This is a difficult topic to write about, which is probably why I couldn’t find anyone else who’d written about it when I went looking for information. And that’s why I’m writing about it, because I know I’m not the first woman to have gotten behind the wheel of a race car and felt like a total fraud. Or the first person, because some of the things that made me feel like an impostor have nothing to do with my gender.
Spoiler alert: this story has a happy ending! After I figured out I was experiencing impostor syndrome, I did my homework on it and got to the root of my fear that “I don’t have what it takes to be a ‘real deal’ race car driver.” As it turned out, I was holding a few inaccurate beliefs about talent and abilities that were getting in my way.
“Ooh! I know what brake pad knock back is!”
When I started doing HPDE events, I brought the same overachiever, goody-two-shoes attitude with me that had made me so successful in school. Even though it had been ten years since I graduated from college, that “Smart Girl” in me just can’t help but come out any time I’m in any kind of class.
But HPDE isn’t wasn’t like the other classes I’d taken. HPDE is first and foremost about making sure everyone is safe on track. That means instruction is often geared toward keeping overconfident drivers safe from themselves and others, while information on how to improve driving performance is deprioritized. That’s understandable, because drivers who overestimate their skill level and drive over their head are objectively more dangerous than rule-following drivers who politely lift and point faster cars by, but may never reach their full potential as a driver. Continue reading
When I was in the beginner HPDE group (where I spent what felt like an eternity before getting promoted up), I noticed that there were these guys (and they were always guys) who would show up for their first HPDE event, spend a couple of events in the beginner group, and then get quickly promoted to the intermediate group. When I talked to them, they’d all say, “Yeah, this is my first track day, but I’ve played a lot of racing games.”
This was a strong enough pattern that I had to investigate. I hated video games, but I discovered that you don’t have to like video games, or even be good at them, to use them to your advantage as a racer.
This is me learning something in iRacing that I won’t have to learn on the real track now!