Sarah Moore has been described as an "angel outside the car and a Yorkshire Terrier inside it". These words were not spoken by her driving instructor: she is two years shy of sitting her test. They come from the boss of Ginetta Juniors, the motor racing championship in which Moore has made history by claiming three wins from six rounds.
When the 15-year-old stood on the top step of the podium at Hampshire's ultra-fast Thruxton circuit last month, she became the only female to win a race on the TOCA package – home to the country's biggest motor racing series, the British Touring Car Championship. Some of her male competitors said it was a fluke: she silenced them by taking victory again the following day. Having added a further win and podium at Donington Park, she is comfortably leading the points standings in the series created for 14 to 16-year-olds, and is destined to become the first female to ever win a mixed-sex motorsport championship.
"She's fast, she's aggressive and out of the car she's perfect – good in front of the camera and really sweet," says Richard Dean, managing director of Ginetta Cars and a sportscar racer himself. "That said, I'm not sure I'd like to go wheel to wheel with her! After her first win you could just see the confidence in her. I'd love to see her in touring cars – it needs a good, fast female driver to mix it up."
Moore lives at Tockwith airfield, near York, which gives its name to the family-run team. Younger brother David also competes in Ginetta Juniors while older brother Nigel is a champion of the more senior Ginetta G50 series and will, at 17, become one of the youngest-ever drivers to compete in the Le Mans 24hr race this summer. Former racer Simon Moore, the trio's father, runs the team. "Sarah's a thinker and she's as hard as nails," he says. "And she does listen: it's an awful thing to say, but a lot of the lads do not. She'll go and try something with the car, come back and tell us what she thinks. Her driving style is very smooth."
Like most drivers, Sarah started out karting, but says she did not do very well: "I did get a few good finishes, but no podiums." With some coaching from Nigel and a circuit in her backyard to practice on, her move to car racing has been a success. She competed at 14 last year, winning a race in the winter series, and is now the favourite for 2009 honours. "I want a career in motorsport," she says. "Hopefully I'll race at Le Mans, and possibly touring cars. I wanted to get to F1 but it does not look as exciting as touring cars – that looks like a great place to be. To be one of the girls going up against the boys would be great."
Fitting racing and testing in around her studies is not easy. She sometimes arrives home at 2am on a Monday but says her technology school, King James in Knaresborough, is supportive. She also has an interest in the technical side of the sport. "I'm doing work experience at Ginetta. I help the mechanics with my car, especially if there are any problems. But most of the time I keep out of the work and leave it up to them in case I make a mistake!"
Being a female – especially one who is winning – is not easy, but Moore takes it in her stride. "The boys make you feel a bit out of place but I'm not bothered anymore," she says. "When I was new I was scared they might bully me, but they've realised I've come on and got fast. They will not try taking me off the track or anything silly." She receives no special treatment as a female and was docked 10 points at Donington Park for robustly taking the lead from a fellow driver. Her comeback-drives are already gaining notice: at Oulton Park yesterday she dropped to 15th after an incident but worked her way back to third – the podium finish allowing her to maintain her title lead with 183 points.
When Moore stood on the podium after her first win at Thruxton, a woman in the crowd asked her husband: "Have they put her on the top step because she's so small?" He replied: "Don't be daft, it's because she's won!" Seeing a female in racing overalls is still a novelty – especially when she is spraying champagne. Yet there are two other girls on the Ginetta Juniors grid, and another female racing in Formula Renault on the same weekends. With those yet to win, Moore is the brightest hope in the current crop of females. "Girls come up to me now and ask how to get into motorsport. In the future there will be a lot more doing it. The other girls on the grid are not up to where I am, but I want them to beat the boys!"