Jen Marr: Dare to be Different’s latest success story

In October 2018, motorsport initiative Dare to be Different offered Community Members the chance to have a driver development coaching session at the prestigious Milbrook Proving Ground. Courtesy of CAT Driver Training, the UK’s foremost provider of driver training courses, the competition allowed 1 lucky winner to have a bespoke one-to-one half-day driving course. Racers both young and ‘slightly’ older entered and a winner was selected: Jen Marr, who for many years has had the dream of becoming a racing driver. At the age of 35, Jen has now reached a pivotal moment where she will have to decide how racing will fit into her life. I spoke to her about D2BD, her interest in motorsport and her racing dream.

Like many who go onto be involved in the motorsport industry, Jen’s interest in the sport began at a young age. “I used to watch races on the television with my Dad as a child. I grew up watching F1, and I remember watching Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash at Imola, but the Schumacher and Coulthard years were the ones that I remember more clearly,” she told me. Despite this passion, her involvement never ventured further than as a spectator, however that soon changed. “Watching it on the television was as far as I got though until I met my ex-husband. He was a mechanic, so naturally he was also interested in motorsport and as a result, my interest in it developed through him. We would often go to local karting tracks and he built a Westfield (sportscar), which I helped with when I could. We took it to Knockhill one summer evening which would be my first time visiting a race track. The Westfield was traded in for a Honda Civic Type R when we moved to Aberdeen which was then sold to pay for a deposit on our first property. Once we were settled, we then bought a Lotus Elise and got involved with the Scottish Lotus Community and that’s where my interest really developed,” Jen explained.

Following her divorce, Marr moved to Abu Dhabi, host to F1’s end-of-season grand finale. “It really was an F1 fan’s paradise!” Jen said. “I’d often go to the Viceroy hotel for dinner and overlook the Yas Marina Circuit while events were on. My hair salon was even based there! I also used to cycle round the track on a Sunday and Tuesday evening with friends and a group of girls I met at the track. Ex-F1 driver Heikki Kovalainen would also often be there, and I met Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen at various different events while I lived there.” Although she had always been interested in racing and increasingly surrounded by it as she got older, it wasn’t until her mid-20s that Jen decided she wanted to get on track herself, but a lack of confidence meant this remained on-hold. “I wasn’t confident enough in myself then to actually do it, let alone race. It wasn’t until the summer of 2018 while having a conversation with a friend (who is a racing driver and coach) that I said I’d love to do it and he encouraged me to go for it and that he would help me. Knowing that he had my back to support me and guide me was all I needed to just take that leap,” Marr described.

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It was not long after this that Jen signed up to Dare to be Different. The motorsport initiative was launched and co-founded by former-driver Susie Wolff and Motorsport UK, formerly the MSA, with the aim of inspiring, connecting and celebrating women working in all areas of the motorsport industry. “I signed up to D2BD in September 2018. I had been chatting to a few different people about my journey and they all mentioned D2BD. I had heard of it but didn’t really know what it was, what it could offer me or how it could help me. I went online to the website to get more information and found I had to sign up to then be added to a closed Facebook group to experience the full benefits. I figured I had nothing to lose so just went for it,” Marr told me. Just a month later, an exclusive competition by the organisation for its Community Members caught her eye. Offering the chance to have a bespoke one-to-one CAT Driver Training session, the prize was perfect for Jen at this stage of her racing career. “I saw the competition when it first opened up and thought at the time, I should probably enter it as it would no doubt benefit me and my driving. I completely forgot all about it until a reminder was posted on the day it was closing. I was heading out to a personal training session and I decided to enter it when I returned, but something inside me told me I would probably forget about it by the time I got home so I should enter it there and then. I was to write a paragraph about why the training would benefit me, and it took me about two minutes to write. I didn’t overthink it and just said exactly what was in my head and sent it off. When I saw that I’d won, I couldn’t believe it! I almost cried! I just passed my ARDS the previous day so it was perfect timing for me,” she said.

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Knowing that to compete she would need her ARDS National B licence, achieving this became her priority during the summer. “After chatting to my racing driver friend about my options and how to go about it all, I booked the test at my local race track and school, Knockhill Racing Circuit. Being a natural educator and coach, I want to also eventually be an instructor, so having my ARDS was the first step to fulfil this,” Marr explained. The competition came at the perfect time, and in January this year, Jen travelled from Scotland to Milbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire for her one-to-one racing tuition, courtesy of CAT Driver Training. “My training with Colin was fantastic. From the minute I walked into their base, I felt completely at ease and comfortable in his company. I learnt so much and a lot of what I already knew was confirmed so it has made me more confident in my approach. Learning about the dynamics of the car and how your driving style affects the handling of the car fascinated me. I now even find myself thinking about everything we worked on in my day to day driving!” she told me.

Only a few weeks after her training and Jen is already feeling and seeing the difference it has made, not just to her technique, but also to her belief in herself. “Having the confidence and awareness of all the aspects we spoke about will help me in my initial races, but I am aware I will still have a steep learning curve. Having the ongoing support from Colin and Jo at CAT Driver Training will really help though. I am going back for more later this year, which I am really looking forward to,” she described. However, with her ambitions of racing and wanting to do more training, juggling this side of her life with not one, but three ‘day jobs’ can be quite a struggle. “I work full time as a teacher, teaching brass instruments to children in schools. I am also a professional musician and I work at Supercar experience events on the weekends too. I have no idea how on earth I’m still standing, but somehow, I manage it! Unfortunately, being a teacher means I can’t take a day off here and there to do training midweek, so I either have to organise it for during holidays or weekends, but I’ve been organising my life round school holidays and weekends for over 14 years now so it’s not a huge deal,” Jen said.

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Credit: Paul Gibson

Looking to the future, Marr’s first decision will be in what series she wants to race, and which type of vehicle she wants to drive. “Once I’ve done that I want to just get on track and experience it,” she told me. “After a few events I know I will then feel more comfortable to push myself more and more and hopefully with time and experience be in a position where I can win some races.” However, it is not only a desire to race that is motivating Jen, with her also hoping to inspire others along the way. “My biggest wish is to grow awareness for women stepping into motorsport, especially those who haven’t grown up amongst it from a young age. Women like me who have an interest in it but haven’t had the confidence or knowledge to know where to start or what to do to get involved. I want to show women it can be done, and hopefully be the role model for them that gives them that bit of encouragement to get stuck in and do it,” she said.

Only one month after deciding that she wanted to begin taking her desire for a racing career seriously, Jen Marr signed up to motorsport initiative Dare to be Different. With many of those already involved in the sport recommending she join, the benefits of being part of the D2BD community soon showed for Jen when she entered an exclusive competition for Community Members. Offering the chance to have a bespoke driver development coaching session, courtesy of CAT Driver Training, Marr was the winner and only a couple of weeks ago, she experienced her prize. Since this, her confidence has grown hugely, both in herself and in her capabilities. Having previously secured her ARDS license, D2BD has surely pushed her racing career a step forward by providing her with this training, as well as giving Jen a community of similarly minded people who both want to race, and want to inspire and encourage women of all ages and backgrounds to see motorsport as an industry and career for them.

https://www.jenmarrracing.com/

https://www.daretobedifferent.org/

https://catdrivertraining.co.uk/

Photo credits, unless specified: CAT Driver Training