Aim to be role model

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Making herstory . . . Racing car driver Michelle Clarke, of Dunedin, is the first woman to get her name engraved on the Pre 65 Saloon Register A Class Trophy. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

In a series, reporter Shawn McAvinue spends five minutes talking with Dunedin motorsport enthusiasts about their passion for their form of racing.

Is it true congratulations are in order?

Yeah, the Pre 65 Club South Island Register AGM and prizegiving were in Christchurch last Saturday and I won the Pre 65 Saloon Register A Class Trophy.

Is it also true it’s the first time a woman has won a class in the club’s nearly 40-year history?

Yes, to win a class is huge. I don’t think any woman has won a class in the North Island register either. It would be awesome for more women to be racing.

When did you start racing in the Pre 65 competition?

At the end of the 2016-17 season but I didn’t finish because I had a massive crash driving a 1964 Holden EH. So I’ve completed two and a bit seasons.

What motivates you?

I want to be a good role model for my three children, including my 11-year-old daughter, who is chomping at the bit to have a go. It’s good for them to see their mum doing something in a man’s world – it shows them there are no barriers.

Would you be nervous if your daughter competed in the sport.

Oh yeah. She’s crazy on the go-karts – she’s got the eye of the tiger and is out there to win.

Are you a naturally competitive person?

Yeah, I’ve raced mountain bikes and road bikes, competed in adventure racing and half-marathons and played competitive sport for Otago but I’ve never done anything like this. There’s been a lot to learn and I wouldn’t say I was a natural driver.

What did you drive to win your trophy?

A 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback – it has now won 17 titles in New Zealand.

How much of the win is the car and how much is the driver?

It’s a fast car – it’s beautiful to drive – but you’ve still got to know what you’re doing. There were a couple of times I nearly came unstuck but I managed to bring it back.

What was the highlight of your season?

I had a convincing reverse-grid win in the Mainland Muscle series at Highlands Park in April. The guys racing in Mainland Muscle are fast – it’s intimidating and they’ve got horsepower to burn. I was third off the grid and you know they are going to hunt you down and I managed to get a win. It was huge for me.

What was your secret?

I flicked my rear-view mirror up because the moment you look in it, someone will pass you. When I’m leading I don’t want to know where the rest of the pack is – I just want to drive.

How will you motivate yourself this season now you’ve won a class?

I’m going to get fitter and stronger – the back-to-back racing is very demanding on your body. If you are mentally and physically fit then the racing is going to be a lot easier.