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INTERVIEW: Chloe Chambers is proud to inspire: from adoption to F1 aspiration

11th July 2024
Ian Parkes

From being adopted at the age of 11 months, Chloe Chambers now sees herself as a trailblazer for a movement that will hopefully one day lead to a female racing driver making the long-overdue breakthrough into Formula 1.

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China-born Chambers is acutely aware of how different her life could have been but for her American parents, Matthew and Shannon, and the journey they have taken her on, and enjoyed with her, since she moved to New York in 2005.

Like many youngsters, Chambers grew up watching Formula 1 on TV, perhaps unusual in America two decades ago when F1 was not as popular as it is now. But with her dad being English, from Malden in Essex, it is easier to understand. "He is just a big motorsport fan, a big car guy in general," said Chambers. "It meant I was interested in motorsport, and eventually I asked my parents if I could drive."

The natural fascination with F1, and of growing up watching Lewis Hamilton in his formative years, also provided an allure for the young Chambers, who took her first tentative steps into karting at the age of eight. She concedes they were tough on the basis that one of her "biggest faults at the time" was her lack of assertiveness, both on and off track. "In karting, you for sure learn how to be a more assertive driver, and ultimately that ended up benefitting me up [to] this day," she said.

"But confidence then was definitely a big part of it. If you come off a big race win, you have a lot of confidence you can go for more bold moves. That's always a factor, but I had to work hard at telling myself, 'Okay, don't be afraid to make this move'."

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Like any aspiring driver, particularly female in a male-dominated environment, climbing the ladder was difficult, and without the support of her father, it is certain she would not be where she is today. "I had a few coaches through karting, but throughout my entire karting career my dad was my mentor," said Chambers. "He was my mechanic, and he started off coaching me.

"But he always said that as soon as I was faster than him, it would be time to find somebody else to coach. I was probably quicker than him by the time I was 11 or 12, so I had a good three, four years of him coaching me."

Living in the United States, Chambers steadily progressed through club, regional, and national levels. By the time she was 11, she was New York State Champion. A year later, she was the North East Rotax champion.

"I never made it over to Europe to race in karts, but I did a lot of racing in Canada, so I got to build my experience on new tracks, in new environments, a different culture," assessed Chambers. "But at the same time, I had the comfort of my dad with me, so I got to learn it with him. He learned about being a mechanic, I learned to drive.

"We progressed at a pretty steady level, and we always made sure I was ready for the next step. I was never thrown too early into anything."

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It was not until 2019 that Chambers made her big breakthrough. She attended that year's Supernats in Las Vegas, the biggest event in North American karting, as the GearUp x30 Junior series champion.

From 77 karters, of which she was one of only two females, she finished third, a podium place that allowed her to switch to the F4 United States Championship in 2021. It was just reward for the time and effort spent on her career to that point, and a poke in the eye for all those who had sneered at her on her way up simply because she was a girl.

"I would say the best drivers, the most talented, were always very respectful of me," said Chambers. "It was more from the drivers who were struggling, who would oftentimes not think so highly of me, mostly from pure spite. I was good at brushing it off. I feel like I'm a pretty cool-headed person so I don't ever show too much emotion to be honest, either way, happiness or anger, so I never really let it get to me too much.

"Plus, I'd grown up with it. I'd gone through karting with the same thing happening all the time, so it was never something that was out of the ordinary because I was so used to it."

That podium played its part in Chambers claiming a seat with Future Star Racing in the United States Formula 4 Championship in 2021, following a year on the sidelines in many respects given the effects of Covid in 2020.

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She already had her sights set, however, on W Series, that made its debut in 2019 and returned in 2021. The following year, and after a tough campaign in USF4, Chambers came through two tests – one in Arizona, the other in Barcelona, to earn herself a place on the W Series grid with Jenner Racing, allowing her to race in Europe for the first time.

It was a truncated season as W Series folded before it could complete its third campaign, one in which Chambers scored just one point from a 10th-place finish in the second race in Miami. A season in New Zealand, in the Formula Regional Oceania Championship, followed in 2023. She scored her first open-wheel victory, from pole position, in the second of three races in the final round in Taupo.

She was also announced as a Porsche Junior driver that year, which saw her compete in the Porsche Sprint Challenge North America in which she claimed seven wins en route to finishing sixth in the standings. When F1 Academy came calling, the decision to join was a no-brainer, and being affiliated with Haas, via Campos Racing, was the icing on the cake. In the third round in Barcelona, after finishing third in race one, she stormed to victory in race two, which left her naturally feeling "amazing".

Chambers feels privileged to be competing in the series, and whilst she is realistic enough to appreciate that she, or any of the other girls around her right now, are unlikely to make it into F1, she knows they are inspiring a generation.

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"We all see ourselves as the trailblazers of this movement," she said. "A lot of us were in W Series as well. We all dream of being in Formula 1, but so does pretty much everyone else. When you think, there are only 20 spots in F1, so the chances of anybody getting one of those seats is very slim.

"But to be able, at least, to try to help the next generations coming up, to hopefully have a good shot of getting into Formula 1 one day and being competitive enough to win, that's something we would be very proud to see."

Through it all, Chambers has not forgotten her roots. She is an ambassador for the Gift of Adoption Fund, a Chicago-based, non-profit organisation. Her siblings, Oliver, 14, from Ethiopia, and Emma Claire, 11, also from China, are adopted.

The fund "helps give adoption grants to families who are adopting," she said. "They typically try to focus on the more urgent cases, for kids with special needs, that kind of thing. To bring awareness around adoption in an environment where you don't see it so often, or talked about ever, is something I'm proud to do.

"I believe in the cause. It's helped me get here to this point. Adoption is great. You never know what can come out of it. I would never have thought I'd be a race-car driver. I got very lucky with the family I have.

"We all have amazing lives and have been given amazing opportunities from our family, and everybody that's supported us. It could have been a whole different outcome had we not been adopted."

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images

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