Nursery nurse by day, racing at 160mph by night?
Kirsty Hauxwell is 21. She is a nursery nurse soon to be qualified at level 3. But at the weekends, Kirsty changes into her leathers and competes as a sidecar passenger, hanging just a few inches off the ground at 160mph.
She tells us how she got into her job, how her unusual hobby started and how she combines the two.
“I’ve always known I wanted to work with children but I also wanted to be a paramedic. The easiest option for me to combine the two was to go into childcare and become a nursery nurse. “When I finished college at 18, I needed a job so I decided to go down the Apprenticeship route. “Apprenticeships aren’t easy; you start at the bottom of the ladder and you have to work your way up. There is a lot of coursework to get through too. There are definitely good days and bad days. But if you find the right placement for you, it’s a great way to open doors.
“Working with young children is very rewarding. To know that you are helping them grow and develop is such a great feeling. And no two days are the same. I really enjoy my job. “I grew up around sidecars. My dad, Craig Hauxwell, has been racing for over 20 years. When I say sidecars, you probably have an image of Wallace and Gromit in your head but Formula 1 and Formula 2 sidecars are nothing like that. They are designed to be lean, mean speed machines and the passenger, instead of sitting comfortably next to the driver, is actually on a sort of tray mere inches from the ground. I have to hold on to a pole or grips in the fairing while the outfit goes at speed around the racing track.
“I loved going to watch my dad as a kid but as a young teen, I rebelled and decided I wasn’t interested any more - until one day I was given the chance to do a taxi ride. That’s when you are offered the opportunity of being a passenger for an experienced driver. And it was love at first go.
“I was 16 and from then on, I started ‘passengering’ for my dad. My first year was hard. Being a passenger is very physical: you need really good upper body strength but you also need agility to be able to move on the back of the outfit. I did get thrown out once but escaped with just grazes and bruises. “This year I was given a once-in-alifetime opportunity. Maria Costello, who has been racing as a road biker for over 20 years, decided she wanted to try her hand at sidecars and she needed a passenger. She approached me and together we’ve become the first ever all-female team in the British sidecar championship.
“My aim has always been to improve my skills and race with the best, so to be able to join the British championship was a bit of a dream come true. Maria is a very inspiring person and a great advocate for women in motorcycling so with her,
I feel we have paved the way for other women in what is still a very macho sport.
“My nursery colleagues know what I do at the weekends and they all think I’m crazy. I’m not really a thrill seeker in other aspects of my life and this is my only hobby as it is very time-consuming. Yes, there are risks to sidecar racing but we all know what those are and we enjoy doing it regardless.
“To combine my job with racing is not straightforward. Most races happen at the weekend but the qualifying sessions are always on a Friday so I need to take time off. Luckily my boss and colleagues have been very understanding and as we’re now approaching the end of the season, I’ll be able to make it up to them. “Some of the skills I have learnt at nursery have come in handy when racing and vice versa. Recently, there was a big crash on the track ahead of us so I came off the outfit and used my first aid knowledge to check that the people involved were okay. At nursery, my quick reactions come in handy to prevent accidents happening to children.
“I really enjoy my work and I love sidecar racing. I hope I can carry on combining the two for a long time.”