DirtFish accelerates its women in motorsport initiative

Snoqualmie rally car school program continues to grow. Women who have signed up so far include car enthusiasts, stunt women, bus drivers and a mom looking to be more comfortable driving in ice and snow.

On March 2, people poured into a white marquee, looking over 300 acres of trees and 30-plus rally car courses as the third annual DirtFish Women in Motorsports (WIM) summit commenced.

The WIM summit hosted by DirtFish — a Snoqualmie rally car school at 7001 396th Drive SE — began in 2022. The summit started with a vision from Josie Rimmer, the DirtFish head of strategy. Rimmer saw how the lack of visibility for women in motorsports often led women and young girls to view the sport as unapproachable and intimidating.

“She really wanted to open the floodgates to allow for a really safe space,” said Zander Lozano, guest services and human resources coordinator at Dirtfish.

While the WIM summit has expanded since 2022, one aspect remains the same: the panels and the women panelists from across the globe, who are trailblazers in the motorsport industry.

At the 2024 summit, panelists spoke of their journey into motorsports and topics surrounding growth, hardships and building confidence, before ending with a Q&A.

Guests attended workshops hosted by a team of women mechanics who taught the audience how to service a rally car between races.

“People were able to come up and have a hands-on experience, which was really neat,” Lozano said.

These workshops created a space for engagement and visibility and “quelled any fears” of people in the sport being intimidating or clannish, said Michelle Miller, a 2023 WIM summit panelist and a senior instructor at DirtFish.

“Everyone in the sport is very nice and engaging,” she said. “Everyone wants to help. Everyone wants you there.”

The workshops also allow guests to see women in motorsport roles beyond the driver and co-driver.

“There are probably people that didn’t even think that those types of jobs were an option... so seeing that in person and having an opportunity to get hands-on, and talk to people who are in that industry can really speak to the actuality of it, and the achievability of it,” said Kelley Clausen-Walters, a DirtFish guest services coordinator.

Another addition was the plethora of local women-owned businesses vending at the summit.

“We tried to broaden it beyond motorsport and just really engage everyone in the Valley area and showcase the neat things women are doing,” Miller said.

While the summit showcases women in motorsport roles, it’s not just for women, Miller said — it’s for everyone who wants to “follow the path they want to take in life, regardless of anything else, and I think we provide a space where people feel like they can.”

All-women rally classes

The summit is not the only vision that became a reality when DirtFish launched the WIM initiative. The same year, DirtFish launched all-women classes as a proactive step toward dismantling barriers preventing women from getting on the track.

One hour after launching the first class, it sold out, and the next class sold out within 24 hours.

Miller said there is no difference in curriculum compared to other DirtFish programs.

“You have the same growth and progress...it’s just easier for some women to go in without worrying about boys,” she said. “What we’ve been finding is, when [women] come back, they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, now that I’ve been here, this place is cool, I don’t need to go to an all-women’s program.’”

The all-women class is not strictly for aspiring professional drivers. Women who have signed up so far include car enthusiasts, stunt women, bus drivers and a mom looking to be more comfortable driving in ice and snow.

“After you have taken a program and you prove to yourself what you’re capable of, when that morning, you’re like, ‘there’s no way I can do that,’ and then you do it. You find confidence in your daily life as well,” Lozano said. “It doesn’t stay in the car, it’s something that you kind of carry with you.”

Growth of the WIM initiative

Over the past three years, the WIM summit has transformed from a panel discussion held in the DirtFish classroom to an event featuring workshops, vendors and guests bursting out of a marquee in anticipation of the iconic panelists. Major sponsors have joined the initiatives roster, and the summit has created a buzz on social media before and long after the event.

“It has been an organic growth beyond the six people who are on the panel here,” Miller said.

At races, teaching classes or online, Miller, who has been in the motorsports industry for two decades, has observed how this kind of presence and visibility of women has led to the growth of motorsport and other sports. As generations pass, she believes the path toward women in sport will be increasingly “less intimidating as we move forward.”

To reinforce this path, Steve Rimmer, owner of DirtFish, has no plans on leaving the WIM initiative behind. In a recent newsletter, reflecting on the 2024 WIM summit, he wrote the WIM initiative “is not just about one day or one month, it’s every day, every month and all year around. And that’s our intent.”

Women in Motorsports summit. Photo courtesy of Trevor Lyden

Women in Motorsports summit. Photo courtesy of Trevor Lyden

Photos courtesy of Dirtfish

Photos courtesy of Dirtfish

Left to right: (front) Vanessa Ruck, professional motorcycle racer; Jndia Erbacher, Top Fuel drag racer; Michele Abbate, American Trans-Am driver; Pernilla Solberg, rally car driver, co-driver and team manager; (back) Josie Rimmer WIM founder, Becs Williams, lead World Rally Car all live commentator; Michèle Mouton, “legend of rally” and World Rally Car Event Champion; and Michelle Miller, rally car driver, co-driver and DirtFish senior instructor. Photo courtesy of Karl Noakes

Left to right: (front) Vanessa Ruck, professional motorcycle racer; Jndia Erbacher, Top Fuel drag racer; Michele Abbate, American Trans-Am driver; Pernilla Solberg, rally car driver, co-driver and team manager; (back) Josie Rimmer WIM founder, Becs Williams, lead World Rally Car all live commentator; Michèle Mouton, “legend of rally” and World Rally Car Event Champion; and Michelle Miller, rally car driver, co-driver and DirtFish senior instructor. Photo courtesy of Karl Noakes

All-women’s class (Photo courtesy of Dirtfish)

All-women’s class (Photo courtesy of Dirtfish)

Women in Motorsports summit (Photo courtesy of Trevor Lyden)

All-women’s class (Photo courtesy of Dirtfish)

Workshop at the Women in Motorsports summit. Photo courtesy of Karl Noakes

Workshop at the Women in Motorsports summit. Photo courtesy of Karl Noakes