By Tamra Hunt, Mazda race car driver; SCCA Solo National Champ
Last year a lot of “firsts” for me. First year driving my own car (previously had co-driven with other people); first year developing a race car; first year running in open class as a woman. I took a 2005 Mazda RX8 that I had purchased for $2,000 as a winter beater, decided I loved it too much to let it get rusty in New England, and I turned it into a full-bore race car. You can read about how I built the car here.
The car was more successful and fun to drive than I even could have imagined! Perhaps that’s where my being a woman comes in handy – a complete lack of shyness to ask for help and advice. Most people are more than willing to help in any way they can, and I soaked up as much knowledge as I could stuff into my brain and ran with it. While I’m not afraid to jump in and wrench on a car, I couldn’t have done it without my fiancé Andrew Kyrstinik who helped me build the car from the ground up, and our friend and co-driver Jeff Hurst, who was the mastermind of suspension tuning and taught me invaluable information. Also, huge thanks to Mazda Motorsports for their continuing support of racers.
Ultimately, despite many firsts and many mistakes along the way, I forged ahead fearlessly and ended up placing 2nd at the SCCA Solo National Championships in Open DSP, winning the Lynn Koslak award for being the highest placing woman running in an open class. Throughout the season, the car also took home two National Tour class wins, a ProSolo class win, multiple podium finishes, and a ProSolo Ladies Challenge win. Overall, an outstanding year.
This year, I will continue to build on what I learned in 2017. While I was competitive, I would like to find even more time on course. With the help of Mazda Motorsports’ parts program that offers discounted parts to racers, I will continue developing the car for both reliability and performance. While last year was a whirlwind of initial setup, this year I would like to start evaluating options and testing different setups to find what works best, from spring rates and shock valving to tire sizes or sway bar settings. I hope to get another tune from EFI Logics to optimize our power. I plan on another full ProSolo and Nationals season, and I will be running open again at Solo Nationals, just hoping to move up one spot! : )
I also intend to get more involved in the SCCA Women on Track program – a new initiative to get more women involved in motorsports. I have a passion for getting new people involved in autocross and will continue to act as an SCCA Starting Line Instructor, the marketing representative for my local autocross club, and a partner to Mazda Motorsports through writing articles to be a resource to drivers and attract newcomers to the sport. Last but not least, I may also give an SCCA Track Night in America event a go to see what all of the excitement is about. If you haven’t heard about that program, you can check out how Mazda Motorsports has teamed up with SCCA to give an affordable way to get more drivers on track here.
Hope to see you out racing in 2018!