Charlie Martin was ecstatic to learn that Le Mans had been added to the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Europe calendar this year. | Fiona Hunt

Around 325,000 spectators attended last year’s special Centenary 24 Hours of Le Mans race — a record crowd for this world-famous fixture in the motorsport calendar.

Hitting top speeds of around 350kph, in hot summer temperatures while trying to avoid a crash or other calamity, it’s the ultimate behind-the-wheel endurance test.

It’s always been Charlie Martin’s target to break into a team and experience that thrill. The slogan on the British racing driver’s website says “Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!”

In less than three months’ time, that personal peak — the summit for which she strives — will come into clear view and feel closer than ever before.

The press release for her new season explains the significance: “2024 marks a huge step for Charlie in her ambition to make history as the first transgender driver at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.”

That’s because the Lamborghini series in which she’ll be competing for a third consecutive year has a support race at the 13.6km Circuit de la Sarthe this coming June. It will be the highlight of their calendar and Martin can’t wait.

“It’s big!” she tells Outsports. “I’ve been saying Le Mans is the goal for a long time but ultimately it’s a really hard thing to do, when you don’t have a big pot of money to finance your career.

“I was due to be driving in the support race there in 2019. Unfortunately, that year my season didn’t pan out the way I had seen it going. People who said they were going to support me didn’t.

“It was a crushing blow, to have that all lined up and then not actually go.

“At this point right now, it means a lot to me. We’ll be there all week for the whole build-up. We’ll see all the atmosphere, we’ve got an RV right in the paddock, and full access to everything that’ll be happening. It’s going to be incredible.”

Her enthusiasm and self-belief, combined with her ability, continue to make her one to watch in motorsport.

It was back in June 2018 when her unique story first came to wider attention, as she handed out rainbow stickers on a race weekend at Silverstone and got the GT Championship grid and media talking about LGBTQ allyship.

Now she drives with Brutal Fish Racing teammate Jason Keats in a bright purple Lamborghini Super Trofeo Evo 2 sporting a permanent Progress Pride flag.

“The livery is very eye-catching! Straight away, you recognise it among the other cars but what a lot of people don’t notice is that it’s the maple leaf flag in purple. It ties back into Jason, who’s a very proud Canadian.”

Martin is hugely grateful for the support of her co-driver, who is the founder of a smartphone tech startup and a confirmed petrolhead. He’s also a staunch LGBTQ ally.

“It means a lot to have a teammate who’s very vocal about his support for inclusion and who follows that up with actions, such as in terms of people he’s hired within his own company — he’s recruited trans and non-binary employees.

“The Progress flag on the car was a joint thing that we thought would be a cool thing to do. When we put the livery together, it felt like a good fit. It’s everything the way you’d want it to be.”

Jason Keats and Charlie Martin have been teammates since 2022

In 2022, on debut, they were vice-champions in their class in the North American series. They stepped up to the European series and scored five podiums, finishing fourth in class.

They are eager to push on and the signs are good. Martin was recently testing at Imola, where the new season will begin on April 20, and felt she went “quicker than ever”. She attributed that to feeling more “comfortable” in all aspects of her life.

“This is the first year that I’ve gone back to the same team and the same series,” she explains.

“When I’ve gone somewhere new and started from scratch, invariably I’ve been the only woman in the team and that’s before you throw in being queer or any inclusion issues.

“It’s a lot to re-establish yourself and create a rapport with new people. It’s nice to not have to do that, for a change!

“When you feel good in yourself, it’s going to translate into everything you do.”

Following the Imola opener, it’s on to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium in May, with Le Mans and the Nurburgring forming the mid-point of the season which then concludes in Spain, at Barcelona and then Jerez.

The Progress Pride flag is a permanent feature on Brutal Fish Racing’s purple Lamborghini | Andreas Sciarra

Meanwhile, Martin continues to channel her impactful activism for trans rights around her racing. That’s rarely straightforward and with social media sliding ever more towards toxicity, it’s a job just to stay focused on the road ahead.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m censoring myself,” she says. “But recently I signed up to a new agency called SUPA Model Management that’s trying to create more diverse representation and working with people like that has given me confidence to get back to my roots, and remember what I was doing and saying back in 2018 when I came out.

“I just want to say what’s right and worry less about the other stuff.

“I put a video together at the start of this month, and posted it across all my social networks. I was intrigued to see what response it would get from different audiences.

“I wanted people to try to be more empathetic and question their logic at times before they jump to conclusions about why trans women shouldn’t be competing in sports.

“From an activism point of view, it was quite mild-mannered in many ways. But it’s also about saying what you think is right, in a positive way, and calling out things that are negative.”

Martin will keep using her voice and providing “positive visibility” through her racing. “The most important thing is me turning up with my head in the right space and trying to get on the podium.

“Anything that comes from that, to me that’s positive visibility and I can post images and videos and talk about things at that point, but the main focus is trying to get out there and win races or at the very least, just get on the podium and get the result that you want.”

She’d like nothing more than to do that at Le Mans in June. “I don’t think there are many events outside of America, at least with IndyCar and NASCAR, where you get that amount of people all crammed into one space for one event.

“And the fact it’s happening as well during Pride Month… it’s an opportunity to really try and do well and get momentum to then make it to the big event for real.

“There’s a lot riding on it.”

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