Andretti United Extreme E driver - Q&A Profile
Now and again you meet someone and think they are the future of this sport. In motorsport Catie Munnings, a driver for the Andretti United Extreme E Team in the all-new Extreme E series fits that profile. High energy and a natural optimist, Catie is soon to race an electric SUV across some of the world’s most remote locations in Saudi, the Amazon and Patagonia. Merchant Tailor, Andretti United’s Official Team Kit Supplier, caught up with her on a training session in Sweden to talk about roads less travelled and why sustainability is all about choices.
When did you first think racing might be a career?
There wasn’t a specific moment, to be honest. It was more of a hobby at first, but I also grew up around rally car driving. My Dad worked at Brands Hatch and started a rally school, so I was always around the sport. I started grass auto testing when I was 14. It’s like stunt driving with handbrake turns and flips in an off-road environment. It is accessible and you can take your road car and just join in. My Dad was also keen for us to have some road skills as we live in quite a remote setting where country roads aren’t gritted in the winter – safety first and all that. So, one thing led to another and then I entered my first rally when I was 17.
How did things progress?
It was kind of one event at a time and always has been. Motorsport is not something where your life is mapped out for the next ten years. It can change month by month and you never know what’s round the corner – no pun intended! You accept that on the basis you’re doing something you love and for me that’s enough. That said I’m naturally competitive, so I’ve always felt like this was the life was for me.
How have you managed in lockdown? Has it been tough to find a routine?
It’s been tough as it’s not a sport when you can just go and pick up your tennis racket and train – especially in rally as when you organise a test day you have to shut public roads, get council permission, organise ambulances - so it’s never a quick fix! You just have to control what you can control.
I’m in Sweden at the moment and from a training point of view it’s great to be out here with Timmy (Hansen, co-driver) doing some proper training. With the pandemic, nobody would have had a perfect preparation anyway, so I feel quite fortunate to have this opportunity away from the UK.
Tell me about how the Andretti United Extreme E Team selection came about?
I’ve been speaking to the team and had entered the Extreme E driver programme. At first, I couldn’t quite believe the concept that there’s going to be this big boat sailing round the world, and we’ll be racing in Saudi, the Amazon, even Patagonia. Bit like a movie but this time for real. As it happened, I was already signed with Andretti United but it’s always a result to be called up to compete in any setting especially if it’s around the world.
How have you been preparing for Extreme E?
It’s been tougher for Extreme E as there are lots of unknown elements with it being a brand-new championship. But there’s a side you can prepare for - whether it’s the fitness element, not just dealing with the physical strain of being in a car because it’s not like a typical single seater. More the long hours, the memory of the track, your reactions. Then there’s being on your best game mentally and the need to focus on your job. Lastly, working with Timmy (Hansen) has been great as we have a lot of fun and it’s that relaxed atmosphere that brings out our best performances. That’s the way we find the best race rhythm through the weekends.
The Extreme E terrains will be tough. What will be the biggest challenge?
I think there will always be challenges but you all have the same car so it’s making the most of that. Sand will be slightly different, but we know how to handle gravel and its likely to be similar. My view is that’s it’s all about bringing your experience and shared information to the race. It’s likely the track will be changing massively from lap to lap - there be huge ruts and all sorts - so managing that will be more about driver instinct than pure preparation.
How different is it driving Electric?
There’s a bit of readjustment on how you feel the car. You need to sense it more through the seat and just pick up the vibrations and listen to how the car responds.
They are great to drive, easier in the sense there are no gears, and you have that instant torque which is amazing!
Merchant Tailor made your kit from Recycled Plastic/other sources. As someone with profile is there a responsibility to carry a positive message on sustainability?
Sustainability as a theme is really important to Extreme E and it’s that positive legacy that makes it stand out. And sure, it’s all about Electric and there’s an important message on climate change but we’re not just talking about it, we are acting on it and trying to show that behaviours and choices matter.
A lot of thought has been put into selecting the right partners, one that have a truly sustainable offer and expertise. The trophies are made from recycled materials and our team kit and collection has been expertly designed and produced by the Merchant Tailor team from fabrics, recycled ocean bound polyester and organic cotton . You can just talk the talk and it’s making those real sustainable choices that mean Extreme E’s profile is authentic…and is walking the walk too!
You’re becoming a role model for girls. Does that seem a big responsibility?
It is quite a big responsibility and the spotlight is on you of course with young girls looking up at you. One of the Extreme E messages is for gender equality – we are there to do the same job as the male drivers and all contributions will affect the end result. That’s a great message about credibility and a very positive one for girls considering the sport or those that just need to know that anything is possible when you put your mind to it. We’ve got great drivers like Michele Mouton and others so the proof is there that we can do it. I’m really positive about the future and new opportunities for women full stop.
What’s your ultimate prize in motorsport?
The sport is so varied now with different categories and opportunities. Honestly, I always aim for the top and Extreme E is a great platform to put women at that level. Overall motorsport is progressing so fast and gender equality is increasingly important so with that I see a load more competitions in the coming years some not yet invented, all of which I’m up for competing in.
Do you live a sustainable lifestyle – in terms of choices?
Obviously, I’ve been competing for a while now and that has mainly been in petrol cars. Now there’s been a very well-timed alignment between my personal values and interest in the environment and the competition itself. The fact is that everyone all over the world has had a chance to stop in lockdown and look around. Nature has come back into view whether its local villages seeing the Himalayas again or wildlife taking over your backyard, it’s been a reminder of our responsibilities. The fact is we can’t just leave it to the big companies to make a difference, we all have our part to play especially as the world opens up post the pandemic.
When the racing day is done, how do you relax?
On a racing day I love sitting down with the team and the mechanics for a chat and a catch up rather than just shooting off. Bonding and sharing experiences is important so I like to have some dinner and hang out after the race. More generally, I love walking on the beach with our dog and recognise it can be quite empowering to do normal stuff to reset things when you’ve been away. That and a hot bath can’t be beaten, right?!