IN most pursuits, prodigious talent, fierce determination and a media-friendly personality would be capable of steering any competitor to the summit.
Unfortunately, for Carol Brown, motor racing isn't like other sports. Instead, she has discovered money talks with the volume of Brian Blessed in the pit and paddock, just as Paul Di Resta did when he was forced out of Formula One due to a lack of corporate backing.
Since she was eight years old and growing up in Alloa, the Scot has regularly made a habit of meeting and beating the boys, both in karts and cars. She has triumphed in various championships, gained rave reviews from some of the sharpest observers in the business, and demonstrated repeatedly that she comprehends the minutiae of machinery to the nth degree. She also understands the marketing potential of making any company linked with her feel as if they are overtaking every bloke, hitting the apex of every corner and celebrating every podium finish with her.
You might wonder why Brown has not been snapped up by a factory team but, while her cv testifies to her ability, she knows the score. This weekend, Brown will be involved in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB at Knockhill in Fife, as part of a packed programme of events in and around the MSA British Touring Car Championship.
It is an excellent opportunity for the 27-year-old and she recognises its significance. But it is also a one-off windfall. She has to grab the chance and push to the limit, without being overly impetuous.
"It's a bit of a Catch 22 situation, to be honest. You have to be seen and make an impact to gain the backing you need. But without the backing in the first place, you're struggling to get the drives," said Brown. "That is why it is so important to capitalise on these openings when they do come along. It has been a whirlwind few weeks trying to put everything together to make this happen; now it up to me to do the job where it matters.
"It's exciting, of course it is. It is also a step in the dark, since I haven't raced against any of these guys before and I will only have a day to get attuned to the car. But basically, this is one of the biggest weekends of the year in Scotland, with such a huge amount of interest in the BTCC, and my aim is to show everybody at Knockhill that I deserve to be racing at this level. If I can achieve that, I am confident it will help to open doors."
After nearly two decades of chasing her dream, Brown has amassed a string of supporters who are helping her on her quest - the list includes Livingston Autoparts, Advantec Aberdeen, William Waugh Ltd, Bruce Taxis, Pit Lane Ellon and Courier Connections. But, as she is acutely aware, the only person who can directly influence the future is herself. As to her ultimate ambition, she is typically grounded.
"It would be fantastic to get involved in endurance racing, such
as Le Mans, or in the United States, and it is one of my goals to go down that route if I can," said Brown. "I have been over to the US to watch the Rolex 24 a couple of times and it fascinates me.
"I've moved beyond the stage of getting involved in discussions about my gender. For me, it really is the case that once I pull on my helmet, I am just another driver and it is how I perform which matters and nothing else. The fact I have won four Scottish championships in my career convinces me I can be as good as anyone, but I know excellent male drivers who are also struggling to move forwards.
"It is in my hands now, which is how it should be. I have raced and won many times before in rear-wheel drive cars, but this is another huge step up in terms of technology, so the testing session will be crucial in terms of getting to grips with it."