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‘It Takes a Journey’: Motorsport pioneer Shea Holbrook talks Women’s History Month

In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, the Women’s Sports Foundation continues the ‘It Takes a Journey’ digital content series by speaking with motorsport pioneer Shea Holbrook.

In talking about Women’s History Month, there is perhaps no one better currently competing in the sport of auto racing to speak with than Shea Holbrook. Holbrook is no stranger to making history — in the past year she has set a world record and is currently a finalist to make the W Series, the first-ever all-women racing series.

Before Holbrook heads to Spain this month for the W Series’ final selection process, WSF caught up with her to discuss Women’s History Month, breaking barriers in auto racing and WSF’s Women in the Winners Circle Project Podium Grant, which Holbrook received in 2014.

WSF: We were so excited to hear that you are one of three Americans still in contention to make the W Series. Can you talk a little bit about the series and its potential impact on motorsport?

SH: The W Series is a groundbreaking series because it’s an all-female single steer — meaning an open wheel car — series. What really makes this very unique is that the series itself is completely funded. The 18 drivers that will be chosen through these selection processes will be fully funded to race in this series. Then there’ll be 2-4 reserve drivers who will also partake in everything except for the actual racing.

This is a pivotal time for women in racing because never has there been anything fully funded for women. Frankly, never has there been anything fully funded for any guy or girl like this before. It’s not just about the women in racing, it’s about the business of this thing and the catalyst of it is elevating female race car drivers and providing them with the resources to excel at the highest ranks.

WSF: That’s amazing, and with the final group of drivers set to be announced in late March, what does it mean to you to potentially be a part of this tour?

SH: I feel like it’s really critical for where I am right now; it is important for me to be a part of this in year one. After going through some of the processes, I’ve come to believe in it. The momentum that this things have is going to pay massive dividends to not just women in racing, but to the sport in general. I love what racing brings to the table. I feel like whenever I’m ready to move on to the next thing, I can conquer anything because of what I’ve been through in racing and as an athlete.

When you become the first at doing something, you want to make sure you do it right. You want to make sure you’re first and foremost staying true to your core values. Just being genuine and being comfortable with doing it the way you’re going to do it. You want to be proud as you move forward in these new opportunities. You want it to be received well. I want to make sure that my core values – courage, compassion and confidence – are reflected in anything that I do.

WSF: March is Women’s History Month, and you are no stranger to making history. Can you talk about the world record you set last year, breaking the bicycle land speed record with Denise Mueller-Korenak?

SH: It’s not a record that is typically spoken of. It had been more than 20 years since anyone last attempted it. It was really great to not only attempt it, but to completely shatter it. It’s great because it’s an accolade, it’s on your resume, but really the experience and the journey and what it took for us to accomplish that were what I took with me.

WSF: Two of the three Americans on the W Series finalist list — you and Sabre Cook — earned WSF’s Project Podium Grant. What has that program meant to you?

SH: What makes that grant so special is first of all the person who supports it, and that’s Lyn St. James. Who Lyn has become and what she has done to trail blaze and advocate for women in racing is tremendous.

Any sort of funding hugely helps in our sport because we can’t practice regularly. We are lucky if we get on a track once a month, so financial resources are a huge determining factor in whether you excel as a driver or even have a career in this. The grant is a very big deal for women of all different levels of motorsports. I’m honored to have been a recipient alongside Sabre Cook.

Want more Women’s History Month content? Check out the first installation of the ‘It Takes a Journey’ series, featuring Women’s Tennis Association star Danielle Collins.