Racing car driver, TV presenter and journalist Rebecca Jackson has achieved a remarkable amount during her relatively short career.
She formed her own business from an early age, began racing professionally, carved a media and journalism career within the motoring industry and completed her “biggest achievement” – racing at 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Despite all her victories and achievements, Jackson says, “I just didn’t really in my wildest dreams think that I would be doing everything that I am doing today.”
“Juggling everything to do with cars”
Jackson’s passion for cars and motorsports has developed from an early age.
She said, “I’ve always been interested in cars and I was actually at the race track when I was a baby – when I was six weeks old in my pram, with my mum pushing me around as my father was racing.”
“I’ve just grown up with the car environment and I always wanted to race properly one day.”
“I also wanted to combine my passion with my education, which is why I set up my car sales firm.”
After graduating with a degree in business studies, Jackson set up her company, RJ Prestige Cars in 2007. The used car company initially began selling budget cars, but has since developed with a greater interest in high-end cars such as Rolls Royce, Jaguars and BMWs.
It was through her business that she was able to push her interest in motorsports further.
“Once I’d earnt enough money through this [RJ Prestige Cars], I bought a 35-year-old Porsche 924 and started racing it.”
Since then, Jackson hasn’t looked back and her career has continued to go from strength to strength. She has presented video reviews for CarBuyer and has a column in Telegraph Cars. She also worked with ITV4 on the car show I Want That Car and was a guest presenter on Fifth Gear.
Last year, Jackson completed her dream of racing at Le Mans, after embarking on the three-year project.
She describes the experience as her biggest achievement so far.
“It was a lot of dedication, hard work, determination.”
“I set up Project Le Mans at the beginning of 2013, which was my four-year plan to get to Le Mans.”
“It was a very ambitious project because at the time I was racing a Porche 924 in the 924 Championship.”
“The car was 35 years old and cost £5,000 so you know to set your sights on arguably the most prestigious motorsport event in the world was a pretty big one.”
Despite her remarkable career, Jackson says she never sat down and planned to be a racing driver.
“Although I didn’t sit down and plan out how to be a racing driver and a motoring journalist and a TV presenter, I have planned each part of it.
“I put videos of the cars I had in stock on YouTube and wrote buying guides to compliment the business so I sowed some seeds.”
“I was very fortunate – you could say a combination of luck, hard work, the right people, the right time.”
“These seeds grew and Auto Express found my video reviews and then commissioned me to do a CarBuyer video review.”
“So although I didn’t actually sit down and plan out my whole career, there have been planning stages along the way.”
Using spare time wisely
With such hectic and high-pressured careers, it would be easy for anyone to become overwhelmed. However, Jackson says that using your spare time wisely is key.
“Any spare time I had I made use of it and I think when you make use of spare time you have you end up opening up another part of your brain capacity.
And then another project can join the party, and then another project, and then another.”
“Before you know it you’re doing three careers in one person’s body.”
“Everyday is different”
The nature of Jackson’s careers mean that everyday is different for her and there is no typical working day. Her hours are long ones but as Jackson admits she’s “not one for sitting around doing nothing.”
“I get up early most days, but some days I’m heading over to the car business very early and I’ll start work before traditional working hours.”
“I find that I get quite a lot done – it’s very peaceful and quiet.”
“Before working hours, its amazing the tranquillity and creativity that flows.”
“Another day could be going to the race circuit and signing on to allow us to go on to the circuit.”
“Another day could start with forming – I will meet with my forming team.”
“Other days, I will just start work from home.”
“There is so much variety throughout the day – I could work on several elements of my career all in one day.”
“I could work in London, have back to back with meetings, or be attending business dinners.”
“I attend a lot of business dinners because spending a lot of time with like-minded people, you’re actually helping each other.”
“It’s very symbiotic.”
“You help each other’s business and then there may be some synergy for them to help you.”
“It does mean that my days are pretty jam-packed.”
Due to her jam-packed schedule, you could forgive Jackson for not balancing the scales of her work-life balance. However, she appears to be on top of juggling all aspects of her life.
She said, “I think that’s [work-life balance] a challenge for a lot of people and not just for people who work for themselves.”
“I think that a lot of graduates these days also find this a challenge. I just don’t think that people work short hours anymore.”
“First of all it’s definitely time efficiency.”
“I try not to waste any time.”
“If I am standing in the queue for something I will update social media, or send some emails. If I have got a delay at the airport for example, I’ve got my laptop with me. If I’m on a flight I can write an article.”
“So it’s about being efficient with time.”
“It’s also about working on what I want to work on at that time. For example, at 9pm if I’m feeling really creative and it’s the best time to sit down and write an article, then that’s what I’ll do.”
“That’s the beauty of working for yourself – what your mind is best to work on at that moment is what you can do.”
Luckily it doesn’t take much for Jackson to recharge her batteries.
“I do try to get a little bit of rest in there.”
“It doesn’t take much, it doesn’t take a whole evening of doing nothing.”
“I can just sit down for five minutes and just recuperate and recharge the batteries.”
“I have wonderful, wonderful friends and family. Although I might not see my friends as often as I would like to see them, when I do its real quality time.”
“I’m not on my phone while I’m in their company and I feel you’ve got to make time for the important things in life.”
“Knowledge is key”
While it’s not secret that the motor racing industry is largely male-dominated, Jackson believes that her gender hasn’t been an issue.
She said, “I don’t think it’s held me back.”
“I think as long as you know what you’re talking about, you are confident and you have experience – because experience counts for a lot as well, although everybody has to start somewhere.”
“I do remember in the early days of my business, there were a couple of guys who tried to say there was something wrong with the car and there wasn’t – and that kind of thing.”
“But every time I went to a new garage, I made them aware that I knew what I was talking about.”
“Knowledge is key”
“As soon as they realise you know your stuff, then its very difficult for people to lead you down the garden path, isn’t it?”
“What I would say is in a male-dominated environment you have to earn trust – its not just given to you.”
“Men also like to take the mickey, but that’s ok because it means they like you.”
“Once you’ve overcome the obstacle of having a lack of experience, once you’ve got that confidence, when people meet you they don’t think, “Oh you’re a girl, you don’t know what you’re talking about”, because you’re exuding such confidence from your experience and your knowledge that actually it doesn’t cross their minds.”
“But if it does – ignore it. It doesn’t matter.”
“I think you have to be quite tough, quite thick skinned to cut it in the motor trade and motor sports.”
“It’s not a place for a shy retiring flower, but then if you were, you wouldn’t want to be out on the circuit racing, wheel to wheel – man or woman.”
Inspiring the next generation
Jackson is currently working on a new show for CBBC called Ali A’s Superchargers. The show will allow children to renovate their family car and reveal it to their parents.
Across the ten episodes, the show aims to encourage an interest in cars and engineering within the younger generation.
Speaking about the show, Jackson said, “When the TV producer for the new CBBC show showed the pilot to some school children, a little girl said to her, “Oh wow, so I can be a racing driver if I want to?”
“And this is exactly the reaction we want, because yes it is a TV show, but it is also designed to inspire young people.”
Encouraging the future generation is something that Jackson is clearly passionate about.
She said, “It’s amazing how many little girls come up to me at the race circuits with their parents and they say, “We’ve got someone here who wants to be a racing driver.”
“It helps some of the girls when they actually see a real life lady doing it, as opposed to just being told you can do this.”
Jackson is a very visible and accessible role model to young girls who want to get into the motoring industry.
“I’ve got an 11-year-old girl whose going to come along to one of my races and I also talk in schools.”
“I have a social media presence and am releasing a series of children’s books.”
“It’s a new venture for me but I also hope it will inspire young girls to believe that if you want to go and do it, then you can.”
Believing in yourself
Just as the upcoming, younger generation need support, encouragement and accessible role models, Jackson too has a great support network. She credits her parents as her inspiration, in particular her mother.
“My mother is a fantastic mother.”
“She’s non-judgemental, she is so encouraging and positive and so supportive.”
“I mean both my parents are, but my mother helped me to believe that I could be anything I wanted to be.”
“If I said to her tomorrow that I’m jacking it all in and I’m going to be a yoga teacher, then she would support me.”
“This is a really great feeling because you know that whatever you’re choosing, you’ve got someone there waving your flag and saying, “Yes, you can do it.
“They [her parents] come to most of race weekends and they really love to see me out there doing it and doing well.”
When it comes to looking for inspiration or mentors, Jackson advices to look further than your own circle.
“It doesn’t have to be someone who is in a male-dominated industry or someone doing what you’re doing.”
“It just has to be someone that is helping you to believe in yourself.”
Jackson has earned herself a remarkable reputation both as an entrepreneur and as a racing driver. She encourages other people to chase their dreams but reminds that it is important to learn from others and accept help when needed.
When asked if she had any advice for budding entrepreneurs, she said, “I would say don’t give up.”
“Really, really keep at it and surround yourself with the right kind of people that you can learn from, you can motivate you and help you to fulfil your dreams.”
“I didn’t get to Le Mans on my own.”
“I had a great team around me and that is so important.”
“It’s not just the team on the race circuit, or fixing the car in the garage.”
“It goes way beyond that. It’s the support you’ve got in the office, PR support, your family, friends, other people in business.”
You could forgive Jackson for wanting some rest and relaxation, but her future career plans are as ambitious as ever.
“I am concentrating on growing my car business, further developing my RJ Bespoke brand.”
“I’m releasing my children’s books.”
“Also, I am intending to carry on racing for as long as I can drive.”
“I’m going to race at the Nürburgring and Dubai 24 hour.”