Shea Holbrook (LEFT, Mario Signore photo), who drives the TrueCar Racing Honda Civic in the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge, offers a summary of her 2012 season.
To make a long story short, I went to the Performance Racing Industry show in 2007 and realized that if I wanted a life in motorsports, I had a very long way to go since I didn't grow up with a racing background. My father had me work the room exchanging as many business cards as I could, but most importantly making a real connection with motorsports professionals. No one, and I mean no one, wanted to speak with me – and I was a fairly confident young girl! Then I began to wonder if maybe it was because I was a girl, that no one wanted to talk to me?
Needless to say, the first day of the convention was terrible for me. The last two days I adopted a new communication style: I patiently waited for someone's attention and finally jumped in, saying, “My name is Shea Holbrook, I'm a 16-year old aspiring female racecar driver. I'm going to be a pro one day so we should know each other. Here's my business card.” The first time I did that my heart literally sank to my stomach…but I got people's attention and from there on in I realized that if I didn't make an opportunity happen I would never make it in this industry.
Over the past few years I've come to realize how wonderful and passionate “racing people” are but also how cutthroat and demanding this industry can be. Racing has completely possessed every ounce of my body. And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Fast forward to 2010 when I made my professional race debut at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. I received some of the best advice from a very well-known professional driver. He told me, “You're not a pro driver. You're not a pro driver until you have a full ride, win a race and/or make money. You have to earn your right in this industry.”
Hmm, heavy! So at that point I was a driver competing in a pro series, not a pro driver. His advice grounded me and made me truly strive to be a pro. I also noticed quickly that it wasn't just about what you did in a car, but what you did outside of a car as well. A few races into the next season, I won at Long Beach, which brought me a fair amount of exposure and the hopes of advancing my career.
But, nothing happened on the sponsorship front and I was more determined than ever to make something happen with my career. At the end of 2011 I received (what I thought was a butt-dial at the time) a call from TrueCar (RIGHT, photo credit: John R. Walker) that changed my life forever. It was the opportunity I was longing for: a chance to prove myself with a fully funded program in the Pirelli World Challenge and the opportunity for me to complete my first full season as a professional racing driver!
Racing is a very results-driven industry. People like winners, but sometimes we need to identify what being a winner really is. If we're solely focused on the champagne shower at the end of a race, then we really need to re-evaluate things!
Looking back at my 2012 season, I learned many things, some of which were, a) acknowledging strengths and weaknesses within the team and how to improve upon them; b) the importance of teamwork; and c) how I could be the best driver I could on any given day by focusing on my performance rather than the results.
To me, those are a few of the most crucial aspects in motorsports and they're simple things we tend to forget. With the empowerment that TrueCar gave me and the support of my other partners, I was able to concentrate on what was important and drive the heck out of a car.
In my opinion, TrueCar and their Women Empowered initiative made more of an immediate impact on the industry and for women in the industry than ever before. Sponsoring six female drivers in different realms of racing was not only a mechanism for maximizing their exposure but it would also help women and their longevity in racing. (I can count on one hand other female drivers who are fully funded and racing a full season in the United States.) TrueCar gave female drivers an opportunity they never had before and nearly doubling the female imprint in the industry.
Having more women in racing will benefit the growth of the sport, empower young girls to achieve things that may not be the norm for women, and demonstrate that anyone can rally behind a female driver… because everyone has a mother, sister, daughter or niece.
And for TrueCar as a brand (LEFT, photo credit: John R. Walker), supporting women in racing was a perfect match. Did you know that 80 percent of car buyers are women or of a female influence? The purpose of the initiative is to empower women in motorsports to compete at the best of their ability which ties in nicely with the TrueCar.com objective of empowering the customer with the knowledge needed to make a smart, simple, haggle-free, experience when buying a new or used car or truck. (OK, so that's a blatant push for my sponsor, but they deserve it!)
So, you probably want to know what was it like being on an all-female racing team. In all honestly, I didn't know what to expect at first. I knew three of the girls coming into it and even raced against one in 2008. We all met in Santa Monica, Calif. at the TrueCar headquarters and after a day of hanging out we seemed to mesh really well. That didn't come as a surprise to me, though. Many think that women in racing don't like each other but, at least in my case, that's not true at all.
After spending a year with these girls I found a sisterhood with them that I hadn't found anywhere else that I sincerely value. We spent a week in New York City which really strengthened our friendship and then another 10 days in Indianapolis for the Indy 500. I speak to a few of the girls on a weekly, sometimes even daily basis. The truth is, I love these girls. TrueCar not only gave me an opportunity to race but they also gave me a new family of racing sisters (we all know that we're in the minority – so it's great to have a few girl friend who like racing!).
Along with this sisterhood, TrueCar gave us the tools we needed to succeed. I, like most women in a male-dominated sport, had experienced many obstacles in my journey to become a professional racecar driver, but this past year has been by far the most rewarding, exciting and humbling racing season of my career…so far! It may sound silly but this year was the best year of my life! The only low was performing a little “off” from where we wanted to be.
For the first time, I went testing more than I went racing to further develop my race craft, and I thoroughly analyzed data with two of the best coaches in the country. They became more than just racing coaches, but life coaches, and lifelong friends. Having a coach or mentor in this industry, I've found, is extremely critical because we all experience our own highs and lows and having a confidante to turn to within the industry is comforting. These two individuals gave their all and I have the utmost respect for them.