IWD: Inspiring women share glory in off road

In 2019, the BFGoodrich Motorsport Australia Off Road Championship had two women enjoy class titles in what was an entertaining season.

Penny Pankurst was crowned as the Pro-Lite Class co-driver champion, while Karin Ann Barker shared the honours as the Super 1650 co-driver champion with Liam Peters.

Both are co-drivers to their husbands, and both played a major role in their title winning season. While there were quite a few women competing, most notably Pro-Lite regular Ally Howells, these two were the standouts.

For Pankurst, the first round of the year in St George was just the first time in the car after her husband Craig had given her a taste during the off season – something that inspired her to join.

“St George was the first time I had been in a car, so to go from that to now being a class champion is surreal,” Pankurst said.

“It was an exhilarating year. You don’t know what to expect and what’s going to happen. It’s so much fun to be involved.

“We decided to get the buggy to see what I thought about it and when Craig took me for a lap, I told him we had a problem because I loved It and I didn’t want to get out.

“It’s good to see other females getting in and having a go, especially the husband and wife teams. A lot of partners are getting in now and being a part of it instead of being in the background.

“My advice to other females would be if you had a chance to get in, give it a go. If you don’t like it, no worries, if you do – then continue with it.”

As for Barker, her position in the car was a long time coming as it was something she always wanted to do but never got the opportunity.

When she was finally offered the chance to sit in Patrick Geraghty’s car during an event, it was all she needed before she was hooked and her desire to compete grew.

Soon she was navigating for Declan Cummins and was part of two rounds in the 2019 season, including the Tatts Finke Desert Race.

For Barker though, it’s important to be a female in the sport she adores, and she believes that one day there can be more like her.

“It’s awesome to be representing females in this sport. It would be nice to see more, but I am sure it will happen in time,” Barker said.

“Off road racing is a very big adrenaline rush but there is a lot more to it. It’s the family you create where everybody just helps each other. It’s just awesome.

“If there were other women looking to get involved, I would tell them to have a go and enjoy it. You will be amazed how much you will enjoy it. Don’t be scared of a bit of grease, because it’s really good fun.”

This feature is part of a series highlighting the success and contributions to motor sport from women around the world in celebration of International Women’s Day, taking place on 8 March, 2020.

Motorsport Australia is eager to hear about the women in our sport making a difference, whether it’s as an official, competitor or as an administrator.

If you want to share your own story, like Kate Catford, simply email your story to [email protected] with any photos and you could be published on motorsport.org.au in the lead up to International Women’s Day.