Samantha Leeks

For this year’s International Women’s Day, we’re featuring six new interviews from inspirational women who are carving out extraordinary careers in motorsport.

Tell us a little bit about yourself

Hi, I’m Samantha Leeks, I’ve just entered my 14th year in Motorsport and I’m a Lego Addict.  I’ve worked in Formula 1, WEC and now WRC. 
I have won 4 F1 World Championships, had 4 Le Mans Victories in a row and won 2 WEC World Championships.

My greatest achievement to date, was creating history with Jackie Chan DC Racing x Jota in 2017!

Please tell us a little about the role that you do

I have just started (3rd March 2022) a new role as Composite Workshop Leader at Hyundai Motorsport GmbH. I am responsible for a small composites team and all things Carbon Fibre for WRC and Hyundai’s customer racing projects. Ask me more in a few months when maybe I can give your a more indepth answer.

What did you study for the role?

I didn’t specifically study for my role. I did however go to University and read Vehicle Design at Coventry Uni. I was planning to go to Loughborough to read Product Design, but when I went for my interview there someone commented after looking at my portfolio that; “if you can design a car you can design a product but not the other way round”. My portfolio was quite car dominated. I was a definite girl racer in the making.

What was your experience as a woman on your course?

There were a handful of women on my course, when I went into the final year I was the only person completely. I don’t think they offer it anymore actually. 

But I went to a school that had been all boys only 2 years prior, and only had 2 girls in my year when I started, so I have spent a lot of my life with the “boys” so I guess for me I’ve never really noticed a specific experience. It wasn’t until recent years that I’ve realised what I’ve achieved etc.

I have to say it wasn’t until I started my first job that I noticed things are different as a Female. I think when you are a kid people are less judgmental of genders and it’s the adults that decide what is acceptable or not?

Could be digging myself a hole here… when I was at school I actually used to have to pretend to be a Boy to play Cricket as part of my training. (I was on Kent Countys Cricket Team back in the day) luckily things have changed a lot, but even then I never really blinked an eye about it as long as I could do what I wanted but women didn’t play cricket at my school then, but I know that’s changed since.

Did you do any extra-curricular activities/work experience?

I did some work experience, but working in a Car Dealer. So it wasn’t overly relevant to what I do now. 

I worked in Pubs and Restaurants from 16 and through Uni, then at Cafe Nero for a year before joining a Market Research Company that specified in the UK Car Market. 
 
To be honest I think any work experience is great, it really helps you learn life skills if anything. But many motorsport championships often look for helping hands here and there. 

Just don’t be afraid to be making the teas and coffees in small teams because you’d be surprised the amount you can learn from just watching.

Who is your favourite female role model in motorsport?

Sabine Schmitz – no more words needed.

What’s the best thing you did to get you to where you are today?

The best thing I did was to learn to just be myself, as you get older, like me… you start to realise that this all you can be. Don’t change who you are to fit in or please somebody. Be you!

What’s the best thing about your job?

Teamwork! It makes the dreamwork! And my pitlane family, I have made some life time friends that I couldn’t be without.

What’s been your highlight so far?

Working at Le Mans 24hrs. Nothing takes away the feeling of completing that race, how tired you are, the adrenaline, the achievement, the team, the support and the amazing ability to stay awake for so long!  It’s a must for any motorsport lover.

What would you say to girls who aspire to work in motorsport one day?

Talent has no gender! It doesn’t matter what’s between your legs, if you want to achieve something go do it. The only regret can be when you’ve given up before you’ve even tried.

 

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