BORN TO BURN WITH LINDSAY RICE
For most drivers, our first car was a beater, a hand-me-down, a lemon; something discarded by a parent, an aunt, or an older sibling. It didn’t offer much in terms of style or status, but it represented something bigger: freedom, independence, escape. For most drivers, our first car was simply a vehicle – both literal and figurative – to something else, to somewhere else, to someone else. For most drivers, our first car was not about driving or affection for engineering or a gateway to a future behind the wheel.
The Mississauga-born race car driver’s first car was the ride of most of our dreams. “A 2008 V6 Mustang, with the Pony Package,” she recalls. “I modified the car quite a bit over the years. Lowered suspension, Rotiform wheels, sound system…” It’s enough to break the nostalgic youthful hearts of those of us who boasted an ’86 Honda Civic Wagovan, a ’76 Volvo with unmatched doors, or a bright red ’89 Chevette our grandmother was too embarrassed to continue driving. But those of us in nana’s castoff Chevy did not have a future in racing on the road (and track) ahead of us.
Rice began racing cars later than most who turn to auto racing as a career, but she quickly made up for the lost time. On the first weekend of her career, in a Porsche 911 no less, Rice took four podiums. However, her need for speed found her as a youngster. At just 13 years of age, Rice knew that excellence in acceleration would be a big part of her life.
“I used to drive my Sea-Doo at the cottage really fast when I was 13 years old [which] got me addicted to speed. When I turned 15, I was allowed to drive my sister’s car around the block for 20 minutes or so a day. This is what got me hooked – driving fast on pavement. (Don’t get me wrong, I still go fast on the Sea-Doo). Once I felt the power of sitting behind the wheel of a car, the rest was history.”
Four years into what appears to be a racing career without limits on either accomplishment or talent, Rice says what she loves most about driving is simple: the power, which she finds in her Audi RS3 LMS. With three career victories and eleven podiums, Rice is an explosive and talented driver. But how does she manage on the roads with the rest of us?
“I cannot stand when someone doesn’t use their blinker,” she laughs. However, Rice finds “a lot of joy in my daily drives. Especially when there is no one on the road.” While her Audi sparks her competitive fire, it’s a 2016 Golf R named “Manuel” that gets her from points A to B. A discerning driver, she looks for a car that she can “feel connected to and in control of. That means manual transmission, a raw car feel (in its handling and responses), and the ability to take corners nice and fast—hard suspension and low centre of gravity. Of course, it would be a sports car. Think Audi R8 (gated shifter, please!) or a Porsche 911 variant (perhaps an old modified 930).”
But to the lay-driver, how do those choices differ from her competitive car? “I would say that it is the same. As a race car driver, you always want the raw feel of the car. This is why we sit in a bucket seat that is literally bolted to the car’s body. This helps you to feel every movement the car makes, and how the car is reacting to your inputs in the pedals and steering wheel. The only thing I look for in a street car versus a race car is the radio for my tunes – and a key to start the car so no one steals it (my Audi RS3 LMS is turned on by a button).”
The everyday driver also benefits greatly from the technology that is born of the racing circuits. “Many car manufacturers build race cars to get data for their newest car models coming out to the consumer market,” Rice adds. “The same goes for brake companies, tire companies, data acquisition companies, race apparel companies, etc. Racing is a great setting to get high-level data because the cars and gear we are in are being brought to their performance limit for extended periods of time. It really pushes the threshold of whatever components we are using.
There is also a fantastic marketing side to racing because it is unlike many sports out there. Attendees of race weekends can actually come up to the team trailer and sit in my Audi RS3 LMS race car, engage with me, see me before and after the races, etc. It is very interactive, so this gives a lot of interaction with consumer products, experiences, and opportunities. And what can’t she live without, on the track and on the highway? “Tires.”
The automotive industry and motorsports, in general, have been traditionally geared towards men. But as she drives through glass ceilings, Rice sees changes approaching quickly in her rear-view mirror: “In the past five to ten years, car manufacturers have aimed their marketing more towards females than ever before [and] starting to understand their market. Being a female in car racing over the past four years has brought so many amazing women to my ‘doorstep’, telling me how much they have wanted to get behind the wheel on the track, but haven’t. This has opened my eyes to just how many women are out there interested in automotive and motorsport but haven’t taken those steps yet.”
So how do others follow in Rice’s tread marks? “I do understand that it’s a little tricky to get into motorsport, but buying a sports car is probably your first step to getting on track! I run the Ladies Track Experience out at Vancouver Island Motorsport Circuit and I can say that the women who I have been instructing have almost all been first-timers on track, and are absolutely fantastic at performance driving. I believe it’s just about breaking those mental barriers of what we can/can’t do and getting yourself out there.”