The Weekly

Meet the rising stars of Australian motor racing

Emily Duggan and Madison Dunston are coming in fast.

By Alex Lilly

As part of our Women of the Future series, we've heard some incredible stories from women who are making leaps and bounds in their chosen fields and leading the way for future generations.

Take Emily Duggan and Madison Dunston, for example. These two recently made their motor racing debut at the Toyota 86 Racing Series in Townsville, and it's a fairly big deal as they are the first female drivers to compete.

Townsville local Madison kicked off her racing career in go karts when she was just 7 years-old and seeing as she comes from three generations of racing, it was expected that she would follow the family tradition. Though her dad, Dale, didn't expect her skill to shine through so young.

"I remember when I won my first race when I was seven and Dad was like, 'Where did this talent come from? We've only been practicing for a month, what are you winning races for?'"

Now 19, Madison's upgraded from go karts to Toyota 86 cars and has raced all over the country in Tasmania, Darwin, Adelaide, Gold Coast and Sydney, just to name a few. But for her races on home turf, she was pleased to see a female competitor on the track with her amidst the 31 other men.

"At least I'm not the only one. It's hard being the only one so it's good to see another female racing."

But 28 year-old Emily Duggan, had quite a different introduction to the world of motor sport. In fact, it's something that the Sydneysider admits wasn't even in her vocabulary until she was 19.

"It all kind of started that I would watch Supercars on TV and I never wanted to go as a spectator, there was something inside me that always was like, 'You need to go as a driver, you need to be in the car, driving the car and you can do this.' So I just listened to the voice inside and followed my gut."

Despite watching countless races, Emily hadn't seen a female driver on the track before and decided to call up the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) to see if women were even allowed to race.

"I'd seen Danica Patrick in NASCAR and thought Australians have their own rules and everything else so maybe girls can't do it. So yeah I called up CAMS and asked if there was a rule against girls racing and they said no. So I jumped with joy and proceeded to buy the race car and the Ute and trailer to tow it all there with and went from there."

"I've done things very differently. It was a dumb idea now that I think about it but I didn't know any different so you just do what you think is best. And I mean hey it wasn't the worst thing in the world!"

From there, Emily had up to 10 years of motor racing experience to catch up on and took the initiative to make herself known in the industry. And while the average driver competes in around 20 races per year, Emily would endeavour to triple that.

"I did a lot of test days, I watched a lot of footage and so I'd kind of take everything back to basics, I didn't over complicate anything and then I just go from it like that. You just go for it, the worst thing that can happen is that I don't make a motorsport career, but at least I can say I tried."

Drivers compete in roughly 20 races in a year, so Emily tried to do 60 in a year to cram three years' worth of learning into one.
Drivers compete in roughly 20 races in a year, so Emily tried to do 60 in a year to cram three years' worth of learning into one.

It may look like a boys' club from the outside but both Madison and Emily admit that when it comes to racing, gender is irrelevant.

"I think racing with other guys in a male-dominated sport, you should all respect them no matter what their gender because we all get along, we don't really push each other around the track just because of their gender," says Madison.

"It's weird because I don't ever look at myself as a female, I look at myself as a driver and all the other people are drivers, but it is good to have more females coming in and hopefully it will be 50/ 50 one day and the top 50 is the girls and the bottom 50 is the guys," Emily says.

There's still a long way to go until that 50/50 statistic is achieved, but in the meantime, both of these drivers have role models they look up to, both women and men.

Madison had the opportunity to sit in the passenger's seat with her idol Simona De Silvestro, the first full-time female driver in the Supercars era.

"Simona being a female in a male-dominated sport has shown that literally anyone can do it."

As for Emily, while she looks up to her fellow competitors Dave Reynolds, Anton De Pasquale and Craig Lowndes, there's one big name that everyone will recognise.

"I'm a huge Beyonce fan. She's got longevity, she's got a lot of respect, she does things differently and she's always a first in the terms of trends and how she presents her music and everything so even though she's not in motor sport, I still look at her career and find similarities from that to this."

19 year-old Madison says, "I get nervous before races but as soon as I hit that accelerator, the nerves go."
19 year-old Madison says, "I get nervous before races but as soon as I hit that accelerator, the nerves go."

So what's next for these two? While Madison aspires to travel outside of Australia and race the GTs in Europe, Emily is thirsty to be the first female V8 Supercar championship winner with a podium finish and a living room full of trophies.

"Times are definitely changing because we see women as people that can help us, people we can learn from. I hope to get to the top and then extend the ladder down and help every person I can up, male or female, but you always have a soft spot for the girls.

"I can't wait for the day when people don't want to talk to me just because I'm a female, but when we get to that day, sad day in media for me, but it's a great day for women worldwide."

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