Dubai: Twenty-six years is a long time. After more than two and a half decades, Marit Stromoy felt vindicated as she stood holding the gliterring trophy at the end of the Sharjad Grand Prix in the third week of December. Never before had she won anything so big in her career as a driver.
She stood tall on the podium – the winner of the season-ending round of the UIM F1 H2O World Championship. Starting in the field of 18 boats, Stromoy had proved that it takes much more than guts to be the best in a male-dominated sport.
Since she was 13, the girl from the outskirts of Oslo, had dreamt this big. And it has taken her 26 years to fulfill it. She felt empowered. She felt special as she gracefully accepted the wishes of one and all once the presentation ceremony was over and done.
Sharjah was not an easy win at all. Stromoy had to use all of her experience to hold off three-time world champion Alex Carella and Victory Team’s Shaun Torrente to enter the history books of F1 powerboat racing while becoming the first-ever woman champion in the 32 years of the UIM F1 H20 World Championship. Starting off from fourth position on the grid, Stromoy matched the likes of Carella and Torrente to finish the 43-lap race a clear 4.70 seconds ahead of the chasing pack.
The ceremony over, it was time for reflection. Her dream had finally become a reality. “At last I was a champion. It had taken far too long to come, but it has been worth the wait,” Stromoy told Gulf News as the last of the spectators cleared the podium.
“I’ve been racing for 26 years now and since my first race in 1989 I have been dreaming about this moment. When I started F1 racing in 2007 I was in a daze because I knew I was entering a completely new world of competition,” she added.
The Stromoy family has been involved in powerboating since 1965 when Leif Stromoy first raced. He raced for several years in different classes until the 1990s when his daughter Marit entered the scene as a gutsy 13-year-old. But 1993, Marit had migrated to the S-550 class where she won the European crown on three occasions before moving to F-2000 in 2000. However, her biggest break came in 2007 when she became the first woman to make her way into the far more demanding F1 class.
New challenges led to new aspirations and new dreams. Marit realized that she was entering a whole new world where racing was the only thing that mattered. She did not budge from her ultimate goal. “Back when I started I was only dreaming of finishing in the top ten. But as I went along I let my dreams move along with me,” she relayed.
“Today the goal was to get a podium finish. But to end in first place is unbelievable and so special,” she beamed.
Marit realizes that her win is a precursor of things to come. A woman winning in the male-dominated sport can have its implications. But she doesn’t make a big hue and cry about this fact. “For me what is even more important is that this is a special moment in my career as a driver. This is one day that I have waited for a very long time. I woke up every day dreaming of this day when my dream would come true. Every day I put my body through so many things like weight training, running, eating healthy, and all because of this one reason,” she recalled.
“In the past, I have failed way too often, but today all those failures really do not matter as they have led me to this moment of glory. Today is a special day as everything came together and fell in place for me and for me team,” she added.
One of the key elements for Marit is the stability that she enjoys with a close-knit and select team in her set-up. That includes her dad and good friend and mechanic Kristoffer Guldbransen who has stuck around with the eager driver all over the world.
At the start of her career in F2000, Stromoy Racing was dominated by girls such as Celin Vanay, Trude Skjaervik and Annette Thorsrud. The team travelled Europe by road gaining a substantial bit of media exposure in the bargain. In 2006, Marit was picked up by French team Ixe to participate in the Endurance World Championship, and she repaid the favour with three podium finishes at the well-known 24-hour race of Rouen.
And then in 2007, Marit got the opportunity she had been waiting for as she was drafted into F1 Team Sweden. There was no stopping the eager girl from Norway as she grabbed the opportunity of a historic finish in Sharjah in December. “I now understand what I have achieved in my career, and this win is definitely the highlight. Being a woman and winning a race against the men is not that important for me as I knew I could do it. Today, I have gone out there and proved this,” Stromoy said.
“This win only proves that everything is possible. Being a man or a woman is really not important as long as you dream. My appeal to youngsters especially is that they need to have their dreams. Dreams are dreams even if you are a minority in a major sport like this. You just really need to believe in yourself and go after your goals. There is nothing that is impossible,” she added.
“The next season is coming quickly and I hope I can carry on with this momentum into the next year. I want to finish in the top three in the 2016 championships. That’s the new dream now.”