It’s Bridget Bell and I have to thank my friend Simon “@joydrivery” Fryer for the following interaction.
I have to thank my friend Simon “@joydrivery” Fryer for the following interaction. I was commenting on a race craft program targeting young girls on social media and he replied with Lauren’s name. So I started doing some digging on the shy and media aloof Lauren Messenger. Let me tell you, I was impressed immediately with her level of involvement and dedication to the seemingly haut monde ‘hairdressers car’ club.
I met up with Lauren for a parmi toward the end of January to discuss the forthcoming trial for a women’s only point to point event being held at Wanneroo Raceway on Sunday the 30th of January.
How the love of Motorsport started for Lauren;
“Dad got my Sister an MX5 for her 17th birthday. In the few blocks from collecting it to taking it to his workshop he decided he was buying one.”
“I was quite young at the time, but as soon as I was old enough to get my L plates I was learning to drive in his new NC and I was going on all the social runs with the MX5 car club.”
“I was maybe 18 when I started racing in the car that was Dad’s daily and he was really cool about it basically just ‘There’s nothing you can do to break it, just go out there, go as hard as you want and it will all be fine’. I raced that 2014 and 2015 before I took a couple of years off for my career.”
“In my first or second season, I crashed the car coming out of what we call the ‘keyhole’, which is the big hairpin turn at the entry for spectators at Perth Motorplex. I accelerated too soon out of it on a wet day and spun out backwards into a fence.”
“I remember being so scared that I had just crashed my Dad’s car. But when he came rushing out his first reaction was ‘Are you okay?’ His second reaction was ‘okay you’re up soon let’s get it off the track so I can get on the track.’”
Don’s daily does rounds; driving for a Toblerone Trophy #motivation
“I got my race car basically because in the MX5 Car Club’s constitution it states that you have to have an MX5 to be president. I was Vice-President for a couple of years and people had said ‘It’s coming up, you better have a car; it can just be a shell it doesn’t have to work’. We ended up getting the one I race now, because before that I was still racing my Dad’s car.”
“For my birthday he bought me a stage two cam. My friend was doing a 2.5 litre swap on his MX5, so I took his motor as it is forged. I can put more power through it without worrying about bending con-rods or anything like that.”
“That was a project that my Dad and I did together, I took a week and a half off work [as a Retail Manager at an optometrist] last March and took the old engine out, prepped the new one; cam shafts, valve springs, headers, axle back exhaust, tuning. On the last few days the car was running.”
“I didn’t really understand how the car worked before that but as we were doing it Dad was showing me how each part works so I could understand.”
“I had a vague idea, but we could see the pistons moving, when we were putting the valve springs in, we could see how they compress; how a more aggressive camshaft works and why they work better and how it lets more air in and we could compare the old to the new.”
MX5 Car Club President Lauren Messenger elevates her mechanical understandings during a holiday engine swap
“There are four MX5s in the family, my Sister’s and my Mum’s are both stock, just suspension things like that but Dad’s has a 3.6 litre V6 from a VY. He had to add extra engine mounts to the engine because it would hit when it was running.”
Lauren, can you tell me about your experience when you first started racing?
“When I first started I was terrified. I started with a whole bunch of men in their forties and fifties. I was the only girl racing and it was really overwhelming. I was lucky that my Dad had said ‘Don’t worry about it’ and while I was scared to start off with, they [the club members] were all really supportive and I got quicker.”
“The MX5 Car Club had a women’s class and it was kind of insulting because it was just all the women together, it didn’t matter what you drove whereas for the men the field was broken up into engine capacity and criteria like that.”
“They did actually stop that class for that reason. Especially as we had improved a lot and were becoming more competitive.”
“My Dad, Mum, Sister and I all hit a spot where our times were the same for two or three years in a row, we weren’t really getting better and there was nowhere to get training.”
“When DRM (Driver Risk Management) opened, we [started working together to] have driver training days.”
“This picture is from the first time Dad let me drive his race car. When he built it he said, ‘one day when you’re good enough you can drive it on the track'” Lauren Messenger explains.
“Jurgen Lunsmann runs a Tesla in the Targa West events and he used to work for the RAC Driver Training Centre. He’s one of driving instructors along with another instructor Warwick Gates. I have had lessons with both of them.”
“I had two lessons with Warwick over three or four months and when I returned to Jacks Hill I dropped 6 seconds off my time. I went from being pretty average to a point now where I can be competitive. It was well worth it.”
What was the catalyst for wanting to run a women’s only series and how did you plan to make it work?
“I’ve been back racing for about the last 4 years, mostly with the MX5 Car Club, late last year with the TECCWA (Toyota Enthusiast Car Club WA) and the WRX Club of Western Australia.”
“At one point my only [female] competition was my Mum and my Sister. That was until I went to a WRX Club race day around the middle of last year and there were a few women there.”
“I didn’t know anyone and I was really nervous. So I just made an excuse to go talk to them like ‘where did you get the map from’. It just made me feel a bit more supported being amongst other women.”
“I remember saying to my Dad, ‘I really want to run a women’s class and a women’s only series’.”
“I attended the TECCWA Red Mist Autokhana last year and it was ran so well. Nothing was stressful when you got there. Nobody was rushing anyone. They were really focused on safety and had really fun courses.”
“Their series was limited to just 20 people divided into three classes, so it wasn’t too busy but there was still lots of great competition in each class.”
“The Mini Car Club also had a women’s day and we were talking to their President and he was saying ‘There are grants available through Motorsport Australia and with Wanneroo Raceway, so if you want to do stuff with women, they’ll support you, they’ll point you in the right direction’.”
How did you get on with Wanneroo Raceway and working with the Western Australian Sporting Car Club (WASCC)?
“We went to meet with Andrew and he was very accommodating, especially focusing on women with different opportunities. He shared the events that the WASCC already runs and was open to suggestions for new events if there is enough interest.”
“Andrew gave us huge amounts of information and ideas on how we could run events and wanted us to get involved in a lot of their events too. He was very friendly and very excited to involve new clubs. ”
“Booking the three motorsport series that I have helped put together this year has been with Lauren Cornes. She has been absolutely amazing. I have never planned a series before so I had lots of questions and came to bother her in her office for a few hours as well as answering stack of called and emails from me.”
“She has been an absolute pleasure to deal with and really made the whole process quite easy.”
“The first event this weekend is to see if I can get enough interest to run a women’s only series. I approached the WRX Club to see if they’d be interested as they are open about trying to get more women in and so they shared the event on their page. Within three days it was full.”
“Our capacity was fifteen women and there are two on the waiting list. For the two weeks after we hit capacity, I kept receiving enquiries so I’ve got another eight to ten ladies in my inbox that really want to do this event.”
“I’ve had to turn them away, but because I’ve had such a strong response it means now we can run the series.”
“I was really unsure we were going to get the fifteen participants and the response has just been so overwhelming” Lauren explains excitedly.
“We’re going to run four events using the point to point format because you can get better track time per person. If you have people racing door to door it’s a different permit, different licensing and consequently the costs go up. This way we can keep it cheap, with lots of track time and it’s easier to keep track of lap times using the equipment we have.”
“We learned early on in MX5 Car Club Motorsport that when people were racing their daily they were experiencing a lot of brake fade, which can be dangerous.”
“This way we have less wear and tear on the cars and adequate breaks to rest.”
“We’re not targeting a specific vehicle, we’re trying to encourage people that haven’t tried motorsport to get involved in some real grass-roots motorsport.”
“We want to encourage people who maybe can’t afford a dedicated race car, are just trying to get into it or for people who just want to enjoy their daily more. It gives people the opportunity, without destroying their cars They can still drive it home without having to trailer it.”
“The first half of the day is for women, the second half of the day is open to anyone. We’ve got some Mini Coopers, Imprezas, a Yaris GR, some really pimped out Commodores.”
“Some of the women driving are normally Navigators for the Targa West events so they get to have experience driving where they may not have had much experience [driving] before.”
“A lot of the women who are racing this weekend know each other, I was talking to them and they were saying ‘If you do it then I’ll do it’ I found that they’d join in twos or threes together.”
Can you tell me more about the format for Sunday?
“If no one goes off track, they’ll get 12 runs of the point to point. It’s almost a full lap, but not quite.”
“They’ll enter through the northern gate and turn right into the pit lane, then they’ll go through a full-noise chicane. There’s three bollards in a line of about 150 meters so it’s quite open, then the hairpin turn and back through the chicane out of pit lane onto the track.”
“That works out out timing of about 15 to 20 seconds depending how quick they are through the obstacles. Once they’ve cleared the ramp then the next person goes. That way we can have five or six people out on the track at once in our 15 minute time slot every hour for four hours. We can get three runs of the whole track in per person in that time.”
“Super Karts will be out on track when we come off so there’s still lots to look at and there’s food, they can freshen up, check on their cars, talk to one another. We ran this event before, we ran it in October 2021 with just the MX5 Car Club and it worked really well.”
What kind of gear do you need to officiate the point to point?
“We just purchased new timing equipment which is designed for Olympic Skiers. We haven’t tried under race conditions yet. My Dad and I set it up and did a test session running backwards and forwards to break the beams. It would have been funny to watch, but it all works beautifully.”
“Everyone has their own ID tag they attach to their keys. When the previous car has gone, they’re released and they go straight out on track through the beams which means they don’t actually have to go in order. They have to finish in the order that they started, but we have extra flexibility because the runs are registered to that tag you don’t have to put stickers on the side of your car.”
Tell me a bit more about your family’s involvement with the MX5 Car Club?
“My sister was a member first. Not long after she joined my Dad joined the MX5 Car Club as well. When Warwick Gates started a motorsport series within the club my Dad took on the Motorsport Administrator role. He has been a part of Motorsport within the MX5 Club since it first started 13 or 14 years ago.”
So you were bred into the position?
“Yes” we laugh at the implied nepotism.
“Warwick had been Motorsport Manager for the past twelve years, did an amazing job and when he stepped down I didn’t want to see it die, so I took on the Motorsport Manager position with the MX5 Car Club” she explains.
“As my Dad is the Administrator. It’s handy that the two of us can work together to do that. But they’re over-subscribed with their motorsport as we generally only have about thirty-ish people per series and there are 50 to 60 people wanting to participate just within the MX5 Car Club.”
“The MX5 Club didn’t have a race series last year because of the delayed change over with the Motorsport Manager position and it was getting too late in the season.”
“We were oversubscribed and we didn’t really know how to deal with it without being selective about who could and couldn’t race. We weren’t equipped to determine who was going to race and we wanted to make it fair.”
“And so MX5 Racing WA Inc. was started in December last year. We don’t do any social events it’s purely racing.”
“The Racing Inc. committee is basically just my whole family. My Dad is the President, my Mum is the Vice-President, I’m the Treasurer, my Sister is the Secretary and my Brother who is not into cars at all is the Motorsport Manager.”
“We only ended up running one timed event in October which was the trial form of what we’re running this weekend and I got to race against people I haven’t raced against in a year or two”
“There’s this one guy, Ross James, who is so fast, always wins his class; for the last ten years he’s won it, really good driver and my quickest time was quicker than his.”
“I didn’t think I was going to get even close, it caught me by surprise. I remember when I first started I was like one day if I can get as good as him I would be stoked, one day I want to be there. I got lessons, I’ve got lots of seat time and it happened a lot quicker than I thought it would.”
What’s next for you personally racing?
“I want to do the Bunbury City Sprint this year, I do have to find a roof though. They won’t let me race without a roof because I’ve got a soft top.”
“I co-drove for a friend this year and it was awesome, I really want to do that.”
Lauren racing her MX5 at the WRX Car Club event held at Midvale Speed Dome last October. Photo credit Revhead Media.
“It’s a lot longer than I’ve ever done before and there’s kerbs and there’s a lot more corners that are actual corners, like 90 degrees. On a race track there’s not normally a lot of right angle corners.”
“It’s held in an industrial area and they literally just close off a whole section. There is something like thirty corners, you do four rounds in one direction in the reverse in the afternoon.”
“The average speed is around 90 kilometres per hour. Some of the streets are wide, some of them are a bit tighter, there’s a wide range of corners, it’s exhilarating.”
Any other personal goals you want to achieve?
“I want to get good enough to beat my Dad.”
“Different events are geared differently, on a Wanneroo Raceway track I won’t even get close to some people because they’re a lot more powerful, if you go to the Speed Dome where there is lots of corners short track, I beat most of them.”
“There’s definitely areas I know where I need to get better but if I could come first at a few events that would be really cool.”
“I have taken home a women’s class trophy. I don’t feel like it counts as there was only four in the class, my Mum, my Sister and one other whom didn’t make it to half of the events. It feels like a bit of a cop out. The trophy is cool but. I want to win one that doesn’t feel like ‘You participated’.”
“At the TECCWA Car Club I came second in my class to my driving instructor, Warwick. I was pretty happy with that result. A few times I gave him a run for his money. But even when competing together he always gives me tips on how I can be better.”
Who’s been your biggest help realising your motorsport goals?
“There are two people who have had a massive impact on me being about to reach my Motorsport goals. The first is my Dad even when I was first learning to drive at the age of 17 he was already pointing out apexes and braking points. He got me into Motorsport and helped build confidence to trust the car and then push myself and the car further and further. I crashed his car (after repair) and he let me race another 1.5 seasons in it.”
“When I was serious about getting better, he helped create a driver training program. He now helps me run 3 different motorsport series. Age, gender and sometimes willingness were never even a thought.”
“The other person is Warwick Gates even from the beginning of starting Motorsport he always threw a few little hits my way. When my Dad and I created Messenger Driver Development, Warwick became one our of our instructors, giving me a lesson about every two months. I wouldn’t never have gotten this far without his help.”
“From how to build my car to suit me, to weight transfer, braking points, carrying lines from one corner to another Warwick has taught me how to go from ‘battling the crocodile’ as he always says, to directing the car and make it smooth.”
“Warwick ran an incredible Motorsport series for the Mx5 Club and is an even better instructor. I have a lot to thank him for. One day I hope to be good enough to beat him as he is a seriously good driver as well!”
Are you going to try and make a job out of all this?
“I don’t want to take something I do for passion and enjoyment and try to make money out of it.”
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Gladstone – BAGR Photography
“Everything we do is on a volunteer basis, we don’t get payed for it at all, we do it because we love motorsport and we want it for our friends. We want it for other people and it’s just such a positive environment.”
Women’s Only Competition Series
Booking and information through www.messengerdriverdevelopment.com
Round 1 – 22 May 2022 Midvale Speed Dome
Round 2 – 17 July 2022 Wanneroo Autotest
Round 3 – 21 August 2022 Jack’s Hill
Round 4 – 09 October 2022 Wanneroo Point to Point
The pilot women’s event has been run. Lauren, can you give me a post event recap please?
“We had a few issues with timing all of which has already been fixed. Everyone got a lot of time on track.”
“Because we didn’t know a lot of the competitors getting them in the right order as far as speed goes was really hard.”
“I also want to say thank you to Alex Butler. The pilot event on 30th of January was a trial to see if having a women’s only series was viable. Without his help and the help of the WRX Club that event and in turn the woman’s series that is planned for this year wouldn’t have happened.”
“Also thank you for the support from Gene the president of TECCWA.”
“I’m really looking forward to seeing this woman’s class grow and become more popular and normalised. I really can not wait to watch my fellow competitors smash personal bests and get better in general.”
“It’s just such an exciting time for a woman to be, and do what they want.”