Nathalie McGloin has faced more adversity in life than anyone ever should, but she’s still hellbent on putting others first and letting people know that motorsport can be accessible, there’s a role in some capacity for everyone.
In 2015 McGloin became the first tetraplegic driver to get a race license in the UK, which she has now added to with a rally licence as well.
McGloin broke her neck in a road traffic collision back in 1999, and it took almost two years to recover and then return to education to finish her studies. It was there she found wheelchair rugby.
“It was rugby that really stopped me from being a disabled wheelchair user and turned me into an athlete,” McGloin explains. “And then I started to focus on my strengths instead of my weaknesses.”
Since 2015 McGloin has taken every challenge motorsport has with aplomb, using the very thing that put her through this trauma – a car – to start her next chapter in life. And strap in as it’s already a long chapter!
She’s raced a Porsche Cayman competitively, inspired and raised awareness that disabled people can hold a whole range of roles within motorsport, co-founded the Spinal Track charity which provides track days for disabled people and become the FIA’s president of the disability and accessibility commission.
It’s so inspiring chatting to Nathalie, and it really makes you wonder, have I done enough to have I done enough to give back or raise awareness for certain causes?
First and foremost McGloin’s passion is competing, so we’ll start there with the news that this year she will race outside of Europe for the first time as part of the Classic Sports Car Club’s races on the weekend of the Classic Daytona 24 Hours in November.
“I’ve got a sim at home, which I’ll be practising on,” McGloin tells Podium Life.
“Should probably start now actually!
“I know the layouts, the corners.
“It’s gonna be crazy. I’d like to say I’m looking forward to it, but I’m actually very, very nervous.
“I think I will look forward to it when it comes round, or maybe I’ll just get more nervous! But yeah, an oval, high speed, racing in America. Lots to kind of process before the event.
“We went to the Daytona 500, NASCAR, in 2018.
“I loved it, it was amazing. I know it’s NASCAR, and it’ll be different for the 24, but it’s just such an incredible place.
“There’s something about Daytona, it’s just quite magical.
“I think I always would have done this race. But I think it’s just, it has more meaning given the history of me being there and who I was there with, going with in November as well.”
It was Stanley, one of McGloin’s sponsors, that brought her over to the Daytona 500 in 2018, and the same company will sponsor the trip to Florida this year.
The car will get minimal changes. The Porsche 987 Cayman S has radial hand controls that you push forward to brake, and down to accelerate. That system means you can brake and accelerate fluidly rather than an ‘on-off’ system. The controls are mounted to the right of the steering column, while Nathalie steers left-handed.
Nathalie’s husband Andrew Bayliss will join and likely drive in some of the dark races, because Nathalie doesn’t like racing at night: “I like my sleep!”.
Admitting to liking sleep does make McGloin appear that bit more human even if her drive and achievements are extraordinary beyond belief for most people. It’s a staggering work ethic and determination to give back that drives all of this.
Asked if Nathalie’s thought about the fact that she’s the only tetraplegic racing driver and what that might do for showing Americans what is possible, she answers: “I’m hoping that I do get some publicity in America and it can start to build some momentum.
“Because America has such a big reach with publicity, you get on something, and suddenly it goes viral, and everyone hears about it.
“But it would be really incredible if I went there and raced and off the back of it, something started, maybe in Florida, they can start a programme for disabled people racing.
“I know that there are programmes like that in America, but like the rest of the world, we need more.
“Or inspire disabled people that motorsport is accessible. Or even marshals, volunteers, and officials.
“If you enjoy motorsport, then the stands are accessible, the venues are accessible to go and watch it.
“Someone sees me in my chair and thinks, wow, I didn’t know that motorsport was accessible to disabled people, I’m gonna get involved in some capacity.
“I mean, that will be amazing. I’m gonna try and do all I can to reach as many people as possible and showcase that.
“Not everyone has the the ability to be able to afford to go racing, but there are so many different aspects to racing that people can be involved with.
“And I really want to make sure that anyone with a disability who wants to get into motorsport has the opportunity.
“Just because I’m not a volunteer and official, or I don’t work in journalism, or as a mechanic, or any of the other areas that motorsport encompasses, I want to make sure that just because I don’t have that personal experience, that I’m still promoting that.
“Because, motorsport is a massive industry and there are so many different ways to be involved with it.
“So I want to make sure that all the doors are open, not just the competitor’s doors.”
With the boost in interest in Formula 1 on Netflix’s Drive to Survive gripping America, F1 and motorsport itself has been opened up to a wider audience.
It’s fantastic that the disabled members of that audience will hopefully see Nathalie compete at Daytona, and ultimately find a role in motorsport that’s accessible and suits them.
McGloin is clearly nervous about her trip Stateside, but is approaching it with the same gusto she has all the other challenges that have faced her.
It’s inspiring to see what Nathalie has achieved not only for herself, but inspiring a whole group of people that motorsport is open to them.