Drive to win counts most

Chelsea Herbert at the Dunedin Town Hall on Thursday night  before peaking at the Women You Can...
Chelsea Herbert at the Dunedin Town Hall on Thursday night before peaking at the Women You Can Bank On function. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
Chelsea Herbert does not want to make history, she wants to transcend it.

The 20-year-old Auckland driver has made her name as a woman who races men - and one who has won against men.

She understands what she is doing has not been done before.

In 2017 she became the first woman to win a race in the New Zealand Touring Cars Championship.

But in the long run it is not what she wants to be known for.

She is a driver, the same as everyone else. Gender is irrelevant.

That was one of her key messages while in Dunedin on Thursday to speak at the Women You Can Bank On function.

"I want to be seen on an even playing field," she said.

"I don't want to be singled out as just a female race car driver. To me that's really important.

"You can be the first female, but to be the first overall holds a higher step."

It was also important in influencing Herbert's direction for next season.

She was unsure exactly what she would be doing, although her goal remains to reach the V8 Supercars.

Simona de Silvestro is the sole female in that series.

To join her in coming years, winning championships would become a goal for Herbert.

Last season she raced in the top tier of New Zealand V8 racing.

While there were all-women events beginning to pop up - notably one to help women reach F1 - that was not the path she would go down.

"For me I don't want to have to be separated to be able to win. I want to be still in the mix and be able to win.

"It's finding the balance. If you can't win against males, then what's the point of winning against females?

"If you want to be considered a winner and a champion, you need to be able to win and be a champion.

"You don't need to be put under special conditions to reach that.

"So for me it's important to be able to prove myself as a race car driver, full stop."

There were plenty of physical elements to driving - far more than met the eye.

Herbert did not believe they held women back.

Pushing the brake pedal for example, is 80kg to push down on every time.

"But just because you're a female doesn't mean your legs aren't strong enough, or you can't train them to be strong enough."

Having begun racing aged 7 in go-karts, being a female in a primarily male sport never bothered her. It was not until she got older she realised it was an issue. Now there were far more females competing.

Herbert's stop in Dunedin was a quick one. She left yesterday morning and after a night at home, flew to Christchurch today.

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