Zimbabwe’s female racers: shifting gears, shattering stereotypes Adrian Watt, Melissa Watt and Jordan Watt

Shingai Dhlamini

IN the world of Zimbabwean sports, a new chapter is being written by women who are not just participating but excelling in the traditionally male-dominated realm of car racing.

Meet Jamie Kerwin, Melissa Watt, and Paula White, three women who are steering their way to success on the racetrack.
Jamie Kerwin

Kerwin is a phenomenal woman who was born and raised in Zimbabwe. She is not only a car racer, but also the Secretary General of Motorsport Zimbabwe, the governing body of various motorsport disciplines in the country and beyond.

She is one of the only two women who compete in Main Circuit Racing, a sport dominated by men.

(From left) Paula White, Gadzirai, Aiden White

Kerwin’s passion for racing started when she was 14 years old, inspired by her brothers who were racing bikes at the time.

She later met her husband, who also shared her love for racing. They have three children who are also into motorsports.

“I met my husband who also raced bikes and had then moved to racing cars. I sat on the sideline for some years and five years ago my husband built me a car in 2016, a BMW which I raced for three years. I have been always interested in car racing. My husband races cars and my children are into bikes. My youngest son does karting,” Kerwin said.

Kerwin made her debut in 2017, where she finished second in the D class. The next year, she had a major accident that shook her confidence and forced her to slow down. She bounced back in 2019, when she participated in the three-hour endurance and came second in D class and 11th overall.

Jamie’s first racing car built by her husband

In 2023, she moved up to the C class and competed against male drivers such as Adrian Watt, Declan Mellor, Jordan Watt, Tapiwa Makori, John Dube, and Vernon Lapham. She finished sixth, ahead of Catherine Zevgolis, the other woman in circuit racing. Zevgolis is a 17-year-old girl who just started racing.

“This year I am looking forward to doing great in the races and I encourage other women to participate and to also come watch and support us as we race. Car racing is an expensive sport so we are always on the lookout for sponsors,” Kerwin said.
Melissa Watt

At the age of 23, Melissa Watt has distinguished herself in the competitive arena of main circuit racing. Her journey into the world of motorsports began at the tender age of five with motorcycle racing and has since spanned a variety of racing disciplines.

Jamie Kerwin

Hailing from a family with a rich legacy in motorsports, Melissa’s ambition to compete is paralleled by her conviction that the sport should offer equal opportunities to all competitors.

Her father, Adrian Watt, has been a motorsport enthusiast since his youth, and her mother has also showcased her skills in 4×4 jamborees. Melissa’s brother, Jordan Watt, is a versatile competitor in karting and motorcycle racing. Together with her brother and uncle Vernon Lapham, Melissa races in the main circuit, proving that talent knows no gender.

“It’s empowering to see women competing in a sport that has been male-dominated. In racing, it’s your skill and control behind the wheel or handlebars that counts, not your gender,” she said.

Racing, like any sport, presents its own set of challenges. For Melissa, the initial hurdle was mastering the technical aspects of her race car’s mechanics.

Moreover, newcomers to main circuit racing must learn to navigate the fine line between pushing their vehicles to the limit and preserving their integrity.

Melissa encourages aspiring female racers with these words: “Don’t let the fear of failure deter you. Embrace your passion for motorsports and pursue your dreams with determination.”

Paula White

Paula White, hailing from Bulawayo, balances her role as a mother with her passion for motorsports. Her children, who are making waves in water polo and BMX, reflect the same drive for greatness that Paula embodies.

Paula’s foray into Drag Racing began six years ago, initially as a supportive spectator for her husband, Aiden White, a motorsport aficionado. Over time, the racetrack’s symphony of roaring engines and the scent of burning rubber ignited a passion within her. This newfound zeal led to her piloting her husband’s spare car, eventually culminating in the acquisition of her own vehicle, though maintained by her spouse.

“I was captivated by the thrill of the takeoff and the precision required in gearshift selection for optimal speed,” Paula recounted.
Being the sole woman in Drag Racing at the outset posed its challenges, but Paula’s tenacity grew with each race.

“Initially, it was daunting to line up against the male racers, but as my confidence soared, I found myself outpacing some of them,” she shared.
Paula, behind the wheel of a Nissan Silvia, has earned a top-ten ranking in Bulawayo.

Her presence on the track has been met with camaraderie and support, devoid of any animosity from her male counterparts.

Paula advocates for more women to experience the exhilaration and therapeutic benefits of the sport, stressing how it teaches one to conquer fears and release tension.

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