VIDEO EXCLUSIVE: Janet Guthrie On Being First Woman Driver At Indy 500, Part 3
The 81-year-old, who is the subject of a new “30-for-30” documentary on ESPN called Qualified, revealed to uSports exclusively what driving race-cars in the late 1970s was like as a woman.
“In 1978, I had been searching for funding for Indianapolis ever since the previous year,” said Guthrie. “I approached hundreds of companies, I’d sponsor finders who would say, ‘Oh, this will be like falling off a log! A year ago, they were saying you couldn’t make the field and now you’ve been qualifying and finishing in the top 10! This will be a piece of cake!’ Well, guess what? They couldn’t find sponsorship.”
Guthrie went on to say that just a month or so before she began practicing for the Indy 500, Texaco was able to buy the car she used and hire the crew.
Guthrie also confessed that one of her injuries didn’t come as a result of racing. She broke her wrist in a charity tennis match and had to compete in 1978 with the injury, but this didn’t prove to be the biggest issue: a clogged vent in the fuel supply seemed to hinder her finish more than the fractured wrist, said Guthrie, and she ultimately placed ninth instead of fifth, as she had predicted.
Shockingly, Guthrie also said she still finds it is very difficult even today for professional female drivers to secure proper funding, as it is a very sexist and male-dominated sport.
Guthrie named British drivers Katherine Legge and Pippa Mann and Swiss-born Simona de Silvestro as examples of current prominent female drivers, but noted that Mann, for example, only has a one-race deal with Dale Coyne Racing, which Guthrie called “not a front-running team.”
What advice does Guthrie have for new pro drivers? Be prepared to invest before making it big.
“Bring money. Bring lots and lots of money,” she said. “I’ve always said that what we need is a woman with all the stuff that it takes: the talent, the desire, the determination and her own fortune — and then we’ll see women in the victory circle.”