I woke up Sunday morning to the rumble of butterflies in my stomach and a skip in my heart. My first thought of the day as the beeping of my alarm chirped away was “I can’t believe I’m actually racing today.”
Almost two years ago, I bought my first car – a 1995 Honda Del Sol that had more drama going on under the hood than the Kardashians. I knew I wanted to drive and I knew I loved my car, but to be honest I didn’t know much else. If someone had told me that in less than two years I’d be racing competitively, I probably would have laughed in disbelief, and driven off in my overheating wreck of a “race car”.
A few months later, I joined Team SGR. Girls on the team connected me with a mechanic who convinced my troubled Del Sol to start behaving itself. I also came on board as a student of the advanced driver training program and a volunteer with the organization.
A year later, here I sat. Pulling up to the front gates of the Toronto Motorsports Park in Cayuga for the season opener of the Canadian Sport Compact Series (CSCS), enthusiastically answering “Yes – my very first Time Attack!” when asked if I was competing or spectating.
I got in the lineup to register, sandwiched between an M3 and a suped-up Scion, and had a brief moment of doubt that sounded a lot like “girl, what do you think you are doing here – are you serious?”
I hushed the voice in my head, made it through registration, the drivers meeting, and went and parked my now well-behaved race car next to my miracle mechanic at ART Motorsports.
Enter the brief moments of chaos. Empty my car. Where is my helmet? Check the oil. How is my tire pressure? Amidst the hustle, before my brain even had a chance to freak out, I was lining up for lapping sessions, seconds away from hitting the track.
With the help of SGR instructor extraordinaire Anna He in my passenger seat, guiding me and helping me smooth my movements I made great strides throughout the day.
My movements become more coordinated as I was braking and shifting into my corners, my heel-toe technique started to come together for the first time, and throughout the day I got faster and faster.
Pro-tip for the noobs: lap times are on the computer under the tech/registration tent. I was on my third lapping session before I figured that out. From my fourth to fifth lapping session, I got my lap time down to 1:36.0 from 1:39.3.
The tight schedule of 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off to rest driver and car started to wear on me early in the day. To my fellow newbies out there – I can’t tell you enough the importance of managing your energy throughout the day.
The day moved on, and before I knew it, I was back under the tech tent, making friends with my fellow drivers and awaiting the second drivers meeting of the day that laid out the rules for the Time Attack competition.
We were broken up into just over a dozen run groups, and even though I was in the first (read: slowest) bracket, I was at the head of the pack, setting the pace for my group!
A brief break, and back into the pit lanes I went.
Alone in my car, at the front of the line, about to be the first car our on to the track, and the only girl competing, my brain had the time it had been looking for all day and my nerves finally caught up to me.
Then, I was being told to pull over, to let the group I was setting pace for go ahead. I was “too fast” and being moved up into the second group with lappers who I was more closely matched with based on the times I had set in practice.
In the quiet of my purring car, away from the crowds, away from my coaches, friends and family, the butterflies were back.
Butterflies in tow, out I went to lay down my very first competition lap.
My nerves ate at my stomach as I tried to put together everything I had been working on throughout the day. Brake later at corner one, tip my weight forward into turns three and four, settle the car into the chicane, eyes up at the exit of the last corner back onto the front straight and do it all over again 3 more times.
It all came together, but my nerves cost me. My final time sat at 1:38.0 – a full 2 seconds slower than my best time in practice.
I have a long way to go and a lot to learn still, but I know that my amazing teammates, talented coaches and superstar mechanic all have my back.
To learn more about the SGR advanced driving school and how you can compete in your first time attack, check out our schedule.
Suze first joined Team SGR as an advanced driving student in 2012. She volunteers for Team SGR supporting communications, social media, and events. Suze drives a ’95 Honda Del Sol and currently hails from London, Ontario.