Daniëlle is an inspiration and someone that is close to the Trackside family. We got in touch in 2018 when her TEDx appearance caught our attention. Her story and her determination to reach her goals is so inspiring, so we decided that we wanted to know more about her. She started racing when she was 9 years old and she is now working at Van Amersfoort Racing as the assistant to the management team. The past few months we had some great sessions where we talked about our shared passion, exchanged ideas and gave some tips to help both her as her brother, who has great karting talent, to grow in what they do best.
As her story is so inspiring, we wanted to make sure you also get to know Daniëlle and hear about her road to motorsports. Where is she on her mission to become a Formula 1 team manager? We sat down and asked her all about it!
“Just do it & do it NOW”
Let’s start with where you are now. What is your responsibility at VAR?
Daniëlle Geel – My responsibility is that the team can perform to the max, I have to make sure that everything is managed properly and that everyone is in the right place at the right time with the right stuff. But I also arrange everything involved in traveling to the track. The hotels for the drivers and team members, catering, flight tickets, rental cars, you name it. I have finished my first year working in motorsport, so I am learning every moment. In the future I see myself carrying more responsibility.
How did you get in this position, did you apply for a specific job or did you just call the team (owner)?
Daniëlle Geel – I knew I wanted to work in motorsport. After I had to let go my wish to become a Formula 1 driver, I started studying International Business in 2016. Soon I was looking for an internship with the ambition to work in motorsports, I ended up at Van Amersfoort Racing, a year before the date my internship would start, I was invited for an interview and I got the internship. I made myself indispensable, and that’s how I rolled into the position of Assistant Manager. I never left. I think that says enough, haha!
Was it always your dream to work at a motorsport (related) company?
Daniëlle Geel – As a girl I went karting, purely because I really enjoyed it. And yes, as a child I wanted to reach the top and become a Formula 1 driver. A childhood dream like wanting to become a princess or firefighter, but then bigger. What never left is that I always wanted to be better. Always wanting to climb a bigger mountain and strive for top performances. There came a time when I just had to stop racing myself, but not a thought in my mind that wanted to leave the world of motorsports: that’s when I decided to reach the top as a team manager.
How did your background direct you to the world of motorsport, is racing in the family?
Daniëlle Geel – Most of the racing stories start with the fathers, mine too. Ever since I was little, we watched the Grand Prix on Sunday at home. When I was old enough, I was allowed to watch my dad’s races on indoor go-kart tracks. And when I became 9 years old I got my first kart. At that moment things started to get set in motion, from being monthly at the go-kart track, it soon became weekly and even that got a bit out of hand. We started driving races and that is how I ended up in motorsport.
How hard was it for you to give up your initial dream, making way for your brothers talent?
Daniëlle Geel – It has always been my own decision. We simply didn’t have the budget to both continue driving, so my dad wanted us both to stop. I finally wanted my brother to keep driving. He was young and had a lot of fun. In the beginning it was difficult for me, you must stop doing what you love most. That indescribably sucks. Now when I see my brother racing and he comes back with a big smile on his face, I never regret making that decision. If it really has to be like that, racing will come my way again one day.
Can you describe your relationship with your brother? You made a big sacrifice to help him continue his passion!
Daniëlle Geel – My brother and I have always been very close. This is largely due to our parents. They have always left us free in our choices and hobbies. They have always treated us equally, I am infinitely grateful to them. In this way we also share our passion for racing together. If we went to a race weekend it was really a family outing for us. We are very close as a family. Obviously, it’s not all a bed of roses and we have fights too – all the brothers and sisters have that, right? – but most importantly, we always grant each other everything.
You have a great passion for motorsport and a clear vision of where you want to go to. Can you tell us more about this and where you are now in reaching your goal?
Daniëlle Geel – I like to reach and work hard for good results. By setting goals, I find it easier to see exactly what I want to achieve and when. My goal is to be the team manager of a formula team and thereby achieve many successes. That doesn’t happen in one day, so I take small steps. At Van Amersfoort Racing I have plenty career opportunities. At the moment I support Frits and Rob from the management side both at the workshop as on the track. This way I learn the tricks of the trade and in this way I can prepare for the position as team manager. This year I want to do my first work as a team manager on the track and play a role by bringing new drivers in.
It might be a bit of a cliché, but how much more difficult is it for a woman to reach the same levels as men in motorsport?
Daniëlle Geel – It is no more difficult for a woman to reach the same level in motorsport as men, of course you can face prejudices, but that does not make it more difficult, you have to be able to get over it. You have to focus on your goal no matter what people say to you. The problem is that at the moment there are far fewer girls racing or interested in racing compared to men.
“It is no more difficult for a woman to reach the same level in motorsport as men”
Do you think the W Series is helping girls to reach their goals in motorsports?
Daniëlle Geel – I think it’s a good initiative to take a position: women can also race. I compare it a bit with the female quota in the Netherlands. It is good that it is there, but it does not solve the core problem. I still believe it is a matter of time before we see more women reach the top of motorsports. The problem is the fact that there are currently far more men than women in racing. And only if this number is balanced we can judge whether women are really better at racing than men.
What do you think it takes to get a woman in Formula 1 again these days?
Daniëlle Geel – The qualities you will need as a woman to achieve Formula 1 hardly differ from the talents that men need. Talent is the most important trait you need to have to reach the top as a driver, this applies to both women and men. In addition, money also plays a major role in the game, without money you have no chance. It is also really important to be a true sportswoman, you must be a team player, determined, strong and self-assured both on and off the track.
You had a role model in Elske Doets, do you see yourself as a role model for young girls dreaming of a career in motorsports?
Daniëlle Geel – Become a role model? I never thought about that. I enjoy what I do and if it is appreciated? Awesome. I would love to pave the way for young girls who also like to race or work in motorsports. Dare to be Different is an organization that is already actively involved in this. They organize events on tracks around the world for young girls to introduce them into racing, which I would like to contribute to in the future.
What do you see as your next (big) step?
Daniëlle Geel – Of course my ultimate goal and obvious step is to start as a team manager, but it is not as easy as I thought. I have noticed that in the first year in this racing team, a lot came my way, work related but also private. Because of this, I often forgot to really enjoy my work and I noticed that I did a lot on autopilot and let everything come to me. This year I want to do it differently. I want to work more consciously and make more time to reflect on the fact that I have such a great job, so that I can enjoy it even more.
Do you have any advice to anyone who’s also dreaming of working in motorsports?
Daniëlle Geel – Just do it. It sounds a bit cliché, but if you really want something, you have to move yourself in the right direction. Regardless of whether you are a boy or a girl. It is important to take a look at your network to see who can help you further. If you don’t go for it, you will never find out, so why waste time? Do it now.
“My ultimate goal and obvious step is to start as a team manager.”
That seems like some great advice from Danielle Geel, who already made some important steps in the direction that might lead her to achieve her dream. We are also curious, do you have ambitions to set steps into the world of motorsports, or are you already? Tell us your story on our Twitter, Instagram or Facebook page!
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