Five years ago, a car accident rearranged Jeanette Negri’s life.
It was a wake-up call to become a better, more aware driver, she says. A year after the mishap, she enrolled in driving classes to learn car control and got hooked.
“I kept doing autocrosses and moved to the Track Attack Series at PPIR, to time trials driving,” says Negri, director of motorsports at Pikes Peak International Raceway. “My goal is to race every weekend during the season.”
Negri even bought a new car for her new life — a yellow Subaru BRZ — because it’s a “good handler car,” she says. “It’s not fast in a straight line, but it can hold speed in the corners. It’s more fun than a high horsepower car.”
The amateur driver will compete this weekend in the time attack competition during the #GRIDLIFE Alpine Horizon Music and Motorsports Festival. It’s Friday through Sunday at PPIR.
In the time attack competition, drivers compete for the fastest lap around the course. Negri and others will grid up at the start line, do one practice lap, then race for 20 minutes, trying to nab the fastest lap. A fast lap by a good driver would be 1 minute and 4 seconds to 1 minute and 11 seconds, she says.
The weekend also features a wheel-to-wheel competition, which isn’t about the fastest lap, but about who can cross the finish line first. Between competitions, professional drivers will showcase their drifting skills. That’s when an experienced driver can get their car to spin sideways but still maintain control.
Negri acknowledges there’s a much lower number of women who compete in grassroots motorsports, but she’s excited to see more coming to the track. Where once it was a “good, old boys club,” she says, for those with money and connections, it’s now becoming more accessible.
“A lot get introduced to it by their father or brother or a boyfriend, but I’m seeing more women on their own,” she says. “They’re asking questions. They don’t need a man to introduce it to them anymore. There’s a culture change happening.”
Racing lingo rolls off Negri’s tongue now, where once it was a foreign language. The sport has gifted her with skillful driving and mechanic skills, and also much in the way of personal development, she says. She’s learned to transform the anxiety she felt at the beginning of a race into excitement, something that’s translated across her life.
“Because I was learning to drive, I was able to be excited for job interview rather than anxious,” she says. “With competitive driving, there are a lot of problem solving elements I find really fun. The adrenaline is also very addictive.”
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