By Lee Elder Milka Duno has five Masters Degrees, but she is trying now to master one of the toughest arts there is: She wants to be a winning driver at the highest levels in the world of motorsports. Duno, 29, has been racing professionally...
By Lee Elder
Milka Duno has five Masters Degrees, but she is trying now to master one of the toughest arts there is: She wants to be a winning driver at the highest levels in the world of motorsports.
Duno, 29, has been racing professionally for less than three years, but she is one of the drivers of Barbour's Reynard 01Q-Judd in the American Le Mans Series. The team won the LMP 675 class victory in the recent ALMS race at Sears Point Raceway.
"I like it when something is very difficult," she said.
She doesn't make things look difficult. Duno first tried her hand at club racing in 1997. Since then, she has competed in Porsche Super Cup competition in Venezuela, finished third in the Women's Global GT Series in 1999 and won a Ferrari Challenge race at Road Atlanta last year. Her rise to one of the top divisions of sports car racing in the United States has been rapid.
The Barbour team uses Goodyear tires. Duno has used different tire makes in the course of her brief career. She said she is happy with the tires her ALMS team gets from Goodyear.
"We used both the 310 and 410 compounds at Sears Point," Duno said. "Both were very good. We use the 410 for longer races. We used it in Le Mans and it was good."
The next ALMS race will be at August 4 at Portland International Raceway. Duno has not raced there, but don't be shocked to discover she learns the racing line quickly. She has been a quick study all her life.
When she had her first racing experience, Duno was a naval engineer. Most of her educational background includes ships and oceans. They are in the fields of naval engineering, naval architecture, business economics and marine biology. In her spare time, she learns new languages. She speaks Spanish, English, Italian and some Portuguese.
Vic Elford, Duno's driving coach, said, "She's a wonderful learner."
The engineering background helps with the racing, Duno said. "It helps a lot in racing because I understand very quickly the telemetry about the car. Maybe that is one of the reasons I was able to move up so quickly (in racing). As an engineer, you are a constant analyst. When you drive, you need to understand the balance of the car."
Some of the principles of water flow she learned as a ship designer cross over to racecars and airflow, she said.
Dick Barbour, the veteran sports car team owner, said Elford recommended Duno after a visit to her country.
"The Porsche Club of Venezuela had invited me for a driving clinic," Duno recalled. "I went, just for curiosity. And I said, `Oh, I like this.' After that clinic, I started participating in races for street cars and I had four podiums without any schools or anything. After that, I said, `No, I want a real race car.'"
She has one now.
Duno and her husband maintain their home in Caracas, though she doesn't spend much time there. Mostly, she lives in hotels. Her schedule calls for constant testing and racing. For example, after the Sears Point race, she was scheduled to travel to Italy for a Ferrari Challenge event before coming back to this country for the ALMS race at Portland.