13-year-old Ella Stevens has spent much of her life involved in motorsport. With two championship titles under her belt, she has now been selected as one of 20 young female drivers who will take part in a brand-new initiative launched by the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission and the Ferrari Driver Academy, the Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme. I spoke to her about her career so far, working with a W Series star, and where she hopes her racing dream will take her.
Racing has always been a part of Ella’s life, with motorsport a huge family interest. “Ever since I can remember I’ve had a passion for motorsport. It probably came from my Dad and brother who used to do Autograss racing and karting, respectively,” she said. It was at the age of six that Ella herself began getting involved with motorsport, though she admits, it was something she had to work on with both the speed and the noise! “I started (karting) when I was six when my parents bought me a bambino kart. I was very slow to begin with but at the end of the day I got a lot faster. When my Dad bought me my first kart, I used to sit in it every day, but when he started the engine, I thought it was very loud. However, once I put on my helmet, I got used to it and have not looked back since,” the young racer said.
Having discovered a love for speed, Ella entered the British Karting Championship, competing in the Bambino class. “This was a series for young karters aged between six and eight years old. I raced in bambinos for two seasons before I moved up to cadets, where the karts get a little bit faster,” the 13-year-old explained. Ella moved on to the Cadet class, racing in several club meetings around the country in 2016. In the same year, she entered the BirelART UK series. What is special about this championship is that all drivers use the same brand of engine and kart, allowing ability to shine with all participants on a level playing field. “The BirelArt series was recommended to my parents as a good championship to compete in. My experience in the Motorsport UK British Karting Championships bambino and cadet classes really helped me become a competitive karter in BirelART,” she described.
Ella finished her debut BirelART UK championship in 12th place with her quickly improving throughout the season. The following year she returned to the series, this time setting her sights higher. Ella dominated, going into the final round with a huge lead in the standings, meaning a fifth-place finish in the Pre-final was enough to secure the championship win. It was clear to her that everything she learned in the previous year helped her to shine. “The experience I gained in 2016 helped me a lot. Competing and the extensive time in the seat also gave me the basic skills and knowledge needed to become the 2017 champion,” she said. After success in BirelART, Ella moved on to the Little Green Man Championship, competing in the IAME Cadet class. The series is highly competitive with it being the most populated grid in the UK. With drivers able to enter the series both with the backing of a team, and without, there is also drivers’ standings running alongside for those who don’t have a team (privateers). 2018 saw Ella finish 16th overall, and crowned the Privateer champion, something she had never expected. “There were a few talented privateer drivers who entered into the championship and I did not expect to beat them. I believe the hard work we put in to the season paid off – I was very happy to become the privateer champion,” the young karter told me.
After becoming the Privateer champion, Ella joined Fusion Motorsport for her second season in the Little Green Man IAME Cadet National Championship. Having finished 16th overall in 2018, she improved on this result ending 2019 in 10th place in the standings. Making her debut with a professional team was a big step for Ella and her racing career. “It’s huge step up to be a part of Fusion Motorsport compared to being a privateer. The team give me really good advice after reviewing data, which helps me improve my driving skills. They also help me improve through regular driver coaching, which I never experienced when I was a privateer. It also makes a change to listen to them instead of my Dad!” she said. However, when it comes to driver coaching, it’s not just Fusion Motorsport that has been helping Ella with former GP3 and current W Series racer Alice Powell having worked with her from the early stages in her career. “I met Alice when I was a bambino (2015/16). We met at Whilton Mill and it was raining. I wasn’t very good in the wet so I don’t know what Alice thought of me but she must have seen some potential! Alice is now my best friend and has been my coach ever since,” Ella told me.
This year a ground-breaking new initiative was launched by the FIA Women in Motorsport Commission, who have teamed up with the Ferrari Driver Academy to create the Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme. The scheme aims to identify the best female racing talent aged 12 to 16, and work with them for a chance to receive a one-year contract with the FDA. Ella, along with fellow racer Jessica Edgar, are the British participants, with their involvement coming after being nominated by Motorsport UK. “When my Mum showed me the email, I was so excited but I also felt nervous at the same time. It’s an honour to be selected as one of 20 girls from around the world to be picked. I feel very proud and can’t wait to meet the other girls on the shortlist,” she explained. With motorsport beginning to resume in the UK, Ella is hoping to get back to racing soon, both here and overseas. “I am really looking forward to the first phase of the Rising Stars programme in France where I will compete against the other 19 girls to progress to the next stage. I’m looking forward to also getting back behind the wheel of the kart to compete in Motorsport UK’s British Karting Championship and Kart Masters,” the 13-year-old said.
Although in the early stages of her career, there have already been many proud moments for Ella. Speaking of her highlights, she said: “winning BiralART cadets in 2017 and being selected for the Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme (are my highlights). Another proud moment is meeting British F1 Champion Jenson Button as a part of the Santander ambassador programme that I am a part of when he came to present awards to 30 female engineering students.” Jenson Button is not the only driver that Ella looks up to with her coach Alice Powell being one of her idols. “Alice has been by my side throughout my racing career from when I started karting at six years old. Her passion for motorsport and her determination to succeed make her a fantastic role model for me and other young girls who want to race. She makes me want to achieve the best possible results and follow in her footsteps. I know I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am if I didn’t have Alice,” she explained.
When it comes to her future, Ella is hoping to make it to the top of motorsport, though is taking it step-by-step. “My immediate goal would be to race in the F4 Championships, which I hope I can achieve with the Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme. From there I would like to progress through the ranks to F3, F2 and ultimately F1,” she said. 2020 looks to be an exciting year for Ella Stevens with her hoping to continue in the Girls on Track – Rising Stars programme, as well as moving into a new class with a Mini X30 kart. With Alice Powell by her side, and the support of her team, Fusion Motorsport, it will be fascinating to see how her season progresses.
(heading photo credit: Ella Stevens Racing)