Terry: We're now joined by… let me get this right, stunt driver, precision driver, motorsport social media mogul, motorsport photographer, globe trotter, driving instructor, and now Ford Cup championship racer Sarah Hall. How are we doing, Sarah?
Sarah: How are yeah, you? I'm great. How are you?
Terry: I'm not bad. Did I miss anything off that list, like McDonald's or anything like that?
Sarah: Probably did, but we won't have all the time in the world to talk about all the things I've been up to.
Terry: Fair enough. Okay, so I got you on today. I want to speak about a few things. Well, there are all sorts I want to talk about, but primarily, you're sort of transitioning to driving instructor and how you found that first year coming out from your background. But the first question I like to ask everyone when they come on the show is around the tagline of the show. So, I speak to leaders, experts, innovators, and game changers, and I'm just wondering which one or ones of those you would consider yourself.
Sarah: Well, considering as people were always self critical and don't like to speak highly of ourselves, it's a difficult question. I'm going to go for game changer. Not strictly focused on the Adi side, but just because I've got a bit of an unusual background compared to most instructors, so I'm going to go with that.
Terry: Do you put expert in there as well, around the motor sport side of it?
Sarah: I guess to a degree. There's probably bits of knowledge and skill that I do have that some ADI’s might not from being the background I'm from, but by no means does that mean I'm an expert ADI. I'm still brand new and learning .
Terry: We’ll add humble to that list, but you mentioned the instructor side there in your background and all that long list of things that you do. How long have you been involved in motorsport?
Sarah: Since I was still in my Mam, I think, to be honest. Yeah. My mam and dad always tell me the first real experience in a rally car, she was eight months pregnant with me. So, it does explain a lot and probably why I like the noise of V Eight, because they say babies can hear stuff. So, I think that's all anyone needs to know to understand my brain.
Terry: That's obviously been most of your life, then, pretty much since you were born. It's been the motorsport thing. So, what made you take that step into becoming a driving instructor? Because while I appreciate it's still obviously automobiles, it is a bit of a diversion away from the motorsport side. So, what brought you into that?
Sarah: A couple of things, really. I mean, my dad used to be an instructor many years ago when I was a kid, and I remember him coming home in the learner cars and you'd get a different one each day because he was with a school, so we'd always sit and bet with each other what car he was going to bring home. So, I remember doing that and I guess I've always just had a real passion for driving in various aspects. But despite the motorsport side of it, the road is a different thing. And I'm really an advocate for safe driving on the road, so I just kind of thought it's a natural progression from what I've been doing anyway, because I instruct with manufacturers on private events, so it was kind of a natural progression in that sense. But I also wanted to build my own skill. Constantly setting goals for myself, whether they're achievable or not is irrelevant. I'm constantly setting targets for myself and trying to achieve things, really. So, getting through the ADI and learning all of that was just a goal I'd set for myself. And I kind of thought, one day I'll do it. And it was one of them. And eventually I just kind of said, right, get your act together. If you're going to do it, get on with it and do it. So, yeah. No, I'm here.
Terry: You mentioned about instructing with manufacturers there what does that entail?
Sarah: So there's a massive variation, really, in what I do with them. So, it can be things such as a bit of the advanced driving side on the road, it can be performance driving, it can be eco-driving, it can be training their dealership staff on the new product. So actually, looking at the vehicle itself, taking it out, looking at what features it's got, what happens if you turn traction control off? What happens if you turn this off and this often and actually demonstrating that to people and just passing on a bit of that knowledge, really, because most of the time you don't get to drive a car in that sort of spirited way or get to test it without safety features. We just take for granted that they exist. So, to turn them all off in a controlled environment, it's fun, but it's educational as well, because those people go away knowing actually that safety equipment that we're selling to our customers is great because it does work, it does this and this. So, yes, it's good fun.
Terry: Do you find that that's received well by those people as you're teaching it and working with them?
Sarah: Yeah, I'd say the whole team. I'm not there on my own. We put on a really great event. When we're working with dealerships, it's always a fun day because the staff are just glad to get out of the dealership for a day. They're glad for a day out somewhere interesting. And like I said, they get to drive the cars a lot but generally, it's just around the dealership and the local area so they don't get to really see what the product they're selling can actually do. So yeah, it's always really good.
Terry: Excellent. Just before I move on, I'm going to take a moment just to be a little bit of a fanboy for a second because I have never been someone that has been like, oh, there's a footballer or there's this famous person or whatever. I've always been a fan of mentality and I've always been a fan of someone achieving stuff. And you mentioned before about setting goals and having all these things you want to achieve and it's so I follow you on Instagram and Facebook and stuff and following you on there is a genuine pleasure and because I'll jump on one day and you're overseas there and then you're overseas there and then you're on a different race track and how hectic is your lifestyle and how do you fit being a driving instructor in around that.
Sarah: Very hectic is the answer, but I'm absolutely the type of person that couldn't sit still at a 9-5 behind a desk. It's just everyone's different and I've done it, I've been there, but for me variety is so important for me, just the way I am in myself, I like variety and I like to do lots of different things. Plus you learn a lot, you see a lot. So there's that side of it as well with the instruction. It's perfect for me at the moment because I have wanted over the last six months or so, my goal has been really to be local more because the traveling is great to a point, but some of the novelty of driving up and down the M one doesn't wear off a little bit. So yeah, to be home more has definitely been a goal. So, it was a natural progression really into the ADI. I think it kind of just fit together and allowed me to teach part-time and still do some of the other jobs that I enjoy.
Terry: You've been an ADI now for almost a year, how have you found it?
Sarah: Challenging! Is one word definitely springs to mind straight away. No, I'm really enjoying it. It's my little one-year anniversary in about two weeks’ time. It seems to have flown to be be honest, I kind of feel like it was only a couple of months ago I was going through the stress of part three. But yeah, I found it very educational on my part. I've learned a lot, partly down to the way I went through the whole part one, two and three processes. But yeah, learning every single time I go out, I'm learning and picking up things and I'm going home and probably over analyzing because that's just me naturally, but I'm analyzing myself and I'll think about a lesson all the way home? Could I have done something different there? Did I give them the best hour of my time? And that kind of thing. But I'm enjoying the learning process.
Terry: I think that's a brilliant trait after your lesson, reflecting back on it and seeing what you could do differently, as long as you don't dwell on it too much.
Sarah: I do a little bit. I'm a bit of an overthinker, but it's all for the greater good, really.
Terry: Yeah. But you mentioned there the stress of parts one and two and three in the way you did it. What was stressful about that for you?
Sarah: I'm a bit of a controversial one because I already instructed for quite a few years in a different capacity, in fairness, but I instructed nonetheless at the time. I weighed up my options for a long time of how to do it, whether I should go and learn with a school or whether to go completely independently. And in the end I decided to go for it independently.
I don't regret my decision at all. Would I have benefited from having more of a support network with the school? Yes, potentially. I don't think I'd recommend doing it the way I did it to someone who hasn't got any instructional or automotive experience. I think that would be so difficult. But I mean, fair play if you can do it. But yeah, I did it kind of by myself, really, until I did my part two and then I contacted a local Ordit instructor who was mega and really supportive and gave me some coaching before my part three, but I still struggled with the part three.
I failed my first one on, I think, two points. So that was really frustrating. And as deflated as I was at the time, I literally went home, booked it straight back in, and I just analyzed everything. I actually went back into the test centre once I'd calmed down with myself and had a little word quietly in the car. And I went back in and spoke to the examiner who taught me a couple of the points on the form, which was really helpful.
If I'd have understood exactly what those points were that they were looking for in the way the examiner did, I think I would have passed the first time. But because I went into it not blind, but not having that same support of understanding what the form was looking for, what they were marking, I missed two points on something, so it was really frustrating. But I went in and passed the second time. I just needed that extra level of understanding, really.
Terry: I think that's excellent because you may not have quite done it the way that would have been ideal the first time, but you then learn from it and go back and do it again. I mean, just on a slight aside, I failed my first attempt, but the amusing thing about that was my trainer sat in the back and I just felt that the test just go poorly. I was bizarre that started off by calling the examiner Terry, which is clearly incorrect. Hi, Terry. My name is Julie. And it went downhill from there. But afterward she got out of the car and I looked over at my trainer in the back and he said to me, you know you failed, don't you? And I thought, what if I didn't know I’d failed? What a horrible way to tell me.
Sarah: Not the nice approach, is it?
Terry: Yeah, but I think that was about the time I talked to you, actually, because that's when you appeared on Driving Test Tales on that podcast. And another side for you, I don't think I've told you this previously, that I've had at least three of my learners that have told me they wish I'd been taught by you rather than me. Not in like a rude way, but oh, it must be cool to be taught by a professional driver. Not you, Terry. There you go.
Terry: But within that first year, then you mentioned, obviously, that you overcome that standards check and how you developed and progressed from there. What other difficulties have you found in your first year?
Sarah: I think it's just that lack of network, in a sense. I know I've jumped in your inbox a couple of times for advice. There are some great people around, like yourself, who always spend the time to help new ADI’s, or just any ADI’s really, who've got a question. But I think when you first start out, I kind of had this real imposter syndrome thing going on. I was out there, my car was graphed up, I have my L-box on the top and I'm kind of sat there going, am I really allowed to be doing this? Am I actually? And it just all felt a little bit crazy because I was on my own. I kind of didn't have that boss over my shoulder kind of checking in and I was answerable to myself, which is really odd because I've been self-employed for years. It's just a different thing. Initially, I think the hardest bit was just that when you've got questions, you haven't got that immediate person or employer to query things with. So I'm kind of figuring things out on my own and just working out the best way to operate and as well as that, trying to improve myself and make sure that I'm teaching people well enough.
Terry: You mentioned imposter syndrome there. Is that something you're still struggling with? Is it less prominent now?
Sarah: I think it's lessened a little bit, but in my nature, I always feel like that in anything I do in my life. I don't have the most confidence in the world. I'm learning it, I'm trying to get better at that. But, yeah, there's still a little bit of imposter syndrome there sometimes and I think it's a funny thing because of how old I am and how old some of my students are, I'm not that much older than them, or at least I like to think that's probably a mistake as well. And so sometimes it is an odd dynamic when you kind of think, oh, this could just be like one of my pals. But actually, they're looking up to me for information and guidance and stuff, so it's been interesting.
Terry: I want to touch on that for just a little bit longer. I'm intrigued to know how you deal with it because I know it's something that a lot of instructors it's something I struggled with when I first started. So how do you deal with that?
Sarah: I mean, most of the time I just sort of internally tell myself to show up and just get on with it because you qualified, Sarah, what you're worrying for? But I think to me it's not a bad thing. The day I stop caring is the day I shouldn't be doing it anymore, really. That's what I say to myself. I feel like this because I care, because I want to be good at what I do. So I kind of just give myself a bit of a reality check and sometimes I'll doubt myself, I'll doubt the technique I'm using to teach someone. And Google is my best friend if I'm in doubt about anything.
The other day one of my students was struggling to get the grips of a park in manoeuvre and I left the lesson feeling a little bit deflated about it because I thought, I feel awful, I feel like she's getting stressed, what can I do differently? Because I feel like maybe it's my fault, maybe I'm exploring it properly, maybe I'm overcomplicating it for her. And I actually spent half an hour, I had a little break between lessons and I Googled and YouTubed, I can't tell you how many videos of other people teaching the same thing, desperate to find something different to what I'd said, thinking I'd miss something and every single one was what I was saying. So I thought, right, stop worrying, you've got the information right, maybe you just need to try a different approach with her because everyone learns differently. So I kind of just constantly researching and looking up things, I think, just to make sure I'm reassuring myself, really that I'm doing it right.
Terry: I like it. And moving away from maybe some of the difficulties you've had, what are some of the successes you've had? What have you enjoyed about the job?
Sarah: I think my first two students going for the test and passing the first time for me was just selfishly, a relief, obviously so, so happy for them and it was absolutely their achievement. They drove obviously brilliantly on the day, but to know that I'd had a hand in getting them to that point just felt so good. And the fact that I must have done something right, because they both passed. That was a relief. And, yeah, one of my students, actually, her test got cancelled the first time, as we're all probably very familiar with, due to various factors. And the rebook was a date. I was actually working outside of the country. We couldn't change it for whatever reason, so she ended up very luckily, she's got her own little motor and her parents took her for the test. So I was in Albania at the time with no signal, and all I could think about was this girl going for a test and I was just thinking, I hope she's all right, I hope she passes. I can't wait to get signal. And here because I was in the middle of a mountain somewhere, just desperate to get signal to try and find out if she passed. And when I did get signal, I just got messages through that she passed and a little picture of a certificate and she was just so happy. Yeah. So that was a really nice moment.
Terry: What were you doing in Albania?
Sarah: So, I was on an expedition with the BMW GS Trophy. So it's an off-road bike competition. I wasn't riding a bike, don't worry. I'm not quite at that level just yet, but, yeah, basically our support crew. So there's a new off-road vehicle, and we were driving those around as their debut outing. Which is some hell of a way to do it. Yeah. Major offroad.
Terry: Yeah. Stuff like this fascinates me. You pass your test and become an instructor. You have an expedition in Albania with BMW and you've still got imposter syndrome? I find stuff like that fascinating.
Sarah: I think I need therapy.
Terry: I want to ask you for some advice. You've been in the job a year now.
Terry: So you're still quite new. What would you say to someone that was maybe considering coming into the industry or maybe just about getting into it, someone at that sort of level? What advice would you offer them?
Sarah: I mean, I'd absolutely encourage it. I think it's a great job. The joy is you can do it part-time if you want, like I am, or you can do it full-time. And I think there's a lot of work to go around. I think I would probably advise them of the challenges relating to test availability and that sort of thing, because I think going into it, it's good to understand what you're going to be facing with all that. And I wouldn't say 100% of the time, but generally, I would say find a decent school, do a lot of research, speak to other people online, or if you've got a local driving instructor, sort of social group, do a lot of research into the different schools and try and find one that's got really good personal recommendations would be the best way. Because I know there are a few I couldn't name names, I wouldn't, but there are a few people online who've mentioned some not-great experiences and they're not being very supportive schools. So I think to do a bit of research into that and find one that's decent.
Terry: You mentioned there about waiting time to be on test and stuff. Was that something you were aware of coming into the industry, or did that take you by surprise?
Sarah: That took me by surprise a little bit. Yeah. To be honest, because I'm teaching part-time. I'm not yet having a huge problem with that because I don't have that constant stream of tests just yet. Although it's going to start getting a little bit busy because obviously I've been teaching people for a while now, the first couple of paths, and now I'm going to be feeling the second batch coming through. But, yeah, I'll kind of deal with that when it comes.
Terry: Was that a bit of a shock to the system, actually, seeing that waiting list?
Sarah: Yeah, a little bit. I guess we didn't expect it. If you're not in the industry or you've not had a child learning to drive or whoever in your life learned to drive at that time, you just don't know about it, really. And the fact that the media keeps saying, driving instructors that are on strike, and I'm like, all right, do I get a day off? Because they keep going, that wrong, it's the examiners, not the instructors. Yeah, I think people just don't expect that that's the case.
Terry: I think it's interesting you like the perception from the outside looking in compared to the inside looking out. I think there are two things I kind of want to ask you about that. So, first of all, your opinion on the actual job. Now, I know you said your dad was an instructor before, so maybe you had a better idea, but I found coming into the industry, that what the job entailed was very different to what I thought it entailed. Is that something you've noticed or is it because of perhaps your dad being in it? Did you have a good idea anyway?
Sarah: Maybe somewhere in the middle of that, there's definitely stuff that I expected. There's definitely more challenges than I expected, maybe not more, just different to what I expected. But overall, roughly, it's kind of what I was expecting to get into. I think one of the big things for me is just the planning on my part, so the amount of planning needed, planning lessons and even just planning my diary is an absolute pain in the backside, to be quite honest with you. But it's just the way it is. Yeah, just managing to fit people in. Obviously, I try and cover a certain area, and Dave can only do a lesson on Tuesday at 13 minutes past two, and Susan, can I do a lesson? And he's just like, oh, my goodness, meeting on opposite ends of the post code. So just that organizational factor is a little bit of more of a challenge than I expected. But I'm on top of it now.
Terry: Yeah. Then the industry as a whole. So since coming into the driving instructor industry or profession, what's been your take on it? Whether that's like the instructors, the DVSA, or the online presence, which is something I talk about a lot, how have you found the industry as a whole?
Sarah: I think it's a mixed bag, really. I was actually super nervous for taking my first student to a test and not for her, for me as selfishly. Because up until then, my main point of contact with other instructors has been online. And I don't think it's instructors per se. I think this is how the online world works. There's some right chewy people about in there and it's a weird online presence thing and it's a kind of keyboard warrior syndrome. It's just odd when people are asking genuine questions and asking for help, you'll get people put snarky comments and really shitty comments and I just think there's just no need for it. But that for me is very difficult. I've been put off posting for advice because fear of repercussion basically just from asking a simple question. So going into the test centre where it's silent in the waiting room and you've just got nervous, students who aren't talking and other instructors who are all glaring at each other thinking I don't know you, I haven't seen you before and I was dreading going in there. But actually, it was a lovely experience. It was absolutely fine. The two chaps that were there on that day were really lovely. Actually couldn't ask for anymore, really chatty and really supportive and offered advice. So that was really great. That changed my mind about it. I think online generally is just a bit of a nasty place sometimes.
Terry: No, I think I've had a similar experience, I say that my seven years now. I think I had one bad experience at a test centre, online many more and I concur, I don't understand it. Even if an instructor pulls something that in theory they should know, they're now taking time to find out. Why is that abuse?
Sarah: There exactly 100% like, yeah, okay, I've seen a few stupid questions where I think, really? But I'm allowed to think really? You don't know that, but you don't need to take time out of your day to get the keyboard and write something nasty. It's a totally different thing. And I just think if you were sat in a room with these people, would you approach them the same way? Would you just be really nasty for no reason? Probably not, because socially there's repercussions of that behaviour. Somebody would call you out and say, hold on, that's not acceptable. But for some reason online people have just got well, you can't smack someone. In the mouth online, can you
Terry: It's not often I don't know how to respond to stuff, but how to respond to that.
Sarah: I've never smacked anyone in the mouth. But we've all dreamt about it, haven't we?
Terry: Yes, well, maybe not dreamt considered. It's not a dream as such.
Sarah: No comment.
Terry: But I'm with you. There has been times when I've wanted to pass, especially sort of previous to this podcast, when I was an awful lot less confident and I've been reluctant to. And I think that you've taken a different approach to me because my approach was, I'm just going to hide over here in my corner and not speak to anyone. Obviously, that's not the right approach. So what would you suggest to someone? Again, maybe new to the industry, it's just come in, and sees all this venom online, where could they go for help? Where have you gone for help?
Sarah: Yeah, I think I think finding a local instructor that's willing to support you is a really good avenue. I'm not saying that's the, like, don't do that on its own. If you, if you've, for whatever reason, not with the school, or if you're with a school and you feel like you're not quite getting enough support, yes, there's a million videos online, there are a million books you can get and they're all really, really valuable books. Books don't answer your questions directly, do they? And I think sometimes you just need that person, a human, to speak with. I think online it can be a really good farm. There are a lot of amazing structures online and that are very, very willing to help and offer advice. I think even just, I mean, I'll just be listening to your podcast, to be honest. I'll give you a little plug. Listen to stuff like this. It's really useful just to hear, even if you don't get any info from it, just to hear that someone else has actually felt the same, someone else has been there and you can listen and think, oh, it's not just me, then. And it just makes you feel a bit better.
Terry: People are definitely getting info here today, so that's good. I want to touch on one other thing around sort of the instructor side, and it's combining those two areas. So all the motorsport stuff you did before and then the instructor, I'm intrigued if you brought any of those skills or mindsets even into instructor stuff.
Sarah: Yeah, I think so. Probably a lot without even realizing I've done it. But I've always been interested in the car control side of things. So in a way, the car control is a small amount of learning to drive, really. A lot of it is learning what other people are going to do, the rules of the road, that kind of thing. But I really love that car control side and I get a lot of satisfaction from teaching people that, really. So in the early days, just getting somebody to be able to move the car, control the car, there's a lot of satisfaction there for me. So, yeah, I'm really interested in that side of it. I think there are some differences between the standard methods of learning to drive and motorsport, obviously, but even in the car control side of things, there's stuff that we wouldn't do on the road, actually are better on the track, so I've had to separate them a little bit. But there are definitely elements you can pull from one into the other.
Terry: All right, so I want to ask you a bit more about the motorsport side of stuff, because I know that this season you are taking part in the Focus Cup Championship. So do you want to tell us a bit about that? Is this your debut on that?
Sarah: It's my debut full season, yeah. So, obviously always been into motorsport and put myself off getting a license. I don't really know why. Just talked myself out of it, can't do it. What we got in that usual old chestnut, basically, when Covid happened professionally and personally, it was really one of the lowest points of my life, to be honest. I lost all my work overnight. Being self employed felt very, very lost, and we lost a friend to Covid and various other things happened at the same time. So, it was just a really challenging year, really.
And after that, I just thought, why are you talking to yourself about stuff? I always make a little at New Year time, so when I'm off a couple of days over Christmas and New Year, I make a little list of goals for the year ahead. So I don't really do resolutions, I just do things that I'd like to have achieved by the end of that year. And I got out the old one and I thought, you've done none of that. Like, pull yourself together, get on with it, because if you don't do it this year, you're going to feel just as bad at the end of the year again.
So I just kind of went, right, let's go and do it. So me and a couple of friends just popped down to the little race track 3 hours away and did our race license test. And I didn't even have anything planned. I just thought, I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but if I don't have it, I can't do anything. So I'm just going to go and get it and see what happens. And I'm really lucky. Great friend of mine, Gary, he's got various vehicles that you can basically arrive and drive, so you don't have to build a car to go and race and go through all that expense of learning how to build a car to regulation. You basically just give him some beer tokens and he lends you a car for the day.
So, we did that raced at Bran's Hatch. It wasn't a very long race, so I'd hit myself up. I was very nervous, to put it mildly. Forgot how to use a clutch, because it doesn't matter how much experience you've got when you're nervous, your left leg just doesn't work, does it? You're just shaking on the clutch and I'm there, ready to go. Three laps in, somebody binned it into the tire wall, ending the race. Luckily, they were okay. But, yeah, three laps is all I got on my first race, so not a huge debut, unfortunately. And then I was working with Focus Cup at the time. Anyway, I do their media bits and bobs, and I got the chance to race last year at Croft, which is my local track with Forecasts Cup. So I did my first weekend of racing. It was two days of racing and absolutely loved it. And I was planning on doing the same this year at a different track. Wasn't really sure which one yet, hadn't decided. Very casual about it. And then, unexpectedly, I've basically ended up with the opportunity to race the full season for the first time, do it properly, try and get some points on the board and, yeah, I just can't believe it's happening. Really excited.
Terry: Well, I'm going to send that previous clips to the DVSA so they could hear a professional driver and professional racer talk about forgetting how to use the clutch, so maybe they'll worry less about how our students go on people like yourselves doing it.
Sarah: Don't send them a video of me driving on the track, whatever you do, because they'll just take the license straight off me.
Terry: So when does that kick off?
Sarah: 1 April. Unless I turn up and someone tells me it's all a big joke. But, yeah, 1 April at Darlington Park is around one. So I'm very excited, very nervous. I've got a test day on Monday this week, next week. What day are we on? Saturday? Yeah. Monday next week. Yeah. Test day at Bullington Park. So that is going to be my only real sleep time before the race and I'm way off pace, so I've got a lot of work to do.
Terry: More nervous. What makes you more nervous? I should say sitting in that race and seat, or sitting next to a learner driver for the first time.
Sarah: Racing seat 100%, because I am the person looking after them. I've got dual controls, we'll be fine. Nobody sat next to me, looking after me, and I'm doing like 100 miles an hour and just free wheeling it. I'm just hoping for the best. I'm living on hopes and dreams out there. So, yeah, it's a bit different.
Terry: I was the opposite. I remember my first ever lesson as an instructor and looking at that student and thinking, you could kill me today.
Sarah: Yes. That's not the line.
Terry: Going back to the driving, though. I believe you're kind of following yourself. You're doing a Vlog of your tracks. Where can people find that?
Sarah: Yes. So my YouTube channel is Sarah Hall Motorsport, and I'm going to be doing it on there. I'm going to in between races of a time constraint, but I'm going to try and make it happen. I'm going to try and do an episode per round or per race weekend, because some of them are doubles. But, yeah, that's what I'm going to try and do and have a bit of information and background behind the scenes and stuff about racing, really, and just how you can get into it. And I think a lot of people have got questions because it seems like a bit of an unobtainable hobby, but it's expensive, that's the worst part. But other than that, realistically, anyone can do it. If I can pass my odds license, anybody can do it. It's quite easy. And, yeah, hopefully I'll be able to just entertain a couple of people on there with what happens behind the scenes and we all have such a laugh as well. It's really, really fun. The championship is a really lovely place to be, so hopefully, it's a good watch.
Terry: You are officially now a friend of the Instructor podcast. If there's anything we can do to promote that, let me know. But I also want to touch on the fact that, and this may come as a surprise to you, that you are a woman yes. In a stereotypically male sort of environment. And I know that there's been some, at least local press coverage of you recently, kind of highlighting that fact. Is that something that's almost lost on you? Is that something you're aware of? Is that something that you're beating the drum about specifically?
Sarah: I've always been aware of it in a sense of sometimes you do get threat differently. Generally, and especially with Focus Corp and Motorsport 100%, it doesn't matter who you are, they're welcoming regardless. They've got other women raced in the championship as well, in the general automotive industry. However, that's where I've experienced some challenges with it. I mean, generally, I just let comments go over my head. I don't really care enough. There's not much people can say that I haven't heard. I've worked with cars since I left school, so not much new that someone can say to try and annoy me. But it does wear you down a little bit sometimes and it's constant and it's a similar joke. You just think, like, just get a new line. At least try something unique. If you're going to try and insult me, come on, just choose something there that you've actually thought of yourself. But generally, motorsport wise, it doesn't really matter. We all put our helmets on, it doesn't matter. At the end of the day, we all look the same, don't we? It's all just about going out and having some fun.
Terry: Yes, but I also want to touch on that a little bit because we spoke about the social media stuff before and about some of the negative stuff specifically with driving instructors. And I don't think I'm misremembering this, but I'm pretty sure you posted the other day showing someone some blog bitching about you being a female driver or whatever, and how do you deal with that? What advice would you give to the people? Because that's what specifically women in this instance. But like you said, it's tiring. How do you keep going when that’s something you're facing?
Sarah: It is tiring. It's really tiring. I posted the other day because I got a little bit frustrated with it all, but it was International Women's Day, as you might well be aware, and I just thought it was appropriate. The article came out the day before on purpose so that people could read it and they were just trying to give a little push to women doing something a little bit different. So I felt the article was really well-timed and, yeah, there were a few comments.
It's always interesting, though, the comments were made under the article itself on the website rather than on Facebook, so the people had user names rather than their name or their profile, which is you make your own mind up whether that's relevant to the comments they made. But, yeah, there's a couple of comments and some of them are meant in jest. I know they're not from a bad place, but they are exhausting. And you just think, well, all you're doing is feeding this narrative that women are terrible drivers and blah, blah, blah, and to me it's damaging. I know it might just seem like an innocent joke to most, and, yeah, I'm the first person that can laugh at myself. I'm always taking the Mick out of myself and I like to think I'm not really big-headed or anything, but there's only so much you can listen to these same old I'm going to quote jokes and accept that they're funny. It's not a woke like offended thing.
I just think when you've got young girls who were potentially looking at a career in the automotive industry or racing or anything of that sort, they're reading that and that narrative is fed in from them being a kid that women can't drive, women aren't good enough to do that job. It's a man's job and it's just not true. I think we just need to stop that. Let it just be let people do what they want to do without having to take the mic out of it. I hope that makes sense.
The way I think of it, it wasn't mentioned in the article, actually, because it's all about the racing. It wasn't mentioned that I was a driving instructor, but, yeah, one of the comments was, yeah, but can they parallel park. And so my response was, Well, I hope so because I'm a driving instructor and he disappeared after that. He didn't come back.
One of them was something about women not being successful in motorsport and let's see if she's successful. Like, really kind of snarky about it. And I thought, well, it's just a really odd way of thinking of it to assume that somebody who I've said in the article I'm starting out, this is my first time really racing to think that I have to enter at the top of my game right on the podium straight away. Otherwise you no good is a really bizarre thing, because I've not seen any gentleman questioned about why aren't you straight to the top of the podium, then? You can't be very good, then, can you? But it's just this weird light. You've got to start somewhere, you've got to learn.
Do you know what? It doesn't matter if I was at the back for every race I ever do for the rest of my life, if I'm enjoying it, someone's got to be at the back. It doesn't matter, I don't think. But, yeah, you get these really bizarre comments sometimes. You just got to or I do, I just ignore them. It's hard. You've got to be a bit thick skinned with some of them, but, yeah, you've got to be. Either ignore them or kill them with kindness, because if you reply, they love it. It's like catching fish in it. They reel you in. And all they want is a bit of online banter and they think that they've got you, so you just ignore them all. Be super nice.
I actually offered somebody to come and have a go at my job once because he made a comment online about he didn't think I'd see it, but he made this comment and he said something about being in the kitchen, and I thought, oh, my gosh. I left it at first, but he just kept picking he just kept putting little comments under the video. And at the time, I was working with the British Strict Championship, doing presenting work, so we were, like live presenting to, like, a million people. I was 100% out of my comfort zone, but I was loving it. I was learning loads, I was improving at the job, and not the best presenter in the world by far, but just enjoying myself. Anyway, I made this comment and so I said, well, if you'd like, at the next meeting, I'll be my guest. I'll pay for your ticket. You can come in and you can come up to the commentary tower and you can come and see what we do and you can then tell me if you think it's really easy and I should be in the kitchen. And that was one of the best ones because he crawled back in his hall and he just kind of shrunk and he was like, I'm really sorry, I didn't think you'd see my comment. The online world is such a strange place it really is. You've just got to be thick-skinned.
Terry: I don't normally say this, but for anyone listening, I'm going to highly recommend you rewind about five minutes and listen to that again, because some absolute gold in what Sarah just said there. So I would take the opportunity listen to that again, it's just a couple of bits I want to touch back on because you mentioned about girls either learning to drive or coming into the motorsport industry or automotive industry or whatever it is and having that stigma. And I don't think I've said this public before, so I'll be interested in your thoughts on this. It's something I see as an instructor stereotypically, admittedly, but generally, when women or girls get in the car, they don't get in believing they can do it, they get in assuming they can, and they're going to have to work really hard to achieve it. But when lads get in, they get in with the assumption they can do it because that's what they've been told. And I see you're not in there. Is that what you see? Is that what you agree with?
Sarah: 100%. And I can tell you now, if I take learning to drive out of the way, let's go back to when I was an instructor at a stunt school, I can tell you now who are the ones who got it right most of the time, and it was the girls. And the reason is that they don't get into the car with an ego most of the time, and they listen in a different way to boys. So it's not 100% 50 50, but generally the girls would get in, they would be less confident, less confident in their own ability and thinking they can do it. But they would get in, they would listen, they would achieve the manoeuvre that we were trying to teach them. And all we had to do was boost their confidence a bit and get them to put the accelerator down a bit harder.
Whereas generally, the lads got in with a little bit of ego and the ego got in the way of them listening to the instruction, because in their head, they had this mindset of, I'm going to be really good at this. And there's nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with confidence, but you've still got to accept that instruction from somebody who is teaching you something you don't know. There is an element of that with learning to drive, I think, as well, but it is a frustrating concept.
Cars have always traditionally been a male hobby and I accept that. That's just the way it is. It's the same with some female related hobbies, but it's 2023, it's not 1943. Times have changed a bit and it used to be a case of the the men went out to work, the men drove the cars, women stayed at home, because, to be honest, back then, you could survive on one income. I think everyone knows at the moment we can't do that. We can't survive on two and never mind one. So things have changed. Women didn't need to drive, so it was always traditionally a male thing. But times have changed and there's absolutely no difference between a woman or a man driving.
Women are kind of still instilled for some reason with this concept that we're not going to be very good at this. Boys are better. I can't count how many pictures of curbed alloy wheels I saw on International Women's Day all shared by men taking the mic out of International Women's Day. It's just a bit of a job, but again, if this is what young girls are seeing constantly and boys, they're going to assume that this is the way the world is still and I do think it's a little bit damaging. I think we should just pack it in.
Terry: I think I agree with everything you say and I think that certainly a joke if the person on the receiving end finds it funny. I'm also a bloke and I'm human and I've developed over the years and I think back, I'm a very different person. I am now to when I was 20. I would have been a lot more likely to make stereotypical sexist jokes when I was 20, thinking they were funny. But the thing I'm seeing now, more from the younger lads is they're not making as many of those jokes. It tends to be people my age that are doing that crap and it is crap, it's nonsense. And I'm fascinated by this stuff.
And just a little start here that you might find interesting. I might have these numbers slightly off, but it's something like 23% of instructors are female, so there's like 75% of male. 55% of my listeners are female. Interesting it is, and I don't think it's anything to do with me or anything like that. I read that as the female instructors are more keen on their personal development and I'm probably going to get some hate to say that, but that's how I interpret it when you've got that split in the gender of the instructors, but that's not representative in the list of the podcast, which I find fascinating. But do you think that don't not quite have to word this question. I'm going to try. There should be more women in motorsport, in instructing on that side of it, or not necessarily the expense of men, but do you think that it should be a greater mixture?
Sarah: I do, yeah. I think I'm always an advocate for encouraging women to get into the industry because I'm passionate about it and I know there will be other women or young girls out there who are considering it, would like to do it, would be really good at it, but don't have the confidence to do it. Whether that's their own self-confidence or whether that's the influence of people around them that suggest they can't all the way society says cars are for boys and all that kind of nonsense. I think we don't need to force an equal playing field, we don't need to force it to be 50 50 split.
What we need to do is just encourage anyone who wants to do it to do it, whether that's Adi, whether that's racing or any other job involved in the motorsport industry. We've got female mechanics at Focus Cup. They're just part of the team. It's irrelevant whether they're female or male, and to just encourage people to do that is enough. We don't need a forced split 50 50. It just needs to be let's just be inclusive of people. And I don't think of inclusivity as if it's at the expense of somebody else. It's not inclusive. Inclusive just to me means it's equal opportunity for everyone that wants to do it. And I think there's a lot of females out there who would want to do it, so I think there should be more. And there probably would be if the narrative changed a little bit, but I never think it would be a 50 50 split. I think you're always going to have in this industry, more men, just because generally more men are interested. It's just the way it is. Same with racing, you know, same with various other jobs. I'm probably sure there's more male bricklayers than there are female bricklayers, but that doesn't mean that people shouldn't get the opportunity to do that job if that's what they want to do.
Terry: That's a really good way of putting it. We're not discriminating against anyone, we're just encouraging and welcoming of everyone. But I've asked you for some advice for new people coming into the industry a couple of times, because I think it's been good and you're a good person to ask. But would that advice to someone new coming to the industry be different if it was a female, or would it be the same regardless? Would you have different advice to a woman coming into our industry?
Sarah: I think I've given the same advice. I'd be very careful about what I said because I like to be realistic and I can't hide that there may be a bit of sexism somewhere along the line, but I don't want to give someone the mindset that that is how this industry is. And that's what you should expect, because I think that's equally as damaging as well to just assume that it's going to be a sexist environment. I don't think I've really had any issues at all in that regard with the Adi stuff that I can really remember it's more being when I used to work in parts, when you got the dealership and you get the spare parts of the car, that sort of side of the industry for me can be worse. But generally, no, I think I'd give them the same advice and if it was a woman who did come to me with a query of, like, anything that was remotely sexist, I know what I'd tell her, but I can't say.
Terry: All right, you mentioned a few times throughout the podcast about goals, whether it's for the racing or Instructing our wife or whatever, but I'm keen to know, what are your goals for racing? I keep forgetting what's called the Focus Cup championship.
Sarah: Yeah. Well, because it's my first season out, this is really going to be the only time I've had consistent seat time in the car. And that's really, really important with racing. It's not just driving fast on the road, it's you're pushing the car to just about the edge of its limit and your mental limit of what you can do. And it is difficult, or it can be difficult, especially when you're starting out. And I think my issue is, because I've started late in life, if you, like, really compared to most kids that get into race in Europe. So, for me, I've got to get over, like, a mental blocker, because in my head, I'm hurtling towards the corner and thinking, if I crash, this hurts. But you can't think like that, so I've got to get out of that mindset because it's stopping me from going as fast as I should be. So there's definitely a mental side of it which, for me, I want to overcome that a little bit this year, because that's the only way I'm going to be able to improve my lap times, is to improve my mental state within the rating. So if I can do that, I'd be very happy with that and naturally, then I would be improving my lap times as well. If I can just get more competitive throughout the year, that would be ultimate. I'd be so happy with that and that would be, for me, a really good foundation for the first year. It's just make a bit of progress.
Terry: I suppose, with the racing of it. It's literally the polar opposite to what you do when you learnt. I'm assuming you don't go onto the racetrack thinking about a two second gap to the car and from literally a.
Sarah: Zero second gap sometimes, and it's terrifying.
Terry: Yeah, there's a reason I don't do it. That's one of them. All right, so I am intrigued to see what's next for you, because, like I said, that intro that I gave you at the start. You've got this massive CV of stuff that you do. I'm genuinely curious about what's next? What does the future hold? Is there anything else big and bouncy coming up, or are you now just settled in for a bit and then see what happens?
Sarah: I'm fairly settled for this year, at least, because obviously I wasn't planning on doing the race season, so that's going to take up a lot of my time this. Year and a lot of budget potentially as well. So I would really like to do my bike license. I did say I was going to do that this year, but realistically, I'll see, because obviously I've got a lot on now, so it might have to reluctantly be moved to next year. But I'd love to do my bike license. I would love to do my C plus E, but realistically, I'm not really going to use it. I only want it because I can. So that's definitely not at the top of the list. But I'd love to do it because I got my C last year. So a bike I'd love to do, and then realistically, after that, motor racing, if I can, and just get some more seat time with that and try and progress. But I'm always quite open. If I find any other goals, then I'll put them on the list.
Terry: I think we're going to finish with the most important question, which is, what is the ultimate driving song? What song is going on? Sincerely, the podcast Spotify playlist.
Sarah: This has stressed me out more, this question. I have such a weird, eclectic mix of music, so I went through in my head and I said, right, what could I choose? Any, any sort of rock music is just cool, isn't it? Anything that is on GTA Five is on my playlist, but it's a feel good song. It's a bit cheesy, but it's to do with cars and it's feel good and it's uplifting. So I thought, right, I'm going to choose this one and hopefully you know what it is. It's off cars, the movie, and it's Life is a highway.
Terry: Life is a highway.
Sarah: It's just good. And if you don't like it, then.
Terry: It’s just not listening to that for many years. So, I'm glad to get that back on. All right, well, thank you for joining us today. Do you want to tell people where they can find you, where they can follow you for more, Sarah goodness.
Sarah: So if you want to follow anything to do with the Adi Driving School, it's Teesside Driving Academy, and that's on Facebook and Instagram. And Facebook, instagram and YouTube. Sarah Hall Motorsport is obviously all of my racing stuff.
Terry: Awesome. Well, thank you for joining us, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
Sarah: Thank you. It's been brilliant to catch up. Speak to you soon.