Hara Moraiti has been passionate about cars since she was 14 and now, 30 years on, the former University of Sunderland student is making her motor racing dream a reality.
Hara, 44, from Greece, is taking her home country’s car racing scene by storm having competed in more than 20 high-profile events over the last three years, including the Greek special stage Ahaios rally sprint in Athens in September this year, finishing in fourth place.
Last month, Hara came in second in the women’s race at the famous Dionisos Hillclimb rally and 24th out of all 95 participants.
For Hara, who graduated from Sunderland with an International Marketing MBA back in 1999, racing was very much a family affair.
“My big brother Nikos used to participate in races and as a little girl I promised myself that one day I will be a racing girl,” she said.
“Both Nikos and my father taught me that driving is not only a means of transportation but a passion, which can become a hobby and more, so in 2001 I bought my first car.
“In 2015 I started out as a co-driver of vintage cars next to Nikos before my racing club and the Greek Motorsports Federation offered me the opportunity to become a race driver and co-driver alongside the best Greek racing driver, Dimitris Amaxopoulos, who has competed in races in Greece and abroad, including Monte Carlo and Monza.
“In 2018 we decided to become a racing crew and we’ve participated in Greek races ever since. Our ambition is to compete together in races abroad.”
Hara arrived on Wearside in 1995 to study a Business Administration degree at the University before going on to complete her MBA.
All these years later Hara still keeps Sunderland close to her heart, as the cars she competes in are adorned with the University logo. It’s all thanks to the University’s European Regional Office, which sponsors her races.
Hara, who works as a Marketing Manager for Greek lighting company, Bright Special Lighting S.A., said: “As a 19-year-old girl, who decided to study thousands of miles away from home, I had the ambition to succeed.
“During my time as a student I made very strong friendships, which have lasted, and of course I was filled with many experiences both inside and outside of the University.
“The knowledge and experience I have from my studies at Sunderland are the solid foundations for my professional life – both in my role as head of a marketing department and in my racing.
“I get the best comments from spectators when they learn I was a student at Sunderland and that I have the University’s full support in my sport.”
Costas Dimitriadis is Director of the European Regional Office at the University of Sunderland, recently shortlisted as University of the Year, in this year’s THE – Times Higher Education – annual awards
He said: “When our global students arrive on campus, one of the golden threads of learning is to follow your dreams.
“We are delighted to see our alumni graduate Hara having accomplished her undergraduate degree in Business and an MBA, to not only secure a career with progression at a large Greek enterprise but maintain a healthy work-life balance, which, in Hara’s case, was to race and keep winning in the highly competitive world of motor racing.
“Hara is just one example in how we inspire our students to become future change makers and who knows what dreams our new graduates will follow in 2021 and the future”.
So, what does the future hold for Hara?
“My dream is to establish a club for women racing drivers,” she said.
“There are many women around the world who can drive extremely well and if racing is something they are passionate about, they should be encouraged to realise and embrace their full potential.
“Motorsport is about passion and love. Whether you are a boy or a girl, there is no exception. You have to be focused on your goal and your dream can come true.”