrods, Selfridges, Fenwick and Hoopers stores). She also works, sometimes seven days a week, as a freelance instructor at tracks around the country including Brands Hatch and Thruxton. This week she’s the only female member of the team showing journalists what the new Focus and Fiesta ST can do.
She never has a problem teaching men - once she’s taken them round the track a couple of times, it’s clear she knows exactly what she’s doing. It’s not always friendly at races, though. She says: “There are some men who can’t accept being beaten by a women, and they’ll make life difficult, but I can handle them.”
Some teaching jobs include stints in supercars such as a Ferrari 430, Aston Martin DB9 or Lamborghini Gallardo, but the best car she’s ever driven was her dad’s Renault Clio Cup car, when he arranged for Jade and Chloe to have a full day’s testing. She says: “The supercars are brilliant to have a go in, but the Clio had a rollcage and sequential gearbox, it was a pure-bred race car.”
I have to ask the usual question, why are there no women on the F1 grid? She shrugs: “I really don’t know. Women have less muscle, but we’re lighter, and I know women who race in singler-seaters and they don’t seem to be at a disadvantage.”
She admires Danica Patrick, who ‘handles herself well in the pits’ as well as beating plenty of redneck boys on the track.
She says “It could just be numbers. Only 22 men in the world can get in an F1 car and not many women are racing. I was lucky to be born into a world of motorsport. I always say there might be a female F1 champion sitting in an office because it was never on their radar.”
Jade Edwards races in the Ma5da MX-5 Championship, and her main sponsor is Hanro of Switzerland. Her website is chloejaderacing.com or she tweets as @JadeEdwards9
Thanks to the Ford Motor Company
Photos by Julian Mackie