I had the opportunity to sit down with Stacey Bertran, a race car driver on the Cal Club circuit and Co-Owner of the popular website for Ford Probe owners: ProbeTalk.com. I asked her a couple of questions, below is the exchange.
CF - When did you discover that you wanted to be a race car driver?
STACEY - I love this question, because it really is the beginning to everything that makes me who I am. I was about 8 years old, very impressionable and wide eyed about the world. While searching the TV channels, I stumbled across a re-broadcast of a Trans-Am race. Later in life, I found out that I was watching Parnelli Jones running his yellow Mustang. It’s funny because in the last 2 years I have run into him twice. Remember when auto racing was on regular TV, the sound of the engines from the GT350s and Mach 1 Mustangs, and even the Corvettes made me tingle inside. Cars sliding around the track and people watching and cheering as the cars went by were exciting. I was hooked! I wanted to do what they were doing. I ran over and told my mother I wanted to be a race car driver. To be honest, I really didn’t know why I wanted it so bad. Perhaps, my father was always around cars and he was an expert Artist/Mechanic. I guess I got a lot of his DNA running through me and I got a lot of my natural abilities from him, in fact, from both my parents.
CF - Did you meet any challenges because male drivers grossly outnumbered female drivers?
STACEY - I was really worried about it, but being as stubborn as I was back then, I was ready for the challenge of making a name for myself. As it turned out, I was welcomed into the racing world. There weren’t any weird looks or teasing. It was really comfortable, warm and well wishing. Nonetheless with all this support, I really had to step up and show what I could do while always being professional about it.
CF - How difficult is it for you to get sponsors?
STACEY - It’s really easy and difficult. Let me explain, I really took my time and did some research on how to get sponsors. I went racing with little to no money, so getting some help was mandatory. Being female, I figured my gender would add more of a challenge. I was wrong. I guess something was in the water when I was looking for sponsors, because I was finding lots of support. I believe what has helped is just making a proposal. Always be professional when dealing with sponsors. If you take it seriously they will take you seriously. Right away I got Porterfield Brakes, Auto Meter, Hankook tires, and Tires Warehouse and LTB Motorsports. They helped me a lot and I supported them as much as I could.
CF - How do you prepare for races? What’s your strategy?
STACEY - When you are first starting out and everything is new to you, you read in books about bringing everything and the kitchen sink. In fact, I read ‘Prepare to Win’ by Carroll Smith. All the Smith’s books have amazing insight into auto racing by the way. As for my strategy, now I do what most teams do like reviewing my in-car footage of the track, going on the internet and finding videos watch of other driver’s racing lines on a given track. Then we look at the weather and tune the car for the track conditions. Once at the track, I’ll set up the car in a base point configuration. On the warm up session, I will get a feel for what the car needs if I don’t have previous data from a past race. Next we will tune the car, tweak the suspension and check everything over once again before my race. It’s your life out there, you really need to be sure everything is tight and secure and the car will not let you down. My crew really helps out with all aspects of getting the car ready.
CF - Why is a 1990 Ford Probe GL your choice of weapon?
STACEY - Well, it was not my first choice. I would have built a Mustang, I found myself in the Ford Probe community and owning half of the forum - Probetalk.com. So now I’m championing for the Probe community. I didn’t know if I would be competitive. I have determination and I know I can drive the wheels off this car. The Ford Probe is an incredible race car and has really surprised me and a lot of people of what it’s capable of doing. I wish there was more support for our little cars. My 2009 SCCA ITB championship should tell something about how good the car is.
CF - You nicknamed your car, “White Rabbit”, why?
STACEY - The idea of the name comes from a friend from back East who also did auto-crossing. We were competitive and comparing finishes in auto-crossing. She nicknamed her car as 'Mouse' and I didn't have a name for my car. I came up with 'White Rabbit' because my car is mostly white and I love 'Alice in Wonderland.’
CF - Describe the Cannon Ball Run - One Lap of America Track Experience. Was it thrilling?
STACEY - Try to imagine you’re in a cool movie about driving fast cars, hanging out with very cool people, and everyone is happy, supportive, and competitive. You’re racing for points. You’re involved in experiences that can’t be real because they only work in a movie. Your character is shown as hardly getting any sleep for 7 days with each day feeling like 20 hours long. When reality hits, it’s not a movie. It’s all real. It’s a once in a life time experience that anyone who is into cars should experience. Lucky for me that Greg Hagopian invited me to co-drive with him. In 2003 we won our class – SSGT2. It was my first time out, and I think it was his 3rd. We were 11th overall in points among all cars including the SSGT1 class. We almost outperformed a Lamborghini. If you get a chance in life to be a CannonBaller go for it.
CF - Describe the worst accident you ever had in competition. How did you rebound from it?
STACEY - I have not had one. I guess I’m lucky that I read the books I did before going racing to prepare myself. I think I read, ‘Don’t blow past the limit and dial back, slowly work your way up to the limit’.
CF - What was the best moment in your racing career?
Stacey - It had to be when Car and Driver covered the 2003 Cannonball Run. I called my mom and told her that my name was in the magazine for winning my class. She just happened to be working in an office that had that very issue. My mom was really happy for me. She was so excited and proud; she showed the story to everyone in the office. It was that moment that touched me the most. It was my first big accomplishment in racing.
CF - You’re a big Star Wars fan, have you learned how to use The Force?
STACEY - You know, I might have done the hand wave – ‘You will let me pass’ to a driver once. But it doesn’t work. Only George Lucas himself has The Force powers.
CF - Name every race track you have raced on.
STACEY - Auto Club Speedway, Buttonwillow Raceway Park, Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, Willow Springs Raceway, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Mid America Motorplex and Hallett Motor Racing Circuit.
CF - Which racing organizations or leagues do you participate in?
STACEY - SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) - Cal Club
CF - Are you a gambling addict? You’ve made some trips to the casino lately.
STACEY - No. Looking to possibly add one Semi-Professional title to my resume? Yes. I hold Semi-Professional standings in 9-ball, auto-racing and competing with RC trucks from way back when.
CF - What are your goals as a race car driver?
STACEY - I would love to drive professionally. If I could just get a chance to sit in a GT1, LMP or Trans-Am, I would have died and gone to heaven.
CF - Final Question, CoolFords is greatly excited supporting such a talented driver like you. Why have you accepted this sponsorship?
STACEY - I have been a Ford girl for my entire life. CoolFords.com is a lot like me, an up and coming entity looking for exposure. I support what you are doing. I love the site and the commitment to the Ford community that CoolFords.com is making. The sponsorship helps both of us, it’s all about team work, and I think it’s great to be able to join your team. Not to mention that I am looking for sponsorships for the 2011 season. This is also an opportunity for me to be a role model and help develop the confidence of other women who may be interested in racing but hesitant taking that first big step. I want to give them hope and encourage them to follow their dreams, no matter how large or small their goals are. More and more women are getting involved in all areas of racing and the community is there with open arms.