Chelsea Herbert, the first woman to win in the BNT V8s
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Despite the comments recently by the newly appointed member to the Women in Motorsport Commission, Carmen Jorda, that women racers can't compete against men and should have their own championship, young New Zealander Chelsea Herbert has proven her wrong.
At the recent round of the BNT V8s the 19-year-old became the first woman in New Zealand touring car racing to stand on top of the podium.
"Getting my first race win at Taupo was special and very rewarding," said Herbert. "I was happy with my results from the first round [Pukekohe] and knew we would do well at Taupo as we were under prepared at Pukekohe.
"We were confidant as last season I qualified on pole and we were hoping for a repeat. It didn't quite work out as I had clutch slippage in the car, which we never quite got sorted all weekend.
"But that's part of racing and I just had to adapt my style, which is all part of racing. It wasn't extremely bad, but manageable and I was driving really well and we're now third in the championship."
Herbert came ever so close to winning her first race at the opening round of the Class Two category at Pukekohe despite being plagued by a lack of practice, no development time and torrential rain. In only her second season in the big bangers, Herbert managed to show a race maturity beyond her years and drove to the conditions to grab a podium in the first race of the weekend.
"I was hoping to get some seat time before heading into Pukekohe but that didn't happen. In fact, the car wasn't even ready for practice that weekend so it was straight into qualifying.
"The first race was pouring with rain so I just kept the car on the black stuff and come home third. I finished second in race two because we didn't quite have the setup right.
"In the third race I led it from the start, but got pinged for a jump start and came home in fourth. A lot of the race was under safety car so I couldn't make up the five second penalty," said Herbert.
Photo / BNT V8s, Matt Smith
A lot of her early success in this year's championship is down to seat time and race kilometres. Herbert's talent has been spotted by race outfit Mike Racing and she was paired up with another accomplished racer Christina Orr-West.
The pair campaigned an Aston Martin GT4 in a number of endurance races lead by team owner Michael Chua. The team was founded in 2008 and in the past contested numerous endurance race series including, Sepang 12 Hours, Dubai 24 Hours, Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Asia Series, Asian Le Mans, and GT Asia.
"I was lucky to get picked up by Mike Racing earlier this year and paired with Christina. It was great to be able to race with someone who has so much experience and it gave me an opportunity to learn from her.
"It also meant I didn't really have an off season this year going from last year's season into endurance racing and now into the new season.
"It was great to race the GT4 car and I'm looking forward to doing some more endurance races next year," she said.
Herbert's first foray into main stream racing was in Ssangyong utes after a successful career in karts. The step up into a heavy V8 came as a steep learning curve but one Herbert was happy to negotiate. This season she has been much more comfortable in the car and is now not worrying so much as to what the car is doing, rather concentrating on her race craft.
"The more seat time you get in the car the more confident you're going to be. How to drive the car doesn't really cross my mind anymore, as it's second nature now. It's more about how I'm going to make the next pass and get that extra tenth od a second in qualifying.
"I'm absolutely loving racing the V8 and the more you get use to it, the faster you want to go. We're looking forward to next season where we mind something a bit faster, but for now we really focusing on this season.
"I'm fully confident in the car and the team's learning stuff all the time and becoming more confident. I think what we've got at the moment is going really well and proof of that was at Taupo when we won our race," said Herbert.
The young woman is keeping all her options open for the future including a possible move overseas to further her career. Asia has been a gateway for a number of young Kiwi drivers over the past few years, and with Herbert's Mike Racing relationship who knows what the future may hold. What ever it is, it will be bright.
NZV8 Class 2 points
1, Liam McDonald 421
2. Nick Farrier 327
3. Chelsea Herbert 310
4. Justin Ashwell 286
5. Brock Timperley 282
6. Robert Wallace 242
7. Matt Podjursky 205
8. Bronson Porter 192
- NZ Herald