LONDON, June 14 (Reuters) - Formula One has not had a woman driver for more than 40 years but, on water if not four wheels, Norwegian powerboat racer and part-time pop singer Marit Stroemoey is a female F1 winner mixing it with the men.
The 41-year-old, who tours at home with her band when not making waves around the world in a carbon-fibre catamaran, is the only woman to have won a UIM F1H2O championship race.
Standing out in the male-dominated sport as much as when holding the microphone in front of a concert crowd, Stroemoey would, however, rather be recognised first and foremost as a racer.
“Racing is my life. I’ve done it all my life,” she said ahead of this weekend’s London Grand Prix in the city’s Docklands.
“It’s about winning or losing. And the moment I put the helmet on, I think we’re all the same. The only thing that counts is to win.
“I think I’ve proven that it’s possible for a woman to win the race as well and I definitely hope to do so here.”
Stroemoey’s sport is not for the faint-hearted, with the lightweight tunnel-hulled powerboats hitting speeds of more than 220kp and cornering with G forces comparable to an F1 car under braking.
Powered by muscular V6 outboard engines producing 400 horsepower at nearly 10,000 rpm, the closed cockpit boats weigh in at around 500kg with racers battling often stifling conditions.
“It’s a mind game as well as a physical game and a mechanical game,” Stroemoey, who took her first pole position in 2011 before becoming a winner in Sharjah in 2015, told Reuters.
“It has lots of things that need to be 100 percent for you to win the race.
“In many motorsports people tend to say it’s all about the car, it’s all about the engine, the equipment. But here it has a lot of other aspects...and the racer is very important.”
Formula One motor racing has had a lively debate about a woman-only championship, with Spain’s Carmen Jorda drawing flak when she said women could not compete equally with men and needed such a series.
Stroemoey, who has set up her own young driver programme with three girls among the current five, will be one of three women in the 20-strong field in London and rejected such a suggestion.
“A women’s championship for me would be to totally go back to the 1940s,” she said.
“It’s not easy, I think I have to work hard. But as long as it’s possible, why not go for the real thing? I would not be happy to win a secondary championship that is seen by other people as a step down. For me it would never work like that.”
Australian powerboater Grant Trask, who did not let losing a leg as a child deter him from racing, hailed Stroemoey as a fierce competitor.
“She drives as hard, if not harder, than most of the men out there. She’s very competitive and very quick, you don’t take into consideration she’s a female,” he told Reuters.
Daughter of a mechanic and racer, Stroemoey has still had to overcome obstacles despite growing up around the sport.
“A lot of people have told me that I shouldn’t do it,” she said. “Because the way to reach Formula One has a lot of obstacles. It’s economic, physical, mental and not to mention the time.
“When I reached 30, people started to ask me when are you going to get kids? My way is not the normal way to go. Luckily, we see more and more people who are not walking the normal way, the traditional way.
“There’s nothing wrong with walking the traditional way, but for me it’s always been about doing what I like to do and what I know I can do. I know I’m good, I know I’m one of the best and that’s the main thing.” (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ed Osmond)