During 2020 motorsport experienced a special year. To coronavirus pandemic, which put several championships in check, the fight for equal opportunities within the activity. The great reference of the movement was Lewis Hamilton, Formula 1 champion. The English began to demonstrate against racism after the murder of the African-American citizen George floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
"When I started my F.1 career in 2007 I was the first colored rider and sadly, that is still the case up to now", stated Hamilton, who strongly embraced the initiative Black Lives Matter (Black lives matter too).
Hamilton became involved in such a way that Mercedes, his team, and even the category itself echoed his concern. The team painted their cars black; while the Maxima started its own campaign against discrimination through We Race As One (we all run as one) that continues in 2021, although without using the rainbow that is often used as “a symbol of union”.
But motorsport doesn't just fight racism. Currently there are people who feel discriminated against for belonging to the LGBTQ + community (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer). The English journalist Matt Bishop, former editor of the magazine F1 Racing, former head of communications for McLaren, W Series and at the present time of the team Aston Martin F1, you can attest to that.
Bishop came to Formula 1 in the mid-90s as a representative of one of the most recognized publications in the industry. "When I got to F.1 I was the only gay in the category ... I didn't hide it, but I didn't go up to Michael Schumacher and say 'Hi, good morning Michael, I'm gay'"explained the journalist.
Although Bishop was considered accepted by the entire category, he confessed that several times he had run-ins with a particular pilot who made fun of him because he was gay, although he has never said who he is.
“The runner who called me a fat fag retired many years ago. Outside of this exception they have always treated me with love; I made great friends at all levels, but I also realized that confessing being gay is much more difficult for mechanics and engineers, which is why today he worked for the rights of the gay community ”, recognizes the communicator.
“On some flight I have talked with team personnel like Jordan or Williams and they confessed to me that they were homosexuals, but that they could not say it openly because in F.1 they would not like to hear it… F.1 is a very rigid and traditionalist world, maybe today less than before, but it still is ”, clarified.
“In general I think that motorsport is still largely the territory of straight white men. Of course, not exclusively, but to a great extent. However, there are a number of things that positively challenge it ”, Bishop analyzes.
ON THE TRACK
Long before Bishop came to Formula 1 to be "The only gay in town", as he himself says, his compatriot Mike beuttler It transpired as the only pilot who confessed his homosexuality publicly.
Beuttler contested 28 races between 1971 and 1973 with March and the only time he was close to scoring points was at the '73 Spanish GP when he finished seventh. The Englishman, born in Cairo (Egypt), made his sexual preference known at a time when people did not talk about being gay.
“Mike had no stigma, he was a kind and gentle person; everyone knew he was gay, it was not a secret and it was accepted "he remembered Ann bradshaw, a public relations consultant who met Beuttler in the early 70s.
Mike's sports campaign in F.1, financed by friends who were stockbrokers, came to an end in the aftermath of the 1973 oil crisis.
With no chance to keep running, the 34-year-old Beuttler moved to the United States and lost track of it. There was only news of him on December 29, 1988 when his relatives announced that he had died after contracting VIH / PAGE.
Almost five decades after Beuttler's passage through F.1, his compatriot Danny watts, twice winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the category LMP2He said he was gay. The Brit made the decision to announce it in 2017, a few months after he stopped running.
“You feel like you have to hide it within motorsport because it is a very masculine sport. But there was something burning inside me that said 'well, you can't hide it anymore, you have to be free and be true to yourself and let it out'. I told family and close friends. Obviously, at first there was a commotion, but people were also very supportive, which was nice. "he explained at the time.
In 2018, Richard Morris, pilot of the Britcar Endurance Championship, also made his homosexuality public. "Before coming out, I would take my boyfriend to my Formula Ford races and he was there as a friend," said Morris, who decided in 2019 to shape Racing Pride to promote LGBTQ + inclusion in the activity.
“I don't think that people in motorsport are deliberately hostile towards homosexuality; some people involved in sports and industry are, of course, but I want to believe that most people in motorsport are good and tolerant. Having said that, it is still a really difficult environment to be openly gay. ", said the Briton, who hopes to race one day in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“For decades, motorsport has had an image that is very focused on straight men. There are hardly any successful driver role models who are or have been openly gay while competing; people like Hurley Haywood and Danny Watts have come out of the closet after retiring, but that was very recently and they didn't feel capable of doing it while competing. ", Agregó.
The case of Hurley haywood, to which Morris refers, is very particular. The American, who achieved five absolute victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona (1973, 1975, 1977, 1979 and 1991), three in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (1977, 1983 and 1994) and two in the 12 Hours of Sebring ( 1973 and 1981), declared his homosexuality at age 70 in an autobiography published in 2018.
“He had no gay male role models. I had to deal with all those things myself, solve all the problems of what it would be like if I suddenly came out as gay. What would that do? Would I lose all my fans? Would I lose all my sponsors? ”, admitted Haywood, who retired in 2012, in an interview with The Guardian.
THE RACING PRIDE MISSION
Since the creation of Racing Pride, the LGBTQ + community has a representation of the tracks thanks to its ambassadors such as Morris himself, the transgender driver Charlie martin, who participates in endurance races; and lesbian runners Sarah moore y Abbie eaton, who compete in the W Series. There is also Bishop himself and the engineer Krystina Emmanouilides, of the Alfa Romeo F1 team.
“If fans cheer on an LGBTQ + racer racing over the weekend, they are likely to feel much more positive towards the LGBTQ + people they meet in their everyday lives. Motorsports have a great opportunity to educate, raise awareness and have a positive impact on society. While society advances, LGBTQ + people still face harassment, threats, attacks and discrimination in all kinds of places, they are much more likely than the heterosexual population to suffer from mental health problems, be rejected by their families and even commit suicide. If we can do something about it, we have to do it! ”, Morris said about it.
People like Hamilton, Bishop and Morris show that motorsport is not exclusively a straight white sport. The struggle that each of them has undertaken allows us to presage that sooner or later stereotypes will end and that motor sport will, indeed, offer everyone equal opportunities regardless of ethnicity, gender or sexuality.