Abi Birch with medalBuckingham student Abi Birch sped her way into the SWS World Karting Finals, becoming the highest-placed woman in the competition and ranking 12th in the world.

Abi, 20, a first-year Economics student at the University of Buckingham, achieved her placing at the Lignano Circuit in Italy.

The University of Buckingham helped to fund her participation in the SWS Finals in Italy. “If they hadn’t helped me, I don’t know if I could’ve gone,” she says.

“It means so much to me”

In the final race, Abi started in 19th position out of 20 racers. She went in with a good mind set knowing that she could only move forward and that the worst position she could come out with would be 20th – but still 20th in the world.

“When I realised the worst place I could rank in the world was 20th, I fell down and cried,” she said. “That moment meant so much to me. Let alone knowing I would come in 12th.”

Since the event began eight years ago, she was the first ever female to make it into the Super Master Finals. She has achieved awards for the Top UK driver, Top Dubai-Based driver and 2018 SWS female world champion.

“Proving yourself”

Abi was the only woman in the finals and one of only six women in the entire competition. She loves “being a woman in a man’s sport” and wants to get more girls interested in racing.

“It’s about proving yourself,” she said. “Men don’t think you’re going to be a threat, then you put your helmet on, they forget who you are and you actually challenge them. It’s such a great feeling.”

When she’s not studying Abi, 20, works at the Daytona track in Milton Keynes. She tutors people to learn how to race and hopes that by being a woman at the track young girls will feel more confident in investing into the sport.

“It’s all about going out of your comfort zone and trying something new as you never know, like me, I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it and I ended up falling in love with the sport.”

Balancing racing with studying

At 15-year old Abi relocated to Dubai and began racing, drawn into the sport by her father Richard Birch, an ex-professional racing driver and manager of a circuit where she lived. She never expected to be interested in the sport but it became a thriving hobby. Abi began getting competitive lap times, which led on to her being noticed and tutored by experienced drivers and competing in races.

Abi now lives in Winslow where she manages to balance her racing lifestyle with education. Karting is an escape for her, helping to clear her mind and believes that “everyone should have something other than their education.”

Marc Gene, F1 test driver for Ferrari and winner of the Le Mans 2009 race, also attended the University of Buckingham, graduating in 1995.

Felicity Roberts-Holmes, Lecturer in English at the University of Buckingham's English Department, 6th best in the UK

Felicity Roberts-Holmes

Lecturer in English Language Studies