Aurora Straus: Start Small, Finish Big! by Jes Zurell

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Learn what tips Aurora Straus, first lady of Monticello Motor Club, uses to be one of the safest drivers both on and off of the track. At a mere 14 years of age, she’s already on the fast track!

Aurora Straus - 3-day Race School at Skip Barber - Dec 2012

Aurora Straus at the 3 day Skip Barber race school, December 2012

“Racing is the best way to do something exhilarating without hurting yourself,” concludes petite Aurora Straus, the 14-year-old budding racer at Monticello Motor Club (MMC). No detail can slow her down. Earning her racing license shortly after her 14th birthday, last December, she has picked up a few tricks to be a faster, safer driver both on and, in two years, off of the track.

Aurora grew up watching her father, Ari, work as CEO of Monticello Motor Club when professional driver and racing instructor, Stevan McAleer, took her on the track in an automatic Cadillac CTS-V last summer. “After the first day, I eventually got into a stick car,” Aurora points out. “I was on the track every day and eventually I started racing with other members. That turned into the whole summer.” Now, you can spot young Aurora in her red Mazda MX-5 Miata at Monticello and, this upcoming fall, at tracks around Florida.

Aurora in hot pursuit of her racing license, December 2012

Aurora in hot pursuit of her racing license, December 2012

“One of the reasons that I do it is that it will help me to be one of the safest drivers out there when I get my regular driver’s license, simply because I know how to deal with a car that’s going really fast,” she points out. Since last year, she has learned how to recognize a great driving instructor, as well as how to handle her Miata.

The mark of a great instructor is his or her ability to tell what you’re doing wrong merely by sitting in the car with you. In Aurora’s case, because of her small frame, sometimes she has a hard time reaching the pedals.

“When I downshift, I thought I had to rev the engine a little bit and it doesn’t slow down too much, but my foot couldn’t actually reach the gas pedal while staying on the brakes. My Skip Barber instructor figured out a way for me to adapt to that and put my foot in a really specific position. It’s weird, but it works!” At Sebring, Aurora also improved her drifting skills with skid pattern work, and upped her command of downshifting. The big lesson there, she finds, was loosening her grip.

“I was always very stiff in the car, but the instructors taught me to be more smooth and to not jerk the car around,” she adds. “Something like that makes the difference between sliding and not sliding.”

Aurora Straus - on track two - 3-day Race School at Skip Barber - Dec 2012

This year, Aurora will be participating in a teen challenge series offered by MMC for its members’ children ages 14-19. In the future, Aurora anticipates following in her father’s footsteps. “He isn’t necessarily driving professionally, but he’s extremely involved in the world of driving behind the scenes, and I think that’s the most interesting of all. I always want to know how things work.”

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