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Exclusive: Cleo Collins On Life As A W Series Race Mechanic

Learn what it's like to work in one area of motorsport.

FormulaNerds had the pleasure of interviewing Cleo Collins to highlight what it’s like as a race mechanic in the W Series, enjoy this exclusive feature.

Back in London, after having the doubleheader in Spa and Zandvoort for the Belgium Grand Prix and Dutch Grand Prix, Cleo Collins is feeling fortunate in her role as a W Series race mechanic.

Surrounded by a great team of coordinators, Cleo has been able to manage around the covid-19 procedures and travel logistics.

Cleo admitted, “I haven’t started any new hobbies as of yet due to the current schedule which doesn’t allow much time off; however, I have applied for my racing license and will be booking my ARDS test very soon to race next year in 2022.

Image Credit: W Series.

At 20, Collins bought a MINI Cooper S that she built for track days and Sprints. Her first taste of driving on a circuit was at Brands Hatch and from there started her love of motorsport.

Cleo explained, “I wanted to learn more about driving, setting up my own car and making improvements, I was certainly hooked! That same passion found me pursuing a career change at the age of 24 into the Motorsport industry and I’ve always been very hands-on. I enjoyed seeing something come together alongside the fast-paced working environment which led me to the role as a race mechanic.”   

Collins role as a race mechanic consists of working alongside engineers and drivers to obtain the optimal setup for each circuit. Also, it’s necessary to maintain and prepare the race car to ensure everything is in order and functioning properly. 

Image Credit: W Series.

Cleo shared, “The best part about my job is working with some incredible people across the board. Each team has been very accommodating and it’s great to have a friendly working environment where teamwork is essential. Motorsport can be testing at times and it’s continuous long days, but when you’re all pushing together it’s a real sense of camaraderie.”

Cleo added, “The hardest part is vehicle diagnosis and making sure the cars are ready for the next session after a big incident when timescales are very tight, on some occasions, it requires very late nights into making sure the car is on the grid the next day. Another thing to consider is working in countries that have hotter climates, as the UK climate definitely doesn’t prepare you for that! “

Collins’ favourite track is Spa-Francorchamps. She adores walking the track as it makes you truly appreciate the undulating corners and steepness of Eau Rouge as it is 7km long. It’s crazy how there could be brilliant sunshine at one end and raining at the other. 

Her favourite car to drive is the MINI GP2. Cleo said, “It’s surprisingly well balanced and carries enough torque to compete with other cars running far more power, it’s equally fun for an FWD car and with a few tweaks it handles like it was on rails.”

Image Credit: W Series.

Cleo enjoys visiting new circuits and great locations. She’s spent all of 2020 with no spectators at races and the return of spectators for Formula 1 and atmosphere this year has been incredible. Cleo can’t wait for the last two rounds of the W Series in Austin and Mexico (TBC). She’s been to America before but because those two are new circuits so the excitement reigns a bit different this time around.

Regarding thoughts around the progress of women in motorsport, Cleo expressed, “Women in the industry have been progressive, and there are more coming through that would otherwise have never gone into motorsport. More roles that are highlighted and made aware of will hopefully encourage women into motorsport, and having worked with W Series not only do we have female racing drivers, we have female data and systems engineers, mechanics, PR and media. I feel very fortunate to work alongside so many other females within the industry and look forward to seeing how the industry takes shape in future for other women.

Collins admires Justina Williams as her role model. She’s the owner of EXCEL8 Motorsport. Justina’s journey prior to motorsport and continued efforts in the industry are very inspiring. 

Cleo revealed, “She shows a great work ethic, knowledge in business and she gave me my first opportunity in motorsport when others wouldn’t (due to lack of experience when first starting) and I would like to return the favour in future by providing a platform for others looking to get into the industry.”

Collins believes that it’s important to ‘stay challenged’ and applies this motto and always lived by it as a way to avoid becoming complacent, it continually broadens my knowledge and helps with my career. 

Cleo advised, “For someone aspiring to work in motorsport, don’t be afraid to volunteer when starting out to gain experience, it will help you to understand your chosen role and you might discover a different role in a race team that you enjoy more (I have seen students spend three years studying Motorsport engineering, to find they start working with a team afterwards and quite enjoy carrying on as a mechanic or tyre engineers) – be persistent when trying to find work with teams and first impressions really do count, it’s a team effort that is driven by everyone. “

Image Credit: W Series.

Motorsport will have its long days and a fair share of hard work, but the opportunities and rewards are great. It also offers so many other avenues into the automotive industry.

Headline Image Credit: W Series.

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