How did you become a professional powerboat racer?
My father was a powerboat racer in the 60s, 70s and 80s. I was always with him at the races and competed in my first race in 1989 when I was 12 years old. I guess I was quite determined then to pursue this dream of becoming a professional powerboat racer. After racing in various classes including Formula 2 for 10 years, I got my first chance in Formula 1 in 2007 and I’ve been racing in the same class ever since.
Did you feel pressure following in your father’s footsteps?
Both my parents were very relaxed in terms of not pushing my sister or me to follow in their footsteps. We got to try out various sports and for me I was competing in Alpine skiing and playing in a basketball team from the age of around eight or nine. My sister had the dream of becoming a dancer and so she did that. My mum was not too keen on having her daughter racing powerboats, but in the end she gave up trying to resist it. I’ve always been very determined and together with my father we were unbeatable.
Was there any piece of advice he imparted that stuck with you?
My father was an extremely precise and skilled mechanic and a lot of his advises was how to take care of the equipment. However, he also taught me that hard work pays off and that in motorsport anything can happen. Some days you win and some days you lose, and all you have to do is work hard and do your best.
How do strangers react when you tell them your job – ‘powerboat racer’ sounds too cool to be real!
My job is very different from everyone I know. To be a female motorsport athlete is rare, and to be a female athlete in Formula 1 powerboat racing even more so. People are curious and surprised and normally ask a lot of questions.
What attributes does a successful powerboat racer require?
When driving a Formula 1 powerboat in a World Championship race you need to have a mix of craziness, driving skills and understanding of race conditions and equipment. The races are long. Inside the boat it’s boiling hot and when your body starts to ache, your mind has to tell you to continue. In addition, you need a lot of willpower to even get there in the first place. In my case that includes everything from getting sponsors, running the company, organising the team and equipment and travelling all over the world, sometimes 30 hours in a car. Giving up is when things gets tough, and for me that’s not an option.
You can prepare yourself, the team and the equipment, but in an instant pretty much anything can happen
What’s the hardest aspect of your job?
The hardest aspect must be to keep going when the equipment fails and you’re left with a DNF (Did Not Finish). In a sport that’s so heavily dependent on materials and technology, you can prepare yourself, the team and the equipment, but in an instant pretty much anything can happen. When I’m also running on a very limited budget compared to many of my competitors, engine failure or crashes sets us back even more.
What do you consider your biggest achievement to date?
I’ve won a lot of races, including three European Championships in a smaller class. However, my biggest achievement by far was when I won the UIM F1H2O World Championship Grand Prix of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates in 2015. This win marked the first time that a woman has ever won a World Championship Grand Prix in an international top class in any motorsport. The victory was extremely satisfying, but left me wanting more. Now we’re aiming to do it again at the 2018 season’s eight Grands Prix. First at the Grand Prix of Portugal in Portimao on 18-20 May, and then at the Grand Prix of London at Royal Victoria Dock on 15-17 June, and so on. Winning in London would be a dream, as I love spending time in the city. It would be even more special, as the event will mark the first time in 33 years since a Formula 1 Grand Prix has been staged in London.
Advice for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
The most important advice I can give is to set yourself a goal and not let anything or anyone distract you. On the way to achieving your goal there will be many ups and downs. There will probably also be people questioning you, but it’s important to keep your focus. And most of all it’s very important to have as much fun as you can on the way.
As a woman in a traditionally male-dominated sport, do you see yourself as a trailblazer?
As one of very few fast women in powerboats I’m very happy if I can inspire girls, women and even men into thinking outside the box. Formula 1 powerboating is physically challenging and I do a lot of training to level the indisputable fact that a man is physically stronger that a woman. It’s proven that it’s possible to beat the men and I’m very happy to be proof of that. However, I’m not racing to run a feministic campaign. I’m racing Formula 1 powerboats because I’m good at it and because I truly believe that I can win. As a woman in motorsport it’s been very important for me to keep my focus on becoming a better racer and not to become a superstar on the internet.
I’m a very competitive person and I need the adrenaline and the craziness that racing gives me
Were male racers skeptical when you started your career?
There have been skeptical men and women. Honestly, I believe that when we put on our helmets it’s all about being the fastest and making the best of what you have. If anyone has a problem or is skeptical about my abilities as a Formula 1 powerboat racer then that’s their problem.
We hear you’re also a successful singer – how did that come about?
Actually, my music interest also came from my father. He was a jazz drummer and my parents bought a piano when I was seven years old. I learned music through playing the piano, and I learned to sing while I was playing. I started in a band when I was a teenager and got my first contract as a singer in a show when I was 20. Since then I’ve been working as a singer and entertainer all over Norway. I´ve done TV shows (including the Norwegian final of Eurovision), band gigs, and most of all I worked for a big theatre/show for seven years, all the time while I was racing powerboats. Now, I tour with my band and perform on various stages in Norway and some internationally.
Singing or racing?
It’s a tough question to answer because both are a big part of my life and identity. I’m happy I don’t have to choose because they both fulfil me in very different ways. I’m a very competitive person and I need the adrenaline and the craziness that racing gives me. On stage I feel confident, feminine, but most of all I love the feeling that entertaining people gives me. Music is about emotions. Racing is more about raw power.
Any piece of gear / kit that you couldn’t cope without?
I’m completely lost without my iPhone. I probably charge it three times a day and do a lot of work, booking of gigs, negotiations with sponsors, and answering media on it.
What are your ambitions for the future?
I’ve always been a person to live here and now. I’m dreaming about lifting the F1H2O World Championship trophy over my head one day, and will keep pushing every day to ensure I continue to get closer and closer to achieving my dream. I like working with events and the media and if I had to stop racing today I would probably work within the sports and music events industry.
Marit Strømøy will compete at the UIM F1H2O World Championship Grand Prix of London, which will be held at East London’s Royal Victoria Dock on 15-17 June 2018. For more information, visit F1H2O.co.uk