Driven to race

A woman's need for speed

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  • | 3:02 p.m. January 16, 2013
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
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It’s a blur of green and white as the driver whips by, tires screeching on the too-clean asphalt, not yet gripped with tire rubber. The kart, not your average machine at a carnival, but a light shifter go-kart packed with power, zips around the other karts, bracing against g-forces around corners as accelerates to top speed.

Then Vicki Brian cruises to a stop, a strand of her long blond hair peeking out from under the helmet.

There’s a bit of a daredevil in her, her father John Brian says.

“She’s about as competitive as they come,” he said.

He’s been worried at times – OK, maybe many times – but there’s no stopping Orlando’s Vicki Brian from hitting the racetrack.

“I was always meant to be in racing … I think everyone was born with a path,” she said.

While she’s been dancing around the idea of racing her whole life, she only began pursuing it as a career in the last three years. She’d raced BMX bikes as a very young girl, put on mock races on ATVs in middle school and drag raced her father’s 1968 Camaro when she was 17.

It’s always been a passion, but life and responsibility held her back.

She got her MBA in marketing at the University of Florida, and found a way to enter the racing world without actually racing by traveling around the world helping a team market itself. She got distracted. But she finally realized she was making other drivers’ dreams come true when it should have been her own she was focused on.

“I was always afraid of committing to being a racecar driver,” she said.

Now, she’s determined to do what always intimidated her and just take the leap to follow her own dreams. Brian began training and racing shifter karts, which can drive in excess of 120 miles per hour and are the gateway to racing Formula One and Indy cars. Famous and successful racecar drivers all over the world, she says, spend their spare time keeping their skills sharp training in the same karts.

Overcoming obstacles

Brian started quite late and racing, as experts will say, it isn’t about natural talent, it’s about seat time – and she’s been playing catch up. It’s also a very expensive sport, and requires luck and networking created opportunities that are often rare.

It’s like trying to be a pro football player after you’ve already graduated college, and entering the competitions cost thousands of dollars. It takes a dedication not many people have.

“She is probably one of the most driven people I know … her passion is very strong,” said Jeff Rodrigues, her driving coach at Skip Barber Racing School. “For me it’s always satisfying when you meet someone like Vicki who has that same passion … you can see yourself.”

“It’s so difficult on so many levels,” Brian said.

For more information about Vicki Brian Racing and motorsports marketing and sponsorship opportunities, email [email protected], or visit or

There’s the lack of opportunity, the money and the physicality of it. It’s hard not to mention that she’s a woman in a sport dominated by men, but she doesn’t want any extra allowances because of that. She only wants the respect that she aims to earn with her skills at every track, practice and race.

“It’s absolutely a man’s sport but she doesn’t believe that … she doesn’t want any breaks because she’s a girl,” said experienced driver Andre Martins, the owner of Orlando Kart Center where Brian has trained for three years. “At the end of the day you’re a racer, not a woman or a man,” Brian said.

The difficulties only push Brian more. She wants to be an example for all drivers just starting out, girls, boys, men and women. She hopes to show them all that they can do it, no matter how late they start or what people say, you just have to stop being afraid. The tough things in life are usually the most rewarding, she said.

“It’s so important to pursue something that’s difficult, that doesn’t come to you easy,” Brian said.

And it helps that it gives her the feeling of accomplishment, happiness and thrill every day she karts. Sometimes, she imagines just sinking into the couch for a little while, letting go of all the work she must do, and then she remembers her dream. She’s aiming to participate in Grand-Am Continental Tire Series racing next year, so that great feeling of whipping around corners and crossing the finish line will actually be her career.

“I wouldn’t trade this for anything, it brings me so much joy,” she said. “You feel alive.”


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