Despite coming from a famous motor racing family (her late father Vivion was the brother of Formula 1 star Derek Daly) this was her first foray into motorsport. With a sporting background in field hockey, taking to the track to follow in her family’s footsteps and race on a 100km/h S1-X electric Skootr was a step into the unknown.
As the inaugural season of eSC wore on, the former Olympian established herself as one of the standout riders in the world’s first micromobility series – and in a competition that prides itself on pitting male and female riders together on track she impressed onlookers with her work ethic and application. “I was really impressed with Nicci’s approach and how proactive she has been with regards to developing her race craft on the S1-X eSkootr,” says eSC’s head of development Joe Akroyd.
“She was always asking questions, looking at the data and trying to improve,” he continues. “She was also aware of her weaknesses, which is really important when you’re trying to get the best out of yourself. It’s not easy to compete against other competitors who have been used to racing on two wheels since they were kids.”
Through a combination of her own commitment, in addition to support from her Carlin team, Nicci enjoyed one of the highest rates of progression, going from falling out in the knockout stages at the London opener, to reaching the grand final in the last event in Marseille.
“I didn’t have particularly high expectations as I came into this sport with no experience whatsoever of racing,” says Daly. “My main goal was to learn as much as possible and push myself outside of my comfort zone. Every time I got on the scooter, I had that little bit more experience to try different things. Despite coming from a motor racing family, riding with a brake and throttle wasn’t something I had a huge amount of experience of.”
Daly revealed that part of her success was down to the mental approach which she had learned in her time representing her country. The Dubliner has played for Ireland on 200 occasions and was part of the Irish field hockey team to reach the World Cup final, and in 2000, was a member of the first Irish women’s hockey team to qualify for the Olympics.
“What I kept in my head while racing in Sion is that I might not be the fastest, but I can be hard to beat,” reveals the 34-year-old. “That was a tactic for me. I knew I was pretty quick at the starts and there was a good chance I could be out front. I wanted to make it as hard as possible for the other riders to pass me. I think by the time I got to Marseille my overall pace had improved so significantly that I was able to compete with the guys ahead for once.”
Entering the final rounds in Marseille, Daly’s Carlin team-mate Anish Shetty topped the Riders’ Championship and was favourite to take the title. But a mistake in the knockout rounds unfortunately took the Indian racer out of contention. Championship honours now fell to Daly who had the opportunity to win the Teams’ competition for Carlin. But disaster struck when Daly was hit in the final corner of the final lap – losing the championship within yards of the chequered flag.
“That was a bittersweet moment, but at the start of the year I never thought I would be the rider that would be in the position to win the Teams’ Championship for Carlin. If anyone would have said that to me I would have laughed,” she says.
“So to be in this position of going into the final with the title on the line was a bit hard to believe. I was more nervous than any game at the Olympics, but I just planned to approach the final the same way as all the other races.”
After a poor race for Nico Roche Racing’s Killian Larher, all Daly needed to do to take the title was finish ahead of her rival. But as she came into the final corner she defended against London race-winner Matis Neyroud and that’s when the contact was made.
“I was so tight to the inside line of the final corner I felt there was nowhere he could actually go for an overtake. I turned into the last corner and I felt like I was home and dry… and then I felt something on the back of my scooter and I was thrown off completely. It was so frustrating to then see Killian just scoot past and win the championship.
“I think for all of us at Carlin, there is a feeling of unfinished business in both championships,” she adds. “Overall I’m very pleased with my performance in the final and it has given me a lot more confidence. I am happy with the progress I’ve made from the start to the end of the season and I’m really excited to think about what’s achievable in 2023.”
Ahead of the second season of eSC, Daly has returned to Ireland to continue with her projects that include her Formula Female Go Girls karting initiative - a schools programme that aims to create visibility and opportunities for young girls to participate in motorsport. It’s one of the reasons why Nicci was drawn to eSC’s strong commitment to diversity and she’s excited to see how the series will develop.
“This first season of eSC has been fantastic, and to have men and women racing together proves it can easily exist and it’s great to see happen. It’s very important and it’s been a great opportunity for me to be a part of this series and I can’t wait to get back on track!”