How Amanda Kangai got her first role in motorsport

Cambridge Engineering undergraduate Amanda Kangai’s goal is to become a strategy engineer for a Formula One team. Amanda recently became the first female recruit to be signed by an off-road electric racing team under the Racing for All initiative – providing a first step on the career ladder in motorsport.

The initiative, informed by the findings of The Hamilton Commission, was set up to create opportunities for a new generation of mechanical and engineering talent. The aim is to reduce barriers and offer opportunities to those who are female, minority ethnic, or from a lower socio-economic background.

Amanda, who is about to enter the third year of her engineering degree, has joined Veloce Racing’s British squad for Extreme E Season 3 – motorsport’s first gender equal and most radical off-road electric racing series, with an emphasis on sustainability.

As Veloce Racing’s junior mechanical engineer, Amanda experienced the second X Prix of Season 3 earlier this year, the Hydro X Prix in Scotland – racing on the former Glenmuckloch opencast coal mine site in Dumfries and Galloway. This was Amanda’s first race and she gained valuable experience shadowing the head engineer and learning what it takes to be part of a professional race team.

“I had a great time understanding how an Extreme E team works,” said Amanda. “A typical day involves shadowing the head engineer, supporting drivers so that they can analyse their driving footage, and doing everything I can to help us be a couple of steps ahead of the other teams – whether that’s analysing footage, and determining the fastest and easiest track line to take, to supporting the head engineer live, so that he can effectively communicate live to the drivers.”

It is a role that Amanda says complements her undergraduate studies, allowing her to experience some of the engineering theories that she has been learning in real life.

“It has been so powerful seeing some of the engineering theory take place in front of my eyes,” she said. “I am definitely implementing some of this learning in my junior mechanical engineering role, for example, theory on springs and the importance of dampers, both of which have a very important role to play in race car vehicle dynamics and performance.”

Amanda first met Veloce Racing at Extreme E’s NEOM Island X Prix double-header in Sardinia last season, where she was working as one of four female student ambassadors in Extreme E.

“In this role, I was giving paddock tours – this is an area where you can see the race cars, drivers, engineers and mechanics up close. Because of this, I frequently talked to team managers and drivers, and gained an understanding of the many components of the race car, including the chassis and battery, as well as learning more about the racing series as a whole.

“It was during my role as a student ambassador that I first met Mariella Bailey, now Head of Operations at Veloce Racing and Veloce Esport. She was kind and it was great talking to her, as she was a team manager in the W Series (all-female racing category) at the time, which included W Series champion Jamie Chadwick.

“From this meeting, I was interviewed by Mariella and Dan Bailey, CEO of Veloce Racing, and then I was given this incredible opportunity to be the junior mechanical engineer. I am thankful to The Hamilton Commission and Veloce Racing for this opportunity, as well as Extreme E, where it all started!”

Amanda added: “The best part of my Veloce Racing experience is just the thrill of it all, watching the racing and witnessing how quick conditions and circumstances can change, and then having to quickly and calmly respond to it. In each race, there is guaranteed to be excitement, and it is amazing.”

Outside of her studies, Amanda is Vice President of Cambridge University Women in Engineering Society (CUWES), Co-President of Caius Engineering Society and, until recently, she was the Access Officer for Cambridge University Engineering Society (CUES) – where she hosted an access week for around 100 Year 12 students interested in studying engineering.

Amanda, whose future academic plans involve specialising in Aerospace and Aerothermal Engineering with electrical modules, has a message for women interested in motorsport:

“Believe in yourself and look for those opportunities that will bring you closer to your career goals,” she said. “If you want to volunteer for your local racing team, look for work experience or internships, anything that helps you to decide if it is the correct career path for you.”

She added: “Be as confident as you can when applying for jobs and reach out to other female engineering talent who may be able to help you.”

Read the original post and more from the University of Cambridge here.