What is your name? Where do you live?
My name is Colene Allen, and I live in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
Which Motorsports do you participate in?
I am most heavily involved in road course racing, but I have also worked in dirt oval racing, Solo/Autoslalom, and Rally racing.
What positions do you participate in within these events? Why do you think it’s important to be represented in these areas?
Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, I was licensed by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) as a Flagging & Communication Specialist, a Scrutineer, a Pit Marshal, and a Grid Marshal. I am currently licensed by the Canadian Automobile Sport Clubs as a Chief Scrutineer and a Chief Pit Marshal.
There are a reasonable number of women working as Pit Officials in Canada and the USA, so I don’t think representation in that speciality is much of a problem. However, Scrutineering is a very different situation. Because of the technical nature of Scrutineering (Tech), I’ve noticed far less participation by women. I was the first woman Event Chief Scrutineer in the history of CASC, when I took the post for the British Empire Motor Club’s events in 2009. I believe that participation by women in Scrutineering is important because I feel there’s a stigma/internalized stigma around the technical aspects of the position, and our ability to get equal consideration depends upon bringing more women into STEM areas of the sport.
When and how did you get into motorsports?
I’ve been involved in Motorsport for a total of 40 years, having started out in 1969 and having a 13 year hiatus from 1986-1998.
I was born into the sport (chuckle). My family has had four straight generations involved in amateur racing in Canada. My grandfather was my father’s crew chief/mechanic. My uncle was a Championship winning driver. My other uncle was a Flag Marshal. My grandmother worked in Timing & Scoring. My oldest brother was a Formula Ford driver. My youngest brother raced go-karts, and my son was a Pit Official and crewed for several teams. My mother was a Flag Marshal, and my father was a Championship winning driver, who went on to Steward Formula One races in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Ironically, my parents met at the race track. My mother was engaged to a mortician at the time, and my father sprained his ankle and needed medical attention. My mother taped up my father’s ankle in Race Medical, and he was so taken with her that he asked her out on a date. She said yes, and their first date was dinner and the movie “Grand Prix”. My mother broke her engagement to the mortician shortly after, and then became engaged to and married my father.
Any words for newcomers or someone hesitant to motorsport?
Motorsport is a HUGE place! There are so many types of racing, and so many opportunities within racing that there’s a place for everyone. From Registration to Hospitality to Trackside, there’s room for everyone in the sport that’s interested, and a wide variety of disciplines within the sport to enjoy.
Also, Motorsport is this massive community of its own. I have friends that I can rely on that are involved in different areas of the sport all over the world, from a driver in the Netherlands to a flag marshal in Morocco. It’s a huge family that takes care of its own with a generosity of spirit and a true belief in kinship. Motorsport always welcomes the curious, the interested, and the talented with open arms. Come as you are, we’ll help you find where you’ll thrive and enjoy within our ranks.
You have a very well known radio show, Heels On Wheels, how did that start and what kind of topics do you cover? What are your plans for it in the future?
Oh my! Well, Heels On Wheels was around LONG before I joined the cast of characters. I joined the show as a co-host back in 2014. We are the show that gives a voice to women in Motorsport. We’ve interviewed everyone from race officials to professional and amateur drivers, crew members, mechanics, public relations representatives, team owners, engineers, and anyone else that’s a woman involved in the sport, no matter what that involvement.
We plan to continue growing the show, although I have been involved with the show less in the last two years due to health and other challenges. I still love popping in when I can and chatting about racing, the state of the sport for women, and all the other interesting developments going on, particularly now that women are making headlines in the motorsport media more and more.
When you’re not working racing events or doing your radio show, what can you be found doing?
In my ‘real life’, I work in mental health and with the homeless. On weekends, I can be found working with homeless men at the Emergency Homeless Shelter in my county. Weekdays, I am a support worker in Mental Health, working with people on their recovery from mental health challenges from the perspective of someone who has lived with a mental health challenge for over thirty years.
What is your favorite racing memory?
I can’t pick just one! There are SO many! I will share one that our listeners will likely remember hearing on the Radio Show.
When I was in my mid-teens, my father was a crew/mechanic for a guy that was racing in IMSA. We traveled around, following the IMSA circuit. At that time ( 1984-1986 ), there were almost no women involved in the sport directly, although there were a lot of wives and girlfriends hanging around. One of the exceptions to that was a driver named Lyn St. James. In trying to find a role model for what I hoped would be my future in the sport, I went with the option available to me, and it was Lyn.
A couple of years ago, we had the chance to interview Lyn on Heels On Wheels. I was pretty sure I was going to turn into a blubbering idiot doing the interview, because Lyn was my ‘racing hero’. Before I had a chance to even say a word, my co-hosts threw me under the bus by proclaiming to Lyn that I was “...a real fan girl…” of hers. It was embarrassing as heck, and yet it let us into a wonderful discussion about the importance of role models for young women joining the sport.
What are your plans for the 2022 season?
At the moment, I have two confirmed events for 2022. I will be the Chief Pit Official for the SMP Cup, a CASC race weekend at Shannonville Motorsport Park for amateur drivers. I’m also going to be attending the Vancouver E-Prix, which will be my first opportunity to officiate the FIA Formula E series. I am sure I’ll be adding other events to my season as we get closer to the start of race season here in Canada in May. I’m hoping I’ll also get a chance to return to the IndyCar Detroit Grand Prix this year, and hope to make a return to officiate at the 24 Hours of LeMans in 2023. I’d also like to officiate at the Race of Remembrance in Anglesey, Wales again in the next couple of years.
What are you focused on improving on the off season/next season?
I want to be able to free up more of my time to officiate some of my “bucket list” races, such as the 12 Hours of Bathurst in Australia, the 24 Hours of Dubai, and an Australian Supercars race event. I have lots of events that happen around the world that I want to get involved in officiating. It just takes time and money (of which, I tend to be in short supply for both!).
How does the Driving Forward Together initiative align with your views?
I have long held the view that a race car doesn’t care about your gender, physical ability, sexual orientation, skin colour, or religion. A race car only cares if you have money to throw at it and enough talent to drive it. So, for me, supporting women who are competing against other drivers with no distinctions is an important part of proving that equality and of pushing forward equal opportunity for women in the sport. We absolutely and should be racing as equals. Period. Not a debate in my mind.
Driving Forward Together provides that additional support to women where they are competing and for those that want to compete in a race group with no distinctions based on identifiable characteristics. That support is what I feel is needed to more fully integrate women into motorsport, and hopefully someday we won’t even need to have these conversations and programs to support women. I’d love it when a racer is a racer is a racer, not a woman driver, or an Arab-American driver, or a transsexual driver. A driver should just be a driver, and I hope we reach that point someday soon.