“They say it’s the greatest race on earth; a field of large, incredibly powerful vehicles and a long road ahead. Well, only 8.48 miles of track ahead actually, but 24 hours to drive as fast, accurately and as safely as you can to reach the finish in one piece or even better, on the podium!”
American sportswoman Liz Halliday takes a second to reflect on the job in hand as one of three-man team who will be vying for honours at this weekend’s legendary Le Mans 24 Hours race. As someone who has seen success in a variety of sporting genres, Le Mans sees her take the drivers’ seat in a Lola-AER B05/40, run by Intersport Racing who won the LMP2 category on last years race.
Two tests in the car and she’s already psyched: “I can’t tell you how fantastic this car is. It’s the first time I’ve ever driven a prototype vehicle and it’s awesome how much grip you get and quick it is. The down force makes it so much easier to turn in and to take corners at high speed and the paddle shift gearshift means a lot less work than I have been used to in my GT car.”
Currently competing in the FIA GT series, Liz spends most of her time on four wheels in her Lister Storm GT, but the other half of Liz’s time and effort is spent on her equestrian activity. “Horses have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and my three day eventing competition is as important to me as my racing is,” explains the 26 year-old Californian.
Moving to the UK in 2000, Liz began working as a groom for 2004 Olympic Silver medallist William Fox-Pitt with the aim of learning as much as possible about equestrian competition at the highest level possible.
“It was hard working for William and to be honest I was a terrible groom, as I think anyone would be who desperately wanted to compete themselves, but what I learnt was invaluable. I rode many of his best horses and a lot of what I do in competition now mirrors what I learnt from him.”
With an aim to qualify for the 2012 US Olympic equestrian team, Liz openly admits to having a single goal – to win at Le Mans and make the US Equestrian team at the same time. “It’s certainly a huge ambition but not impossible. I narrowly missed qualifying for Athens so I know I need to pull just that extra bit out of the bag. If there was any way I could do it for the Beijing Olympics that would be great, but I would have to finish in the top percentage at Burghley and Badminton horse trials here in the UK to even be in with a chance, so aiming for 2012 is more reasonable.”
With this goal in mind, Liz currently spends all her spare time training and preparing, for two sports that are poles apart in reality but not in method or preparation. “There are lots of similarities between both sports, such as the weight shift in balance and the pace you take a jump on a show-jumping track and the way you take a corner in a sports car. The obvious difference is that a horse has a brain and a car doesn’t, so you only ever have complete control of one.
“The main difference in training is that I need short, sharp bursts of intense, adrenalin-fuelled focus for three day horse trials events and more focus on endurance and stamina for the sports car racing. I train four or five times a week, focusing mainly on endurance and strengthening my neck, and ride three horses a day for a couple of hours.
“I have also spent time with sports psychologists here in the UK and with human performance coaches in the US as keeping your brain alert and stimulated can be as much of a challenge as physical fitness, especially on a race like Le Mans.”
Liz will be co-driving 25-year-old Briton Sam Hancock, who recorded the fastest time of the LMP2 category runners in last Sunday’s official Le Mans Test Day – the final practice before qualifying for the race – and experienced Scottish historic racer Gregor Fisken, who recently finished third in class with an LMP2 Lola at the 12 hours of Sebring 2005.
Commenting on her fellow drivers, Liz adds: “I have now spent a little bit of time with my co-drivers and I think we make a great team with a lot of commitment and drive between us! The team know what victory feels like and I’m sure they will want to repeat that this year. The car is phenomenal and as far as my expectations go, I want to finish. If we drive well, take good care of the car and steer clear of dramas then I think a podium finish is possible. I don’t want to raise expectations too high but I would like to be the first woman on the podium!”
Biography: Liz Halliday
DOB: December 14 1978
Place of Birth: San Diego, California, USA
Lives: Farnham, Surrey, UK
Profession: Professional equestrian and international sports car racer
Formula Woman – Race Team Manager 2005
Education: University of California Santa Barbara (Biology)
Skills: Lyn St. James Driver Development Program Graduate
ARDS registered race instructor
British Horse Society graduate/instructor
Le Mans 2005: Intersport Racing, Lola-AER B05/40
Co-Drivers: Sam Hancock (GB), Gregor Fisken (GB)
At 5ft 9in (175 cms) and 67 kg, Liz Halliday is definitely a sporty woman accomplished in ski racing, scuba diving and kickboxing. She is a British Horse Society qualified riding instructor, and an ARDS qualified race-driving instructor. Before moving to the UK, she studied for a marine biology degree at the University of California Santa Barbara, and has vowed to resume her studies in England at a later date. That is one of Liz’s long-term goals, along with representing the USA in the Olympic Games and winning at Le Mans.
Her motor racing career, inspired by her father’s, opened in 1996 with the SCCA, and the Vintage Auto Racing Association (VARA), and she won three races outright in her first full season (1998) driving a Datsun 510.
After a two year break from racing, Liz drove a BMW M3 E30 in the Kumho BMW Championship and European Endurance Racing Club (EERC) Britcar in 2001. Continuing with the same car in 2002 she was named ‘Driver of the Season’ and had numerous top 5 finishes. In 2003 she had a win, a new lap record, and ‘driver of the day’ at Croft, before moving up to the British GT Championship half way through the season. From that moment on, Liz has made GT and Sports Car racing the main focus of her motorsport career.
Liz owns three horses on which she competes in Three Day Eventing in which horse and rider must complete a Dressage, Cross Country, and Show Jumping phase for a combined final score. Since settling in England she has competed in numerous advanced one-day events, and World Cup qualifying events like the Malmo CIC*** in Sweden. In October 2003 Liz rode in the Boekelo international event in the Netherlands, a 3-star level three day event and qualifier for the 2004 Olympic Games, and was one of the few riders to have clear rounds in the cross country and show jumping phases.
1998 Started racing in a vintage Datsun 510, 3 wins
2002 Kumho BMW Championship – BMW M3 E30: “Driver of the Season 2002”
EERC-Britcar: 1st and 2nd-Pembrey; ‘Driver of the Day’ – Donnington
2003 Britcar / European Endurance Racing Club (EERC) – BMW M3 E30: 1st- Oulton Park; 1st in class, new class lap record and ‘Driver of the day’-Croft
British GT Championship – Porsche GT3 Cup: 2nd-Rockingham; 4th-Thruxton; 3rd-Brands Hatch; 1st-Spa-Francorchamps 1000km: first woman to win a British GT race
Le Mans Endurance Series: TVR T400R : 9th GT-Le Mans Bugatti 100km
Bathurst 24 Hour: Porsche GT3 RS: 7th overall
2004 Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car series-TRG Porsche GT3 RS: 3rd Homestead 250; 4th Pheonix 250; 4th Daytona 250; 5th Mid Ohio 250;
FIA GT Championship: Spa 24 Hours-Autorlando Porsche GT3 RSR: 14th overall, 6th in class
Le Mans Endurance Series: Spa 1000km-Autorlando Porsche GT3 RS: 23rd overall, 7th in class
American Le Mans Series-PK Porsche GT3 RS: Competed at Petit Le Mans and the first night race at Laguna Seca
EERC / Brit-Sports-Radical SR3: 3rd and 4th Brands Hatch
2005 FIA GT Championship-Lister Storm: 7th Monza
Sebring 12 Hours
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