Synergy Racing finds promise in Rolex Series' youngest female driver 22-year-old Mae Van Wijk's budding career developing at warp speed ALTON, Va. (October 5, 2005) -- Time cures all. At least that's the adage. So it's a mildly amazing ...
Synergy Racing finds promise in Rolex Series' youngest female driver
22-year-old Mae Van Wijk's budding career developing at warp speed
ALTON, Va. (October 5, 2005) -- Time cures all. At least that's the adage. So it's a mildly amazing accomplishment for Synergy Racing driver Mae Van Wijk (Houston, Texas) to say that in just under two years she's gone from a rookie kart driver to pro driver status.
Van Wijk, who drives Synergy Racing's No. 81 Porsche GT3 Cup in the Rolex Sports Car Series GT class, has had a meteoric raise. Having just started racing cars, Mae is now racing some of the fastest drivers in the United States as the youngest female racer in the Rolex Series.
Her interest with cars began not so long ago, when she accompanied her father at the local road circuit -- Texas World Speedway. Her father had his car, a very fast, modified BMW M5, on the track and was driving some open laps at a lapping session.
"I asked to drive his car, expecting him to say, 'no.' I figured I'd hold it over him; kind of like a bargaining chip. But he handed me the keys and let me go," Mae explains.
According to her father, he knew what was in store for him if he didn't hand over the keys, so he let her drive. Little did either of them know where it would lead.
"I was hooked," she says.
She drove some kart races in 2003, and then went to the Bondurant School in August 2004. Because of her early mentor drove in the Grand-Am Cup Series, he entered her in a Grand-Am Cup with Synergy Racing that November at Daytona International Speedway. Oddly enough, she had raced no amateur races at all prior to that. But after racing on the banks of Daytona, Mae knew she was ready to make the commitment to becoming a fulltime race car driver.
"When I first started racing I had no clue it was going to take this kind of commitment. I still didn't know if I'd like it when I decided to jump in and race," admits Mae. "It's a little like anything else: I tried it out to see. Obviously, I'm hooked for life."
And she has since become a solid finisher.
"I'm pleased with my progress. On the one hand I am kind of old, 22, and only racing a couple of years. Most people at 22 or 23 have been racing five to 10 years. But I'm holding my own, and I'm constantly learning more and more"
Now coached by Synergy drivers David Murry and Craig Stanton, with occasional help from legendary American sports car driver Price Cobb, she's proven her mettle. She has two fourth place finishes and constantly moves up from wherever her staring spot is in the field.
But getting accustomed to the intensity of pro racing was not easy.
"I think my biggest accomplishment in racing so far--this sounds kind of whimpy--is going out on a track and saying, 'You know what, this is my space and I belong here.' I used to be afraid of getting in peoples' way. Now I can go out and race people. And it's a lot more fun too," says Mae.
But what most drivers in the Rolex Series admire about Mae is the type of cars she chose to drive. A Porsche is known as a sensitive beast. Rear-engined and blessed with a lot of power, it has the potential to bite a driver with severe oversteer--meaning the car will spin easily. It's not a car for amateurs. But with the support of the Synergy Racing team and drivers, she has seen tremendous advancement in her car control skills.
"It ended up being a total accident that I began racing Porsches," tells Mae. "The driver who got me started just happened to be racing a Porsche with Synergy Racing and that's what was available. I didn't know it at the time, but this is a hard car to drive fast. In fact, the car I'm driving is probably the most difficult car out there. Now it's become a pride thing. I want to master a Porsche. I think once I've done that it will prepare me for anything else. After this, prototypes or anything else will be easier.
"I want to stay with Porsches for the rest of my life. But I am considering open-wheeled cars, too."
Mae looks to wrap up her second fulltime season of professional racing with strong finishes at this weekend's VIR 400 and the Rolex Series finale in Mexico City. This weekend Mae will partner with a pair of local favorites, sharing her Synergy Racing No. 81 Porsche sponsored by pipeservicestt.com and autobysite.com, with the team's co-owners Del. Danny Marshall (Danville, Va.) and his brother Steve Marshall (Christiansburg, Va.).