In this series I am looking into women’s role in a highly male-dominated field of interest - motoring and motorsports - asking females involved. Part II. - The Racing Driver from Canada
In the first chapter we have looked into the bits and bobs of a racing driver from Europe - where the racing scene is even more saturated than the American continent. In this episode my guest is Amber Balcaen, coming from a very much different background and culture.
I am 23 years old from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I have been around racing all my life while being a third generation race car driver. I have graduated with a business degree but not I’m focusing on making my racing a career. I’ve grown up in it and its all I know - it’s my passion, my life, and I couldn’t possibly imagine doing anything else. It brings me happiness and excitement. It challenges and motivates me, it brings me confidence but makes me stronger at the same time. I love the people in it, the fans, but most of all, there is just no better feeling than being behind the wheel of a race car. that feeling is what I live for and what I am addicted to!
I started in go-karts and when I was 16 I raced lightning sprints for 5 years, I had lots of wins in both of those divisions and some championships which was great but I wanted something more challenging. Last year is when I started racing a 410 sprint car and I got ‘rookie of the year’ title which was the goal I set out for 2014.
I’ve wanted to race 410 sprints ever since I was two years old but was never financially able to do it until last year. When I got out of go-karts my dad said K could still race but only if I paid for it myself. Since I was 16 I’ve financially done it all on my own with the help of sponsors of course, so that is something I am really proud of.
I was fortunate to get a car owner last year but I am still in charge of making sure there is enough sponsorship money flowing in! Racing teaches you good work ethic; That is for sure. In 2014 I also tested an ARCA car around Daytona International Speedway and competed in the NASCAR Diversity Combine. I also got to race the Chili Bowl Nationals which was an amazing experience.
I am still working on sponsorship for 2015 but hopefully it will look like... racing a 410 sprint car again and doing some asphalt testing so that I can compete in the NASCAR Diversity combine again in the fall.
I work out to make sure I am as physically capable as men. For me the mental game is super important. I think my mental game will be a lot stronger this year due to the fact that I have more experience than last year therefore I feel my confidence in my driving ability is higher.
It is definitely a male dominated sport, I am the only female racer in my division within a 12-hour-drive radius. However, I think that women in racing is definitely growing. Sometimes it is hard to be taken seriously when you are a female and the respect isn’t always there. but at the end of the day you just need to be sure of yourself and confident in your abilities. Once that helmet goes on there is no girl/boy separation. It’s just drivers on a track and that’s what I hope to be seen as. On a positive note, being a female in a male dominated sport allows me to act as a positive influence to younger girls. I try to be the best role model for them as possible.
I think probably 90% of drivers would have the same answer to [what they would change in motorsports], which is money. Unfortunately money is a huge factor in racing now a days if you want to be successful. It is a very expensive sport to try and compete in.
The racing industry is not an easy sport to be in, never mind to be successful in. Whether you are a male or female, there will be a lot of people who never go to the higher levels of racing. Racing is a huge commitment, especially if you want to make a career out of it, and lots of drivers are okay with it being a fun leisure hobby with the family. You have to want it more than anything, if you want to reach higher levels and be willing to work for it. Also, money is one of the biggest factors in whether a driver “makes it” or doesn’t.
For more on Amber’s exploits, visit her official website at http://amberbalcaenracing.com/
[header image taken from http://amberbalcaenracing.com/]