Jenny Gannett Accepts the Challenge

In only her second year of racing, Gannett enters her Mazda MX-5 Cup car in World Challenge Touring Car A

It wasn’t that long ago when Jenny Gannett walked into the kitchen and her husband told her she had bought a race car. It was a 1991 Miata prepared to NASA ST4 specs. She went on to win the NASA ST4 championship last year at her home track of Utah Motorsports Campus. Then for 2018, she took on World Challenge Touring Car A in a Mazda MX-5 Cup car, advancing to a pro series in only her second season of racing.

“My coaches felt like I was ready to go even though I’m definitely green and definitely a novice,” she explains. “It was nice to take on the challenge. And when you look back on your life 25 years from now, you want to say, ‘Hey, I had the guts to get in the car and give it a whirl.’ I don’t generally back down from a challenge, so I was ready to go if they felt like I could do it.”

Her coach is Drew Staveley, and her husband is Frank Gannett – they race together in World Challenge GT4 driving Ginettas for Ian Lacy Racing, the same team that fields Jenny’s car. She steadily progressed during the 2018 season and posted a best finish of fourth at Utah Motorsports Campus. And because her husband and coach already raced in World Challenge, competing in that series was an easy choice, as was racing the MX-5 Cup car since she came from another Miata.

“The Miata is a car that is teaching me to drive, and I love that about it,” she says. “There are times when it is a little bit forgiving, and there are times when it says, ‘Hey, you cannot do that!’ And Drew Staveley grew up racing Miatas, so it was nice to have a car that he’s experienced in so he can come back to me and say, ‘This is where you need to work on it and this is what you need to do.’ And on testing weekends, he can get in my MX-5 and we can compare data. On top of that, Mazda has offered me great support all year.”

Gannett is the only Mazda driver to race the entire season of TCA in 2018. She says it has been frustrating at times, but she learns something every lap, and she plans to continue with the same car and class next year. “Next year we will hopefully be in the hunt,” she says. “I’m going to dedicate myself this winter to getting fit and spending time on the simulator.”

If her first season in World Challenge taught her anything, it’s that racing is not an easy sport.

“That’s the most gratifying and most difficult thing to wrap my head around,” she explains. “Gratifying because I’m such a novice, but I am getting it and I’m progressing and I’m catching them. I’m actually getting to race with some guys now. That has been the gratifying part. But the frustrating thing about it is it is a hard sport, and you can’t just show up and expect to be the fastest. You have to be gifted to do something like that. I’m going to have to do a lot of laps, and I’m going to have to listen; but I’m going to do everything I can to make it easier and learn and make myself faster. It’s not an easy sport, but that’s OK. I’m not one to back down from a challenge. I’m in it for the long run and I plan to be here a while.”