At fifteen years old, Shea Holbrook was in big, big trouble. She was in love with motor sports and stuck in the passenger seat for another year. Racing had her hooked from the first time she got into a race car, on an outing with her father. A few months later, her dad bought their first race car.
“The car showed up at our house,” Holbrook said. “I was excited, but not jump-up-and-down excited because I figured it was my dad’s car, not mine, so it wasn’t a big deal. When my dad looked at me and said, ‘You know, this is your car, Shea,’ then I started freaking out.”
Holbrook didn’t grow up around motor sports with the traditional story of grandpa and dad rearing a gearhead daughter. The family had to go out and meet people, get experience, figure out what to do and remember what not to do.
Her first major event was the Thunder Hill 25-hour Enduro, which she remembers as feeling like home.
“I found something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life, no matter what,” she said.
Last year, Holbrook tasted victory at a professional race, winning the Long Beach Grand Prix. Known to be one of the most prestigious street races in America, Holbrook had roughly 125,000 pairs of eyeballs watching her, plus two million television viewers. If she going to win a race, she said, she wanted to win that one. She made history as the first woman to ever win a touring car event at the Prix, and the fourth woman to ever have won at that track.
“It was really cool to be another name in the books,” she said.
At any given race, however, Holbrook gets in trouble for being behind schedule – not for automobile hangups, but rather because of her fans.
“I’m always late to things because I talk too long to anyone and everyone,” she said. “I love talking to people who are interested in getting into racing. When you get to know people, you find out that everybody knows everybody.”
This love of connection has a profound impact on her perspective of motor sports as a whole. Crew, driver and sponsors – they comprise a machine of a whole different make and model.
“When I think about racing, it’s not just driver against driver,” Holbrook said. “It’s mechanic against mechanic trying to see who’s configured the best machine. Who’s done what the best? It’s very secretive.”
Holbrook doesn’t plan to release any information on what she’ll be racing until she shows up for the beginning of the season. (http://www.shearacing.com/resources/News/2_12_compass360.pdf)
“People will start to plan and strategize about how to beat you. Things can be swept out from underneath your feet if you’re not watching your back. It’s not cutthroat, but people are driven and want to win. Anyone in any role will do whatever it takes to win, and I actually like that about the industry.”
Holbrook is no stranger to the fact that women in racing have a different set of obstacles to overcome. If a woman goes out and doesn’t finish where everyone expects her to finish, she finds, then that contender automatically “sucks.” If she does better than expected, she can raise hell.
“I think people have the tendency to keep a closer eye on women in motor sports than on men because we aren’t the norm,” she said. “It’s easy to nit-pick, and they expect more out of us.”
At the same time, Holbrook doesn’t really care.
“I don’t care if you like me because I’m a chick or if you don’t like me because I’m a chick. I care about how well I’m able to promote the sport and how well I’m able to make a return on the investment of my partners. It’s about branding those investors and myself well. Developing yourself as a brand is so important, keeping up with people on Facebook and on Twitter. That’s where people are paying attention, and that’s where you can really get your name out there. You either love me or you hate me, but if you love me, I’m going to love you back.”
Be sure to tune in to watch Shea compete at the World Challenge Grand Prix of St Petersburg!
GT/GTS/TC Rounds 1-2
NBC Sports, Sunday, April 8th at 4:30-6PM eastern. Note, time and date subject to change. View live streaming on www.world-challengeTV.com day of races and continuously on demand after races.
|Also on www.world-challengeTV.com after initial broadcast|