Some experience it as an adrenaline rush. A few have compared it to an out-of-body experience. For Amy Mills, the moments before any race are ripe with anticipation. To temper her excitement, she jumped on the track at Lime Rock Park in advance where we caught up with her leading up to the SCCA Regionals last summer.
“I just decided to do the school to get some extra track time,” she said. “Lime Rock is kind of my worst track. We went out with the instructor and talked about each turn, tips, tricks, what to do, what not to do, breaking points and things like that. I’m not so much nervous as I’m just slow in certain corners, like Big Bend. We spent a lot of time going over Big Bend and what to do in that turn to pick up some speed.”
Mills has done a personal best on every track she’s raced in 2012. Part of that she attributes to getting better as a driver, and part she attributes to new Hoosier tires. This year’s SCCA New England Regional race was her fifth in a row, and just one of many races she had lined up for the 2012 season.
“In the past I would pick the tracks that I liked the best and I’d pick what was convenient with my schedule when I was putting together a race tour,” she pointed out. “This year, I’m going to do all of the NARC races, so I’m definitely doing all of those weekends, plus the tracks that I just plain want to race. We did Sebring this past winter, and I noticed that once I started racing year-round and stopped taking six months off, my driving got a lot better. That was just for fun, not for any championship. I’m going to see how far I can get this year.”
So if you see zebra stripes on a race track in 2013, chances are it’s Mills – and you’d better be ready for her. There’s a significance to those stripes, too.
“My mother started it when she got a zebra dress several years ago,” she explains. “Then all the girls in the family took a trip to Vegas, for some reason we all had zebra on the brain and we all came home with zebra clothes. We didn’t plan it and we were not together, we just all went out shopping separately and came back with zebra dresses, so when we got back to the hotel and noticed we’d all been on the same train of thought, we decided to all wear our zebra outfits out that night when we went out. We’ve been doing that ever since. The ladies in our family all wear zebra dresses and go out. We call ourselves the zebra club.”
Decked out in a zebra helmet she received as a birthday gift from her husband and with zebra stripes for the car, she really has earned her stripes. At this point, she says, she has gotten faster than her husband, also a driver, who raced back in the 1970s at Lime Rock and Bridgehampton, mainly in Formula Ford. She, however, races a Miata.
“The first time I got in a Miata I just loved it because I didn’t feel quite as scary as a Corvette that I was used to,” she said. “You could really put your foot down and throw the car around and it wasn’t intimidating. It was love at first drive, love at first lap.”
Keep an eye out for zebra stripes the next time you’re at a race – it just might be Amy!
Postscript: Amy is off to Sebring today for her first race of the 2013 season! Watch out for the new zebra in town – a Christmas gift from her loving husband Whit. Go get ’em gearhead girl!