It was roughly 1:30 in the afternoon, and we were already blanketed with a thin film of fine red dust. Any relief last night’s rainfall had given us from the Texas heat was long gone. Our white helmets, bulbous and cinched beneath our chins, were already moist with sweat as we got inside the beat up Honda Civic waiting for us.
“Push that throttle,” Shredder (yes, that’s his real name) said to me as I timidly pumped the accelerator and tried my best to maintain control of the car. “C’mon I want you to push it to the ground.”
If I’m going to be honest here, rallycross, as a woman, is intimidating at best. For Matt, who grew up watching the Summer X Games (when they still had rallycross as a sport), this was a dream come true: to go fast, drift and spin out. All on purpose.
For me, this meant something different.
“We love it when women come and visit us,” said Dave Carapetyan, the owner of Rally Ready Driving School, where Matt and I were currently taking an abridged intro course. “The women listen. When men come out here, they already have this idea in their head of what to do, but a lot of times the women actually do better than the men.”
Rally Ready Driving School sits on 140 acres just 15 minutes east of Circuit of the Americas. It has wide open pastures, perfect for beginners like Matt and me, as well as narrow tree-lined rally stages with jumps, crests and blind corners for drivers with more experience. The day we arrived, the lot was packed with people stoked on the chance to take some laps in a Race of Champions buggy. Oh, and Bucky Lasek was there.
But we were there for the cars.
Matt went first. Expertly shifting from one gear to the next, he gunned the Honda forward forcing all of us back in our seats. Before getting into some of the more technical stuff, Shredder had Matt complete a series of brake tests to get him comfortable braking with his left foot. Next were the slaloms. Thrusting the accelerator forward, he weaved through the series of orange cones set up like a line in the dirt. As he cut the wheel, he also slammed the brake, sending the rear wheels drifting outward. Right. Left. Through the cones until we reached the end.
Then it was my turn.
At 27, I can count the number of times I’ve driven a stick on one hand. Needless to say, this already set me back. As I slid into the driver’s seat, my hands were shaking. What was I thinking?
But after some coaching from both Matt and Shredder, I moved through the brake test without much of an issue. Down the track and back. Shift to two, shift to neutral, hit the clutch. Gradually, with each lap, my hesitations of driving as a girl faded away. I gained confidence. I gained skill. But most importantly, I gained the knowledge that I was one of them.