Interview with Amanda Stretton
Few can boast a career as varied and rewarding as Amanda Stretton. A successful and award-winning racer, Amanda is also a prominent figure in motorsport journalism. She is also the Confused.com motoring editor.
We caught up with Amanda to talk about her career and her thoughts on the future of motoring.
How did you get interested in cars?
“I was actually interested in motorbikes at first, and I started racing them when I was 13. I loved the spirit of competition, and it was good to be doing something a little bit different to what was expected of girls at the time.
“During my teens, my dad bought an old wedding car and started collecting and selling cars. I then started going to races when I was 16 but I really wanted to be the one on the track.
"It was quite difficult for a girl to get into that kind of environment at the time.”
What was the first car you owned?
“The first car I owned myself was a little red Nissan Micra that I bought for university as a cheap runaround.
“The first car I ever raced was something I bought when I first started out and needed to get a few races under my belt.
“It was a modded 3.5l BMW road car with a roll cage and a racing seat. To be honest, it was a bit of a heap, with dents and bumps all over it.
“As an 18-year-old girl driving around on her own in a modded race car, it raised more than a few eyebrows!”
What would you consider to be the highlight of your career in racing?
“Without a doubt, it has to be racing at Le Mans.
“When you first get into racing, you give yourself these lofty ambitions but you never think you’ll actually achieve them.
“Well, in 2008 I did just that, racing in an LMP1 class prototype (a Chamberlain Synergy Lola B06/10).”
How did you go from racing to motorsport journalism? Was it a natural transition?
“It was never part of my initial plan. I was still racing while at university, but career-wise I was lined up to work at Christie’s auction house.
“Then in 1997 I was approached by Channel 4, who wanted a female presenter for their coverage of Formula 3.
“I’d never done anything like it before, but they wanted me based on my racing experience. They invited me for a screen test and the rest is history.
“So the journalism and racing sides of my career have run in parallel for quite a while. I still race, though. Last summer I was at Goodwood Revival where I raced in a 1958 Abarth Evocation.”
What would be your dream car to race in?
“Don’t make me choose just one!
“I can narrow it down to three: A Ford GT40; a lightweight Jaguar E-Type; and some kind of prototype sports car - maybe a Porsche.
“Driving in a prototype racing car is a different beast from a road car that’s been modified for use on the track.
"Because they’re not designed for racing, modded road cars are always compromised in some way – they have to be.
“But driving in a car that’s purposefully designed to be raced is something else.”
Electric cars are increasingly becoming the talk of the town. Have you raced in an electric car?
If so, how does the experience differ from racing in a traditional car?
“I’ve not yet raced in an electric car, but I’ve driven my fair share of them.
“The main difference you notice is the sound, or rather the lack of it! In a car with a combustion engine, all you hear is the roar of the engine.
“But when you’re driving an electric car, you’re suddenly made aware of all the other noises that surround you: the transmission, the tyres, and the gearbox.”
“The other major difference is the torque - getting instant torque on an electric car is quite impressive.”
Autonomous cars are another 'hot topic' in motoring. As a professional driver, how do you feel about this change where the concept of a “driver” may become outdated?
“I am a huge fan of autonomous driving technology. Once it has a mass market, autonomous tech has massively-beneficial implications.
“But there’ll always be a place for a driver – that’ll never die out. It might be that in the future we see festivals for ‘vintage’ cars that have to have a driver, or that it’s only urban areas that become fully autonomous.
“Whatever happens, us drivers are here to stay!”
It seems that innovation and challenging the status quo is the order of the day for the motoring world. Do you think this will extend to the way people buy and use their cars?
“Definitely. Everything is becoming better connected and largely online. Now you can even buy and sell your car online, without ever having to enter a dealership!
“Things are changing quite quickly and it’s up to the manufacturers and the dealers to catch up with consumer demand.”
First published 18 May 2018