Advice For "Pint-Sized Blondes" In The Racing World: No Stripteases, Please

You know Lindsay Orridge as the "pint-sized blonde" motorsport marketing executive who foiled a mugging of Fifth Gear presenter Tiff Needell with her stiletto heel. We were curious about how Lindsay deals with working among the testosterone cases of the racing world. So she told us. -Ed.

I work in motorsport. And I'm female. I recognise it's not a particularly common combination of job and gender but, that's it. That's where I stop thinking about it. Personally, the only time I consider the fact that I'm in a minority is when other people bring it up. It has never been something I've had an issue with myself, because the way I see it; who gives a toss whether you're male or female, as long as you are good at your job?

Don't get me wrong, I'm more than happy to talk for hours about the work I've done over the past decade — where I've been, the people who I've worked with and worked for. That's the interesting part: the stories about the places, the races and the faces.

Now, I'm not about to spill sordid tales of debauchery at glamorous parties filled with racing drivers (sorry about that) but I will tell you this: sexism is alive and well in this industry, even in 2012. I'd like to think that it's no worse than in other industries or indeed, in everyday life — whatever the hell that is.

Advice For "Pint-Sized Blondes" In The Racing World: No Stripteases, Please

I have experienced it but I'm pleased to say that it is very rarely instigated by my co-workers and peers. I would say that 99% of the guys I work with have a total respect and understanding for the women they work alongside. They know we're there to work just as hard as they do and in return, they let us get on with it without being sex-pests, for the most part.

I do believe it takes a certain type of person to do this job, though, male or female, with the right attitude to begin with, or else you're screwed. That's the difference between the people who thrive in this industry and the people who only last a season — or less. My advice? Have a sense of humor, roll with the punches, try to not take offense easily and don't sleep around. (Just a note here: by all means sleep with people if you want to, but let's be honest; nobody respects the pit bicycle any more than they respect the beat-up scooters being hooned around the paddock between races.)

I've worked with other girls who are intelligent, have the right skills for the job and are interested in the sport itself. However, sometimes it only takes a matter of weeks, days — and in one case, hours — before they get offended by a risqué joke, or can't cope with the long hours involved, or the fact that their hair straighteners don't work in whatever flimsy electrical outlet is available in the hotel. Or worse still, they get distracted from the actual job and spend their time shamelessly lapping up the (easily won) attention from the guys which inevitably ends in tears.

I think if it's a conscious effort to tread the line between being ‘one of the boys' and being a bit of a floozy on a daily basis, you're not cut out for it. It's innate, instinctive; you've either got it or you haven't.

I can teach someone how to read a map or organize an event, but if they have no idea how to behave correctly around a group of guys, there's no hope for them. On the sexism note; I think I can confidently say that I've experienced every type of situation imaginable. It's not nice, especially when you've done nothing to encourage it but what matters most is how you deal with it.

I've had guys laugh in my face when I tell them that I'll be driving them around during an event. I guess the thought of being driven by a stranger can be pretty unnerving (I'm not a great passenger myself), but when they have the ignorance to roll out the clichés of "terrible women drivers" before we have even left the airport terminal, you know it's going to be a long weekend.

Drunk male guests ringing my hotel room in the early hours of the morning is another interesting one. Guys who get a little too friendly after a few beers can be tricky to deal with — it's a fine line between getting physically defensive and a gentle (but firm) rebuff to their unwanted advances — but they're the ones hiding sheepishly behind their sunglasses the next morning, not me.

Recently, I even had one group of guys encourage me to do a striptease (no, I'm not kidding), when I rather innocently removed my team jacket during a particularly humid journey. Cringe.

Advice For "Pint-Sized Blondes" In The Racing World: No Stripteases, Please

Most of the time, it's just guys being idiots, fueled by the excitement of being on an all-expenses paid trip to a testosterone-packed racing event with their mates and in some cases, I'm sure, asserting a little Alpha dominance over the little blonde girl who knows a thing or two about motorsport.

Occasionally it has taken a slightly more sinister overtone and that's where I rely on some of my brilliant male co-workers to step in when I need them, basically just to remind the guy to stop being a bit of a dick.

My girlfriends are horrified with some of the stories I come home with; they can't imagine having to deal with things like that as part of their job.

And boyfriends... well, let's just say I've been single since the start of 2011. Not many guys are comfortable with watching their girlfriend disappear off for weeks at a time on what can sometimes sound like an extended stag (sorry - bachelor) party.

There are times when the constant travel gets on your nerves, you're so fucking tired you can't remember which timezone you're in and you just want to go home, see your friends and get a job in a bar because it would be less chaos, less drama.

But I guess it's no different. You still have to work with people you dislike from time to time, people are still rude, you still get tired. Normally, after a few hours' sleep in my own bed and a catch-up with my mates over a beer, I'm wishing the days away until my next project. And that's the reason I'm still doing it, because I can't imagine working in any other type of environment. I did try a more normal job a few years ago and anyone who worked with me for that short time will tell you that I was an unmitigated disaster, because I was so bored.

You see, I love meeting and talking to new people. I live for traveling and driving on the most breathtaking roads in the world. I'm honored to be able to call certain world-renowned drivers my friends and to understand what makes them tick.

I just happen to do all this in a male-dominated industry. And I just happen to be a woman. And that's something I'm never going to apologise for, regardless of how many jokes are made about terrible women drivers.

(Photos, B&W: Barry Hayden)