It takes guts to step into an industry where you are so outnumbered that those like you can be counted on a single hand. That is what Frances Buckley (pictured below) and Bonnie Beard (top) have done in becoming the first all-female number one and two mechanics (respectively) in Supercars. They worked together for the first time at a track at the CrownBet Darwin Triple Crown – Bonnie’s first event with the team – but they’ve already achieved a lot.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED IN MOTORSPORT?
Frances: I have been involved in motorsport for about 10 years now, but only as a weekend warrior, not in a full-time position.
Bonnie: I have been involved for five years. I started volunteering as a track official in 2011 and just got the bug. I got my CAMS licence through the young officials program and then started flagging.
HOW DID YOU GET YOUR CURRENT POSITIONS WITH EREBUS MOTORSPORT?
FB: I used to work as the number two mechanic, but then the number one got promoted, so I moved up. I only started with the team this year.
BB: Before I started studying I knew nothing [about mechanical things], so I devoted every minute to learning about cars and getting as much experience as I could. I managed to get some work experience at Erebus Motorsport last year working with the V8 Utes, and eventually ended up on the Australian GT program this year.
WHAT DOES YOUR JOB ENTAIL?
FB: I’m the number one mechanic on Aaren Russell’s Commodore. I make sure everyone is doing their job and the car goes out as it should. We strip down the car when it comes off the track and see where it’s at, then send stuff away for sub-assembly, then clean it up, put it all back together again and set up for the next round.
BB: I’m the number two mechanic on the #4 car, so I have to follow what Frances says! Just basic cleaning duties, changing brake rotors, pulling parts off the car and putting them back in, as well as assisting Frances.
HAS IT BEEN A STEEP LEARNING CURVE?
FB: It really has. I am certainly in the hot seat right now, because everything is my responsibility. I have a lot of things to maintain and take care of, which I am not used to.
BB: It has been a massive learning curve. It is a matter of being able to learn under pressure and, in a fast-paced environment, being able to retain that sort of information so you can remember for later on down the track.
HOW DO YOU FIND THE PRESSURE OF WORKING FOR A SUPERCAR TEAM?
FB: It doesn’t have any more pressure than any other job I have done, to be honest. It is just a job and you get on with it.
BB: I love it! I came from six years of bar-tending so I am used to the fast pace and the pressure of having to not make mistakes, so it is enjoyable.
AS A WOMAN, DID YOU FIND IT DIFFICULT TO GET INTO THE SPORT?
FB: Yes, I had been trying to get into Supercars for quite a long time. But, unfortunately, I think being a female has let me down. I think people used to overlook me and not really consider that I had what it takes.
BB: I don’t think so. Starting off it was more to do with not having enough experience, so it was a bit of a gamble [for the team]. But showing initiative and that I can do the work to the same level as most blokes, is good.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF THE JOB?
FB: Being at the track, nothing really beats it. It is always good to see the car out on track and then have it come home with a good result.
BB: Some days it is just another day of work. But if someone had said to me a couple years ago that I was going to be working on a race car, I probably would have laughed at them! It is all just awesome.
ARE YOU PROUD OF BEING A WOMAN IN A MALE-DOMINATED JOB?
FB: It is pretty cool! I was just trying to get a role with a Supercar team. I wasn’t really expecting to jump straight to the top in my first year. It was a bit unexpected.
BB: I definitely am. It is definitely a milestone and something that will follow me for the rest of my career. My whole family is proud of it and everyone is proud that there are two chicks working on a race car for a change.
Frances and Bonnie are proof that women are just as capable as men in the high pressure world of the Supercars pit lane. And they have a good role model: their team owner is a woman, Betty Klimenko.