Motorsport engineers Nicci Daly partners with Emma Dempsey on a mission to raise money for the Irish Cancer Society for charity race in memory of her father
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The Formula Behind Two Females
It’s Nicci Daly and Emma Dempsey here. We will be sharing the story of our journey towards our first adventure behind the wheel of a racing car on August 18th & 19th in Mondello Park at the Historical Racing Festival so let us first introduce ourselves.
My name is Emma Dempsey. I was only a little nipper growing up around race tracks and fast cars. My interest in motorsport has been embedded in my blood from the moment I was born. My dad, Cliff Dempsey, was a racing driver before he decided to take on the role as a team owner and started his very own successful race team, Cliff Dempsey Racing, in 1988.
I don’t think there was a single race meeting I missed growing up. The only hard part was I watched from the stands and eventually the pit lane once I was old enough, hoping it would be me one day behind the wheel.
In 2008, I was finally unleashed onto a track for the first time in a Formula Ford 1600cc around Kirkistown race track. I had my big brother Peter, who raced successfully in the United States on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder as my driver coach. I remember my heart pumping as I got strapped into the FF1600 race car. I was so nervous I can remember my left foot shaking as I released the clutch and set on my way for about 10 laps of the Kirkistown race track.
I would pull into the pits and Peter would give me a few pointers about breaking and acceleration points. Every lap the times were coming down and by the end of the day I hadn’t done too bad for a complete novice. It turns out all the hours spent watching my dad’s great drivers race on countless occasions at many tracks over the years really helped me to pick up driving skills better than I expected.
To this day I still remember my dad’s eyebrows raised in disbelief at how well I was doing. I knew what he was thinking: “Not to shabby for a girl”
Over the years I helped friends in different race classes with mechanics and preparation of a race car before a meeting. I have built up a great knowledge with different race cars. More recently I have been working as a mechanic for my dad’s team in the UK, where I helped my driver finish 2nd in the British Formula Ford 1600 championship and 1st in the Northern Championship in the UK. My team finished 2nd in the FF1600 Championship and 1st in the Northern Championship.
READ more of Nicci’s blogs here at Pitch to Pits
My name is Nicci Daly and, like Emma, I grew up on the paddock of Mondello Park following the career of my father Vivion Daly. I would spend every weekend there with my family. I would be up at 6 am with my dad so I could sit up front beside him in the truck and we would be the first ones to arrive at the track because I was his number one fan girl and didn’t want to miss a single thing. From a very young age, myself and my brother would clean the wheels, polish the bodywork and setup the awning with him. My dad had no problem making us work and let me tell you, if you did it wrong in any way shape or form you would know all about it.
By the age of 10 he put me to work running the stopwatch and recording his lap times. On test days where he was on his own, I would check ride heights and tire pressures for him. He was a professional with very high standards and made sure we met those levels of professionalism, no matter what job he gave us to do.
Like Emma, I absolutely loved it. My brother and I would pester him to buy us a Go Kart and to let us race but he was too busy building his own reputation as one of the most successful drivers in Ireland. He was considered the yard stick of Irish Motor Racing and every year someone new would come along in an attempt to knock him off the top spot. His biggest competition was Emma’s dad; Cliff Dempsey’s team. They had a fierce rivalry and looking back now it was probably one that made them equally successful and determined to win.
It is no surprise now that Cliff Dempsey Racing is the leading team for FF1600 in the UK, and also for the USA scholarship entry where he has prepared race winning cars for drivers like Indycar Champion Josef Newgarden and Conor Daly at the FF1600 festival in Brands Hatch and the Walter Hayes trophy in Silverstone.
My time in Mondello would come to an unexpected stop in 2001 when my dad was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. It would be almost 10 years before I would set foot in Mondello again. Every time I visit now I am overcome with emotion and memories but also a sense of loneliness. The faces are different, the cars are different, and the atmosphere is not quite the same as I remember. But one thing that never changes down there is the passion among those that still race.
Although my time spent at the track had diminished, my passion for the sport never did. I would follow closely the career of my cousin Conor Daly as he raced in the F1 feeder series and the IndyCar series.
All I ever wanted was to be just like my dad, but racing was just never an option since my mother had to raise four children between the ages of 5 and 15. I soon realized that I didn’t need to be a racing driver to be just like him. All I had to do was find my passion and the period away from the track allowed me to do just that.
Over the last 10 years I have earned over 150 international caps for the Irish Women’s Hockey team and I am currently preparing to play in a World Cup in London in July. I also did a brief stint on the Senior Ladies GAA football team, but one of my biggest achievements was finally getting involved in motorsport again. I would go on to complete a degree in Mechanical Engineering before completing a Masters in Motorsport Engineering, and today I work for the Juncos Racing team in the United States as a Data Engineer. Life can be challenging, but it all works out in the end.
Formula Females Race against Cancer Event
When Emma invited me over to her house a couple of months back we picked up right where we left off our last conversation… talking about motorsport. We chatted about the rising number of women involved in the sport and how Danica Patrick’s return to the Indy500 was such a talking point. We shared our own dreams of racing one day and, sure enough, by the end of the night Emma had asked me to enter into a race with her. It was nothing but a notion as we laughed at the possibility, and in fact it didn’t take long for the possibility of us two novices screeching around Mondello Park to sound like a great idea.
I told Emma that I would love to enter a race with her but only if we could do it for the Irish Cancer Society in memory of my dad. Two days later, Formula Females was formed and it was formed for a number of reasons.
Formula Females is about raising money for the Irish Cancer Society and remembering the legacy left behind by Vivion Daly. The historical racing festival is also celebrating Mondello’s 50th anniversary and what a better weekend to remember the career of one of Mondello’s greatest supporters.
It is also about inspiring present and future female generations to get involved in motorsport and to encourage them to choose STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) subjects. Whether it be a race driver, mechanic or engineer, this is an exciting, fast paced environment that females can and do thrive in.
Finally, it’s about two friends having a whale of a time, fulfilling their dreams of entering into a competitive race and seeing just how much racing talent was passed down through the genes, if any at all.
You can follow our journey via our blogs, which will be featured on my blog at WISP Sports and on www.motorsport.ie as well as on our social media channels: Instagram and Twitter @formulafemales and Formula Females Facebook Page.
You can donate money to the Irish Cancer Society by following this link to our JustGiving fundraising page. We appreciate any donation, big or small. Thank you.