From Girl to Rally Girl "RalyGrl" Bio | @The FIRM Rally School

From Girl to Rally Girl “RalyGrl” Bio

Growing up, I was fortunate to have a very mechanically inclined father, with a passion for all things cars. I never fit the a-typical “female role” as a child, and being the youngest and the only girl, I always looked up to my elder brothers. My dad used to restore old muscle cars to sell so that we could go on family vacations, which often consisted of snowmobiling in northern Michigan and hitting go kart tracks during the summer. We grew up with access to dirt bikes, go karts and even a cool one seater Odyssey.

I can remember watching some old Disney movie where there was a young female racer who had to pose as a boy to be able to compete in dirt bike races. I remember thinking to myself that girls can be just as good as the boys and it bothered me that there was a division for extreme sports. At the age of 10, I believed that one day, I would race, and be able to keep up with and even beat some of the boys. I used to picture that classic movie scene where the guys realize they were beaten by a female when she pulls off her helmet and her hair falls down. I wanted to be someone that would shock the world and help show that girls could be just as fast as the boys and that we didn’t need any special female class to race in. All I knew was, I wanted to race with everyone else and have a good time.

While I enjoyed cars and going fast, it really wasn’t until 2005 that I was really introduced to Subaru and the sport of rally. I had a love for coupes, and when I saw the Subaru Impreza 2.5RS Coupe, I was in love and determined to get one. Just days before Christmas, I took a bus out to New York City to pick up my first Subaru, and from there the rest is history. I quickly went from just being a girl that loves to drive to being known as “RalyGrl” (rally girl)-an American stage rally driver.

I drove my 1998 Subaru Impreza 2.5RS Coupe for 5 years on a daily basis. I started participating in local rallycross just months later and eventually got into Time Speed Distance Road Rallies. I enjoyed going to my home based stage rally – Sno*Drift;.Yes, it is exactly as it sounds- racing that involves cold, freezing snow and ice. Only, back then I trekked through the snow and stood out in the freezing Michigan winter weather just to see these awesome rally cars go by for a few seconds. For 5 years, I had an idea of what I wanted to do when the time came, but even when that time came I don’t think I was ever really ready for what rally would bring to my life.

I remember sitting in my newly built rally car, my sister-in-law sitting in the co-drivers seat next to me, holding JEMBA stage notes that she had only truly begun to familiarize herself with just days before. I stared out at the snowy covered tree lined forest road waiting for our minute. My feet were cold, and I could feel my heart beating through my chest.

After a group of friends and I worked tirelessly to build the car for our debut, I couldn’t help but think for a moment, “what did I just do?” For a brief moment I thought to myself, this is just like my first rallycross. We were the last car on the stage, it was cold, we had no real idea what we were doing, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made a mistake. What felt like hours, was just mere seconds, and before I could delve deeper into my own thoughts, I heard them counting down… “5, 4, 3, 2, 1!” and off we went.

Within moments, all the thoughts faded away when the trees passed by and I was hooked. I’m not saying my first stage rally went swimmingly. We were still working on the car as we arrived at the lodge. The first time I ever drove the car was off the trailer into scrutineering (technical inspection of the car) and I cried- a lot- that weekend.

My journey has been a long one, and my goodness have I learned a lot over the past 10 seasons. I have fought past obstacles I never thought I would encounter, many opportunities have presented themselves, doors have opened up, connections have been created and some broken. And despite some of the craziest ups and downs I have ever experienced in my life, I wouldn’t change a thing.

After I spun a bearing in my first Subaru and rally car (aka Sassy), a fellow rally-crosser towed my car back home for me, and I started gutting the inside that night. After a few very short months, the car was given a log book and it was debuted at the 2012 Sno*Drift Rally in northern Michigan. Every race I competed in that first season resulted in some kind of catastrophic mechanical damages that resulted in a DNF (Did Not Finish). It wasn’t until the end of the season that we made the 5,500 mile round trip to WA state to compete in the Olympus Rally in honor of former rally driver, and friend, Matthew Noble Marker, that I finished my first full rally.

My first rallycross was in the winter time, and I was the slowest car there, and I even got stuck in a snowbank. But I remember how good it felt to just get out there and start going after something I really loved. I was hooked. For years, I competed in local events and learned as much as I could. It was me and my little black coupe against the world. As a younger driver, and a female, I experienced a lot of scrutiny and competition from all sides of racing. But I also experienced more support, encouragement, honesty and belief in me than I could have ever imagined.

Racing is hard work. It’s expensive, and stressful and the maintenance and repairs are never ending. But it provides a community like nothing else I have ever been a part of, and I am not just talking about racing in general. I’m talking about the rally community and the unique bunch of people it takes to create the vibe they do. You could be running within seconds of your closest competitor, and should you need a part to keep racing, there’s a REALLY good chance they will help you out. Because half of the battle in stage rally is just getting to the finish. And at the end of the day, we all want to see everyone make it through the flying finish.

After 10 seasons of competition, I can confidently say I have accomplished more than I ever imagined. I have competed in both seats of a rally car with 47 total starts as a driver and 10 starts as a co-driver. I took my first podium finish in 2013 at the Sandblast Rally in Cheraw, SC. I was awarded with the Noble Way Award by Rally America in 2012, an award I hold very dear to my heart. In 2019, I competed Nationally for the first time. I also took 1st Overall Driver in NA4WD in the 2019 American Rally Association Eastern Region Championship. Rally has presented itself as not only a truly enjoyable hobby, but as an opportunity for personal growth, a variety of life experiences, the adventure of travel (sending me coast to coast to compete), and it has created a variety of employment opportunities. I am the current Vendor Relations and Sponsorship Manager for Subie Events, LLC- who organizes 6 events every year for Subaru enthusiasts. I am also the Vendor Coordinator for HyperFest and I just directed my first Rally Test ‘N Tune at this year’s 2021 HyperFest at VIR. Additionally, I am the newest member here with The FIRM team and have been given the opportunity to help contribute to the schools success by building our social media platforms.

While the last 10 years of my life have presented many wonderful opportunities and memories, it has not come without a cost. In 2017, I was diagnosed with Lupus, an autoimmune disease which causes my body to attack itself. It has presented me with devastating symptoms, at times keeping me from my favorite office. In the past few years, our team has experienced several losses and challenges, that I am proud to say we have been able to stand alongside one another for.

My crew wasn’t always this way. With each event, the team has evolved. Some of the original crew members are now piloting their own rally cars and teams, others have gone on to work for large well-known rally teams, and others are no longer associated with me. But the core of what makes my team now, are a handful of extremely amazing and talented people that I could not ever imagine my life without. They have not only kept my car out on stage race after race, but they have stood by my side, kept me honest with myself, pushed me to do better, to challenge myself as a driver and to never give up on my passion for racing.

I have enjoyed working with several co-drivers from all walks of life and all levels of experience, taken professional courses through OZ RallyPro for writing stage notes, and have been fortunate to work with instructors like 2WD champion Wyatt Knox and The FIRM’s own Bryn Walters, who I believe helped lead me to that 1st Place Driver title back in 2019.  I believe as a driver and team owner, it is extremely important to never stop learning and improving.  Being a driver isn’t just getting behind the steering wheel of your race car, but it means understanding the bigger picture, knowing your car, yourself and your team and also knowing the best way to communicate amongst all of the chaos.

My own being exists around this desire to be in the driver’s seat. To be surrounded by a group of people with the same passion for the sport and the drive to succeed. While it has taken me nearly a decade to build a team of unstoppable amazing human beings, I can proudly say they aren’t just my teammates, they are my family, and rally, truly is my life and passion.

My long term goal has always been to share my passion for racing and to encourage other females to be chase after their passions as well.  I enjoy introducing others to the sport of rally, and to encourage women to be involved in the automotive community in a variety of roles, be it as a driver, co-driver, team lead, mechanic, or even in a role behind the scenes within the industry.  I also firmly believe in supporting young drivers and providing education to young girls and women to assist in better understanding for car care, driving and safety.

 

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