Spirit of Mazda: Johanna Foege

Autocrosser with an unusual ride seeks to be the best in everything she does

“Everything she does, she wants to be the best at,” says Lexie Murray of Johanna Foege, her friend and fellow Wendi Allen Scholarship recipient. “That really speaks to her challenger spirit. In everything, her goal is to be the best, be number one – every Tour, every event, she wants to win it. She wants to win not only the class, she wants to take top PAX. 

“It’s amazing to watch her and [Foege’s fiancé Clint Griest] work together,” Murray continues. “Seasons are long, and they have that drive for so many events. Going into [the Tire Rack SCCA Solo National Championships], they had some bad luck with changing weather conditions. But the whole time, she said, ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to try my best to win.’ Consistently setting those lofty goals and achieving them is really cool. They ran into some trouble this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a [championship] jacket come next year.”

Foege and Griest compete in SCCA autocross events in his E Street Prepared Mazdaspeed6, an unusual choice for a class filled with pony cars. But they’ve made it work well, and that’s without much aftermarket support for the model that was made in small numbers. “The way they tackle those challenges, going through so methodically to continually improve the car and continually adapt their driving is something that’s really cool about both of them, but Johanna specifically,” says Murray.

Foege, who works as a quality control manager for a brewery, is ready to tackle any challenge such as trying new cars and stepping out of her comfort zone, such as one event when she was handed the keys to a CSP Miata. Everything is a learning experience for her, Murray says.

Stepping out of easy street happens out of the car as well. Notes fellow autocrosser Deana Kelley: “One of the things that impresses me about Johanna is her willingness to step outside of her own comfort zone to bring other women in the sport closer together.” That includes a bit of public speaking during the Mazda Women’s Luncheon at the SCCA Solo National Championships to talk about what her St. Louis Region is doing to bring people into the sport.

“She’s a little bit reserved,” adds Murray, “but anything to get women involved. If there’s someone standing on the sidelines and they’re not sure, she’s, ‘Come on, let’s try this!’ She’s done a ton in her home region trying to get more female participation.” That includes, among other things, starting a Facebook page for women in the St. Louis area that are interested in motorsports.

Her helpful attitude goes beyond just getting women involved; she’s more than willing to help a competitor out as well. “She’s there to win, but she also has such a great time, and she’s the first person to offer advice,” says Murray. “She offers tons – for the course, for setup, driving, everything. She wants to be there for everyone. The fact that she’s able to really manage being a top competitor, but also trying to teach everyone else so that we can all grow is pretty neat.”

For Challenger Spirit, for Flawless Execution and Tomoiku, Johanna Foege is the recipient of the Spirit of Mazda award for October.