“Everyone tells me I am mad to have this twin sporting focus in my life, but I find that one complements the other. The cars demand focus, accuracy and strength. The horses require the same, but with a lighter touch. One is a machine that is purely technical, while the bond between horse and rider is a unique relationship” – Liz Halliday
Recently an article in SpeedWorld Magazine about women in racing said “take a look in the rearview window, guys. More women are racing than ever before…” However, it is Liz Halliday who has been looking in her rearview window to find the guys as Liz has won three races this year and has a record six wins for a female in the American Le Mans Series.
Having not started motor racing until she was 16, Liz was at a distinct disadvantage as most professional drivers begin “carting” at 10 -12 years old. Encouraged by her father, Don Halliday, a Sports Car of America instructor and vintage race car driver, it was soon evident that she had talent. She rose rapidly from racing at Club Level in Britain to FIA GT and Rolex Grand Am. In 2005 she received the North American Rookie of the Year presented by Dailysportscar.com. This year Liz’s Intersport Racing team was awarded the prestigious Lynn St. James Award for providing an opportunity for women in racing.
Currently competing in the American Le Mans Series with teammate Clint Field in the P2 class, she pilots a Lola BO5/40-AER and was the only female to drive in this year’s famous 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.
While most individuals would be satisfied by excelling at one sport, Liz Halliday excels at two: Liz is also an international equestrian in Three-Day Eventing with the goal of making the 2012 USA Eventing team. Eventing or horse trials are considered the “triathlon” of the equestrian world and include the disciplines of Dressage, Cross Country, and Show Jumping. Eventing is a comprehensive test of the performance of both the horse and the rider. The origins of the sport can be traced to “The Military” begun by off-duty cavalrymen as a way to test the skills their horses would need: Dressage for parades, Cross-country for seeking, engaging and/or fleeing the enemy, and finally Show Jumping to confirm that their horse was still fit, compliant and ready to continue.
Eventing, and especially endurance racing, demand physical strength, stamina and balance. Motor races can last up to 24 hours, with a driver piloting the car during several “stints” or stages the duration of which may be as many as three hours in a 100 + degree- cockpit exposed to gravitational forces, or ‘Gs’, as high as ‘4’. In order to endure these conditions, Liz works with her personal trainer three days a week for approximately two hours. Other days will find her running, sculling or kick boxing to improve her cardio- vascular conditioning. She feels that the more physically fit she is will help determine how mentally prepared she will be for whichever sport in which she is engaged be it Eventing or motor racing.
Participating at such a high level in two dangerous sports also has its frightening moments: “At Road America Raceway my car burst into flames and I was forced to pull over. I was able to exit the car, but the car started to roll back, so I pushed it forward to keep it from going back on the track. In the Eventing trials leading up to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, my horse was unable to complete a jump and fell back on me, but luckily we both escaped unhurt”.
When asked if she thinks that one sport complements the other, she replies that there is a crossover. “Both are high adrenalin, high reaction, speed-technical sports, and dangerous! They both require full body fitness as well as mental fitness”. Although the motor racing requires more intenseness and endurance for a longer period, both sports demand complete commitment with the job at hand, and there is little or no room for error. “I also think that the years of riding have helped me develop “feel” in the racecar. What you must learn to feel through the saddle is similar to what you have to feel through the seat of the car. The biggest difference is that the horse has a brain”, she adds.
What gives Liz the most satisfaction? She replies that “gratification comes from working hard, feeling improvements in competition and realizing that the hard work is paying off. “I realize that there is always room for improvement in either sport and I am also learning how to be more competitive, focused, and mentally prepared. This is an integral part of the success in any sport, and one of the most difficult to get right.” As for what constitutes a “good day”, Liz says that “it is not always winning, although in motor sports especially, it helps! If I have made some improvement and given 100% personal excellence in which ever sport I am participating, then it has been a good day. Also, if my horses have tried their hardest or my team (race crew) has done the best they could, then as a team, we all feel successful.”
Although her demanding schedule leaves little time to relax and ensures that she has virtually no social life, she is passionate in pursuing both sports and cannot envision giving one up. However, her career goal is to be a television commentator. Recently, at Portland Raceway, she debuted as a special segment reporter for CBS Sports and interviewed drivers on a broad range of topics.
It seems that no matter what Liz decides to take on, she has the drive to get there.