The Week Portfolio catches up the 24-year-old Dutch racing driver and Certina ambassador
Since 2012 Stéphane Kox, the 24-year-old Dutch racing driver, has been racking up podium finishes, including at the Dutch, Belgian and European go-karting championships.
She was subsequently selected for the Audi Sport TT Cup from a field of more than 160 and in 2015, her participation in the BMW M235i Cup saw her win the series championship and the challenging Zolder 24-hour race, helping to establish her status as a rising star of motorsports.
The Week Portfolio caught up with the racing driver and Certina ambassador to find out what makes her tick.
Other than the fact that racing has always been in your veins, what initially attracted you to motorsports?
I’ve been involved in motorsports basically all my life, as my father has been a professional racing driver for over 30 years now. However, there has never been any pressure from my parents to go into racing. I’ve tried all types of sports when I was a little girl, but still ended up in karting. So, you could say I grew up with it.
Who are your sporting heroes?
Obviously Ayrton Senna is one of the greatest racing drivers who has ever lived. But I think every athlete has his or her own vision of doing what is best, of working hard. And in my opinion, that is worth a lot of respect.
How has your father impacted your career? Does he offer you advice?
He’s had a big impact on my career, as he’s always been my big example. I’ve seen his dedication and hard work, and therefore I’ve seen all the sides motorsports has to offer, in either positive or negative way. This has definitely inspired me, but besides that, I try to do my own thing. I am a different person, with my own pros and cons, but I can definitely say I’ve always taken his advice with me, and I’ve learned so much from him.
Women still make up a minority in motorsports, but almost all levels of racing, from grassroots to professional, women are competing in greater numbers than ever before. What will it take, do you think, for full parity to be achieved?
To be very honest, I don’t think men and women will ever get equal in our sport. And for me, that is ok, up to a certain point. I have accepted that this is a men’s environment, otherwise I would have chosen ballet, or horse riding. I want to compete against the best drivers, and in an ideal situation, for that gender should not matter. However, I am really pleased to see there is a group of people out there standing up for the women in motorsport. I think this is a great step to get to equality as much as possible and to see that women do have a voice in such a men’s world. Nevertheless I think women are capable of being very good drivers, as they have some other capabilities than men, which are essential for being a ‘complete’ driver.
So what does it take to be a complete driver?
In my opinion, as I mentioned before, to be a ‘complete’ driver is not only about driving as fast as you can, or to be first into the first corner. Of course you need to be able to do this when the situation requires it, but besides, I think being thoughtful is as important. It may not look like it, but you’re doing a team sport. You are working together with a whole team of mechanics, engineers etc. to get the best result possible. It is not a one-(wo)man show, so you need to think about getting the maximum out of the situation. If that means to keep your act together and drive the car home, then you should adapt to that. But to stay with Senna’s words: “If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you no longer are a racing driver”.
How do you prepare for a race?
Most of the time, I watch onboards and look at some data. Besides that, I make sure to be fit and ready, and to get into the right state of mind.
In your view, is being good at sport more mental or physical?
For me, no doubt it is more mental. Of course you have to be fit, otherwise you are not able to perform in any way. But if you feel mentally strong, and you are in the right state of mind, you are halfway there. This is a personal feeling, and for sure there will be some athletes who won’t agree with me, but for me this is the absolute truth.
How did your partnership with Certina come about?
I came into contact with Adrian Bosshard (who is the CEO of Certina) and we had an immediate connection. Certina is a dynamic brand which absolutely suits this sport, and I am still very proud and grateful to be a Certina ambassador.
What do you admire about Certina watches?
I think Certina watches are always classy and suitable for every kind of occasion. It might be a contradiction, but for me their pieces are ‘timeless’ and I absolutely love wearing them.
Do you see any parallels between the worlds of high-end timepieces and top-level motorsports?
Yes, I absolutely do. Not only because racing is about hundreds and tenths of seconds, but also because I’ve seen how technical and precise these timepieces are. It is absolutely incredible and fascinating to see how these watches are made and it makes a race car look rather easy I must say.
What is the future of motorsports?
Right now motorsports is at a turning point. Everything needs to get more ‘green’ and obviously this has a big impact on motorsports. More and more electrical race cars are being developed nowadays. It looks like it will be electric in the future, but you never know.
And what is the future of cars generally? Have you driven any electric vehicles? And how would you feel if cars eventually become fully autonomous?
I’ve never driven a full electric car, but it is very impressive how fast these cars accelerate, how much torque they have. I don’t know if all cars will be electric in the end as this is still quite far away, but obviously developments are going quickly. In my opinion, hydrogen is also not completely ruled out yet.
I won’t step into a fully autonomous car that easily, as for me this is still quite scary. I’m an absolute control freak and therefore not really keen on trusting my life to a computer. Cars from this generation already have loads of systems which operate autonomously, and it is almost as important to have the newest software update as to have reliable brakes on your car nowadays. And what is the point of sitting in a nice car when you are not able to drive it anyway?
What’s next for you?
I absolutely love racing, and therefore I hope to keep developing myself as a racing driver (and as a person), as there is still lots to learn. I will try and work hard to become one of those privileged people who can make a career out of their passion.