The pandemic has so far mostly kept our American editor Jack Benyon out of America, but even from afar he had no doubt how significant a particular Indianapolis 500 project might be for IndyCar’s future – and it’s his standout memory of the 2021 season
The year 2021 was an unusual one, boosted by the hope from vaccines but restrained by the need for still more distance between us.
It meant another year of working from home for me and not a single race circuit visit, so I had to find new and inventive ways to enjoy my job – which is usually spent hopping circuit to circuit to see one of the most visceral sports there is.
My favourite memory was seeing – albeit only on a screen – Paretta Autosport’s crew heading to the pits at the Indianapolis 500.
There should be nothing unusual about a team of predominantly female personnel at motorsport’s elite level, but sadly in 2021 we’re still nowhere near where we need to be in encouraging a more diverse sport – even if IndyCar has a better record than many organisations.
But to see a team working in harmony with some of the series’ most experienced personnel to improve, and go from zero IndyCar experience to operating and servicing a car on pit road in one of motorsport’s biggest events in the space of two or three months, was simply baffling in the best way.
I’m still not entirely sure how it all came together with such speed.
It helps the team is led by the charming and charismatic Beth Paretta who deserves so much praise for what the project achieved this year. I’m sure seeing children visiting the pits with the now trademark ‘Paretta Plaits’ hair style will have been satisfaction enough in itself.
In 2021 we may have witnessed a seismic shift in getting more women into American racing, and a more equal and diverse sport developing because of it.