Racecar driver Shea Holbrook didn’t grow up in a household locked into any type of car culture orbit. And not until five years or so ago did she even pine for any of the pavement pursuits.
Until then, her prime passion was being dragged around a lake by a boat, an activity sometimes called “competitive water skiing.”
So what happened? Why did she trade her skis for a helmet and a fire-retardant racing suit?
Why is there currently a race-prepped 2012 Honda Civic Si HFP with her name on it, and currently sitting in third place in her class (Touring Car) on the SCAA World Challenge Pro Racing circuit?
When she was 16, Holbrook and her father decided to take in the Richard Petty Experience, where NASCAR fans get behind the wheel of a race car for a day. After that she switched gears, so to speak.
“I’m a huge adrenaline junkie,” says Holbrook, adding that car racing gives her what she needs, and is unlike anything else out there when it comes to adrenaline production.
“When I put my racing suit on, I have to calm myself down. It’s all about the thrill.”
We’re chatting under a temporary tent at the Niagara Drive Centre, which is more or less the back runways of the Niagara International Airport.
Holbrook is here to take journalists out for a ride in her race-prepped Civic, as part of a press event for the new Civic Si HFP. The Florida native’s race car is campaigned by Toronto-based Compass 360Racing.
It’s easy to see why Honda Canada, SCCA racing, her team and her sponsors are eager for her to meet the media. She’s a well-spoken, engaging ambassador for her racing partners, for racing in general, and for her gender.
She knows she’s getting attention for being a young female in a male-dominated sport, but she also completely understands that attention and/or gender won’t make her car go any faster.
“The cool thing about car racing is that the car doesn’t know the gender of the driver, or how tall or how short they are,” she said.
“It’s one of the few sports where women and men can go head to head. It comes down to who is smarter, who is more talented, who has the experience, who is more determined, who is one with the race car.”
And she’s more than willing to pay her dues.
“I like the fight. A lot of people say (female drivers) have to overcome all these obstacles and struggles. I don’t like it when people say they’re in a struggle. If it’s your passion you don’t really look at it like a struggle. Everyone has obstacles to overcome, to get to where you want to be.”
She says that success in motorsports is particularly hard to come by, so a little extra obstacle to overcome here and there along your career might actually be useful — to harden and sharpen the resolve.
For more on Shea’s racing adventures check out shearacing.com.