Nathalie McGloin (UK) is the first female quadriplegic racing driver in the world and, as if that wasn’t impressive enough, she is also a public speaker and an inspiration.
There is truly no limit to what Nathalie can explore and achieve, once she sets her mind to it.
Now an accomplished pilot since 2015, before her accident Nathalie wanted to become a solicitor.
“The ambition to be a solicitor was replaced with the ambition to be self-sufficient and strong,” she says.
In university, she started playing Rugby with Paralympic aspirations.
Little did she know that her future would involve being a profession racing driver and record breaker.
Nathalie was involved in a car accident when she was young that left her paralyzed.
“I broke my neck, which means I’m paralyzed from the chest down,” Nathalie explains.
“My fingers don’t work properly, and I have limited triceps function as well.”
But in motorsport, there are no separate categories for female or disabled drivers, and Nathalie has managed to made a name for herself in a field historically dominated by white, able-bodied men.
"Being strong helps, but it's not a 'strength for strength' or a 'stamina for stamina' challenge like you would experience in other sports. That’s why you can have that parity across the board."
Meet Nathalie McGloin: winner, speaker, racing champion, record-holder. Inspiration.
Becoming the first female quadriplegic racing driver
Nathalie is not only the first female quadriplegic racing driver, but she's also the only disabled woman with a race and rally license in the UK.
"I had the idea that I wanted to do it, and no one was going to stop me."
That’s what Nathalie said about her racing license tests in 2015, and she certainly didn’t let anything – let alone anyone – stop her.
In order to get her racing license, Nathalie had to prove her skills:
- Racing against the clock
- Demonstrating that she could get out of a car in seven seconds
"It was challenging, but I did it on my second attempt," she says, while retelling her story during an interview the Guinness World Records office in London.
After she passed her test, she lost no time before competing in her first race.
"My license arrived Thursday and I went racing on a Sunday."
As she looks back at her first race, Nathalie smiles fondly – "it was crazy," she says.
"I love to see the shock on people’s faces when I get out of the car and they see that I’m a woman and I’m on a wheelchair. They are like: 'what?!'" - Nathalie McGloin
Nathalie’s debut on the racing track happened at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent, UK, driving her beloved Porsche Cayman S.
With a steady streak of placing herself on the podium, Nathalie won her first event at Silverstone in 2018.
Her husband and partner Andrew, who is also an experienced driver and a rally champion, is by her side through it all: not only always cheering for her, but sometimes driving alongside Nathalie as co-pilot.
Nathalie's Porsche Cayman S
Nathalie drives a powerful Porsche Cayman S and has an incredible relationship with her hand-controlled car.
Trust, many years of racing together and knowing every secret of her beloved Porsche turned Nathalie into a force to be reckoned with on the track.
Her car is fitted with radial hand controls that she pushes forward to brake and down to accelerate, leaving one hand free to steer the wheel.
This set-up allows her to mix the accelerator and throttle for greater car control.
"It’s the car I wanted to race in, it’s the car I wanted to drive and it suits me very well," she says.
Initially, the Porsche Cayman S was a road car like many others. Nathalie was involved in the process of modifying it and, in the end, it became her closest companion on the finish line.
Although it’s been modified with bespoke features that allow Nathalie to be comfortable while at the steering wheel, she specified that it’s not so altered that other people can’t drive it.
"My husband, Andrew, sometimes drives it and he races with his feet, so you can still drive it in the way it was designed," she reveals.
"It can change the gear for me, so I don't have to worry about that and my fingers' dexterity while controlling the brakes."
Together, Nathalie and her car form a winning duo.
"People often ask me how I control the car: if it’s more difficult, whatever they are imagining at that moment. But I don’t know any different."
"To me, the question is the same as this: how does it feel to drive with your feet? That is a natural thing for you.
"And the way I drive is a really natural thing for me."
From rugby to racing
When she was 16, Nathalie was involved in a car crash while she was returning from school. She wasn’t driving.
"I didn’t even have a driving license at the time, I was in the passenger seat."
The catastrophic consequences of the accident left her quadriplegic after eleven months in the hospital.
Twenty-three years later, Nathalie recalls that she's never fully recovered from the accident, and is always finding new learnings every day.
For example, it was only during lockdown that she learned how to get off the floor and onto her chair on her own.
"It’s not until you go home and live into the wider world that you learn your real skills."
During her time at university, Nathalie truly found herself.
That time became an opportunity for her to prove to herself that she could still get her degree and be independent.
She started playing rugby during this time, and aspired to compete in the Games.
"It was my life, that’s what I was doing for four-five days a week."
However, in 2012, an injury forced Nathalie into an unexpected setback that caused her to stop for nine months.
"When I went back to rugby, I just didn’t have the same passion for it."
"One day, one of my rugby teammates told me that his sportscar was faster than mine."
That led to a day spent on a track, racing as fast as they dared.
Although Nathalie lost the bet, revealed with a laugh during the interview, that experience opened the door for another big passion of hers and that would shape her life and success.
During her forced rest from the rugby field, cars became a big part of her life and a hobby she loved to dedicate time to.
In 2015, Nathalie became the first female quadriplegic pilot ever to achieve a racing license, but that is far from the end of her accomplishments.
That was, in fact, only the beginning.
Today Nathalie juggles many commitments other than driving: she is an ambassador for equality, the president of the FIA Disability and Accessibility Commission, and a public speaker.
Thriving on adrenaline and proving time and again that she can - and will - reach all her goals, Nathalie is a inspiration.
Be it at the steering wheel of a fast car or on a stage, she has proven that, in motorsport, gender and disability do not represent insurmountable barriers.
We can't wait to see the records she might break next.
Find Nathalie's story and accomplishments inside the new Guinness World Records 2023 book, out now.