17-year old Chelsea Herbert has big ambitions – to become a professional international racecar driver. The 2016/17 BNT NZ Touring Car season will see her debut in class two of the championship in her Motor Trade Finance backed Ford Falcon. We chat to the former Ssangyong Racing Series racer about the season ahead.
You recently stepped out of the Ssangyong Racing Series and will be making your debut in BNT NZ Touring Cars later in the year when the new season starts. You must be quite excited?
Yes, making a jump into any new class of motorsport is exciting but especially when I’m hopping into a 400+ horsepower racecar. I’ve loved motorsport ever since I could walk… or before that even. Since the age of seven I have been doing all that I can to help me step my way through the world of motorsport so that one day I can make my dream a reality. Racing a V8 this season is going to be another great step in the right direction.
What are your career aspirations? Is competing in this class a stepping-stone?
Everything I do in my life is a stepping-stone towards my goal of becoming a professional, international, racecar driver. Each class that I have raced in since the age of 7 has been a stepping stone, from karts, to SsangYong Utes and now into the V8’s. Although it seems as though I am leaning towards racing tin tops, I have not discounted single seaters and I am always going to be open to any opportunity that is presented to me.
You’ve purchased an ex Tim Edgell Ford Falcon to run in class two this season, you’ve already had some ‘race testing’ in the car, how has that gone?
To me, testing is the most important area to focus on when jumping into a new car. The more testing completed in the off season, the better it’s going to be for myself and the Motor Trade Finance (MTF) V8 team when we turn up to the first round of the BNT NZ Touring Car Championship in November at Pukekohe.
The limited testing that we have managed to do so far, has been a success as each time the team and myself have learnt several new things about the car which is all we are aiming to do in these early stages.
I competed in the One Hour North Island Endurance round at Hampton Downs a few weeks back which was great to get the feel of what it’s like racing a V8 in race conditions and we also got some good track time in the wet. Due to a few technical issues, such as stones getting stuck in the gear selector, I was stuck out on tracking needing to be towed back to pitlane. I did finish the race but I was several laps down by this stage.
Will you be doing more running in the car/testing during the off-season?
Yes, my brother and I will be competing in the third round of the North Island Endurance round at Manfeild next week in the three hour race together which will be a lot of fun and once again, another great learning opportunity for the MTF V8 team. This will give me some valuable seat time in the car and some much needed laps around Manfeild in preparation for when the V8’s race there in February 2017.
Obviously there are probably some pretty huge differences between the Ssangyong and the Ford Falcon? What are you noticing the most on track?
They are two completely different vehicles and so far I don’t feel much resemblance between the two as such. I am hugely grateful for the learning that I achieved out of driving the SsangYong though, as it allowed me to learn how to drive a manual, race at most of the tracks in New Zealand, all the while learning some great racecraft in a car and so much more.
Driving the V8 feels more similar to driving a kart so it’s been really exciting to be able to relate what the V8 is doing back to what the kart used to do.
Will you be looking to set yourself any goals as the BNT NZ Touring Car season gets underway?
As a racing car driver, each and every time I strap myself into a racecar and close the visor on my helmet I am in a mind frame where I am going to race to win.
I am a 17 year old, 5 foot 1 tall female and there is no reason why I can’t be as good, if not better than the rest I am going to be competing against.
I have a good, reliable car and a great group of sponsors and teammates which are giving their all to provide me with nothing but the best. Obviously this class and car, is new for the whole MTF V8 team and therefore we can’t be expecting podium results instantly but I feel that we have got all the right gear and some very knowledgeable people supporting us to be able to pull off some great results if I drive to my full potential in every race.