Mae Van Wijk Focuses on Racing While Worried about Houston Home
Synergy racer to compete at The Glen thinking of family in Rita's path
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (September 22, 2005) -- Synergy Racing driver Mae Van Wijk was among the hundreds of thousands of people leaving Houston, Texas on Wednesday. However, the 22-year-old racer was not stuck in traffic for hours during her exodus of the city. Instead, she boarded a previously booked flight to upstate New York to compete in weekend's Rolex Sports Car Series Crown Royal 250 at The Glen, leaving behind many of her family and friends in the path of Hurricane Rita.
"When my father and I got on the plane yesterday, I questioned whether I should come up here," admitted Van Wijk. "One of the guys that helps me at the races was supposed to board a flight late last night to come up and decided to stay behind. He's got a family to take care of, and he needs to be there for them."
Van Wijk and her parents live in the Houston suburb of Kingwood, located approximately 20 miles north of the city. Since her parents' home is on the northern side of the city, Van Wijk's mother plans to ride out the storm with friends of the family evacuated from the coastal region.
"It wasn't until this morning I found out it had grown into a category five," said Van Wijk. "I'm not as concerned about my apartment as I am my parents' home. I live on the second floor and everything's insured. But my mom will be staying in their house, which has lots of big windows and has come close to flooding in the past. I have so many friends and family in the area. I just want to make sure everyone is safe and in good care."
Also on the young racer's mind is her brother who works as a paramedic on the southwest side of Houston. "My brother will be on duty when Rita hits. I just hope he doesn't get hurt and isn't faced with a lot of destruction and injuries from the storm."
With Hurricane Rita expected to make landfall Saturday morning, Van Wijk hopes she will be able to hear news from home before boarding the Synergy Racing No. 81 Porsche GT3 Cup, sponsored by autobysite.com and pipeservicestt.com, for the 3 p.m. ET start of the Crown Royal 250 at The Glen.
"Saturday I'll be following up with what is going on at home. I'll feel more comfortable knowing to what extent the damage is and what's going on back there," said Van Wijk. "I hope to reach at least my immediate family and make sure they are in good shape before I get into the car for the race."
Van Wijk, the youngest female driver in the Rolex Series, feels she will be able to remain focused on the task of racing on Saturday despite Hurricane Rita. Before every event she takes one hour to relax and prepare herself mentally for the race. "You'd be surprised how much it clears your mind," she said.
There is one other concern Van Wijk has--getting back home. She and her father are booked on a flight back to Houston on Sunday but know will likely be cancelled. She expects it to be at least Monday or Tuesday before they are able to return and she can assess for herself Rita's wrath.