Present pandemic notwithstanding, a racer’s life is always full of ups and downs. Coming into 2021, it seemed everything was still pretty much stuck between gears but, by staying confident, keeping engaged, plus a decent helping of being associated with great people and great organizations, I got my year off to a wonderful start.
However, my biggest news does date to late 2020—when I became a test driver in the Research and Development Department of Pirelli North America. I am extremely lucky to say that I work at the Pirelli North America headquarters in Georgia, and I’m Pirelli’s only subjective test driver for all of North America (and the first and only female Pirelli Test Driver in the world). There is also one objective test driver for North America, but as the subjective test driver my feedback is based not on instrumentation and data, but on my own personal analysis and response to how a set of tires performs.
I travel around 25 weeks a year to proving grounds, tracks and car manufacturer facilities all over the country and, on average, will go through 20-25 sets of tires in a weeks’ testing. Pirelli has been wonderful to me, accommodating and allowing me to continue my racing and, as it turns out, I have gotten off to a great start this year.
Starting in January, with thanks to Shift-Up Now, Hagerty Motorsports and Hixon Motor Sports, I got to race the Mazda Global MX-5 Cup, which ran in conjunction with the IMSA 24 Hours of Daytona at the Daytona International Speedway. I was lucky enough to be part of a team managed by a female that also included four super competitive and supportive female drivers. Although I had some issues over the weekend, there were some positives. I was Hard Charger at one point late into the race on Saturday, and on Sunday, despite being further back, I posted top ten lap times.
In March, I got to race F2000/FC at the SCCA, San Francisco Region’s Majors/Restricted Regional event at Thunderhill Raceway Park —this time thanks to car owner Harin de Silva and long time supporter RLV. This was my first open wheel race and I was so lucky to get to work with Dave Freitas Racing and personal mentor Buddy Rice. I finished second on both Saturday and Sunday.
April was exciting as I was asked by Shift Up Now to sit in at Round 3 Racing, for Shea Holbrook, who could not make the World Racing League endurance race at iconic Mid-Ohio. The event consisted of separate 8-hour endurance races on both Saturday and Sunday. In my first ever endurance racing event, I got to do stints as long as three hours in one of Round 3 Racing’s impeccably prepared Team Cooper Tire, Hagerty Motorsports Porsche Boxsters. We had a great time, finishing just off the podium on Saturday, and looking for a podium finish on Sunday until late in the race when rain led to an issue outside of our control forcing us to retire.
I got to race again with the Round 3 Racing team in May, and instead of substituting for Shea, I got to team up with her! This time we were taking on the two 8-hour World Racing League events at Road America, and along with our fellow team-mate Christian Maloof, we had a great weekend—putting the Team Cooper Tire, Hagerty Motorsports Round 3 Racing Porsche Boxster on the podium in 2nd on Saturday, and winning the GP2 race on Sunday!
And now, to top it all off, I am scheduled as the Shift Up Now backup driver for Round 3 Racing’s multi-car program at the World Racing League’s 14-hour endurance event next weekend at Daytona International Speedway.
My huge thanks go to Pippa Mann and Shea Holbrook of Shift Up Now, Hagerty Insurance, Team Cooper Tire and Round 3 Racing, those noted above, as well as several others for the help, support, encouragement, friendship and opportunities they have provided. As race drivers—and in life—we may not always know what is around the next turn, but when you are surrounded by great people and organizations, it is probably something pretty good. I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2021 holds in store!