As she sat behind the wheel of her Honda Civic, there was only one thing on Natasha 'Chiney Dolly' Chang's mind when the flag dropped at the start of the MP1 (Modified Production Class 1) race at the Dover Raceway on Heroes Day. It would be her last race of the season and she was in it to win it, having placed second all year.
A rose among thorns in a male- dominated sport, a fearless Chang told Flair that she drove her heart out to finally claim that coveted spot on the podium. "After the races, spectators came over to see me because they couldn't believe a girl was driving like that. They were saying they were even more surprised by my petite frame. I thought that was funny," she relates.
Chang competed in four races at the Heroes of Speed meet, winning one and placing second in the others. "I have been taking baby steps all year, slowly progressing to a big win. I have had a rough year, both on and off the track, so this is a special victory for me," she said.
Beating David Summerbell
As Natasha celebrates her win, she notes that the highlight of her day was racing against David Summerbell Jr. In that race she placed second with the 'King' behind her, in a clash akin to the biblical tale of David and Goliath.
"It was a fantastic second place! The best part of my day was David Summerbell walking over to me and shaking my hand while saying 'good driving Natasha'. I cannot explain just how special those words made me feel," she gushed.
Although she beat Summerbell, Chang says she was taking lessons from him the whole time. "He was hot on my heels throughout the entire race, so I knew I had to keep him behind me in order to beat him to the finish line. I was glancing at him through my mirrors like crazy and just watching his movements, especially his blocking techniques very keenly and I knew I had to do some intense blocking to fend him off. I haven't done that much blocking in any race, as I have never driven against anyone at David's level."
She said that racing against Summerbell helped her to push her newly engineered Honda Civic to new heights. "Those two races were fun! I still smile when I remember when he passed me on a corner and I went after him and passed him on the next leg. Passing him was a thrilling experience!" she added.
With Doug Gore missing from her team for the latter part of this year's season, Natasha says it was an honour to keep ATL Racing alive during his absence, and to top it off, she finished ahead of his main rival, Summerbell. "I'm looking forward to total ATL dominance at Dover when Doug returns next year, with us representing in small- and large-engine classes."
The diminutive race driver credits her aggressiveness on the track to her experience as a rally driver. Chang made her racing debut at the Palisadoes international speedway in 2006 before acquiring a Group N Rally car - a Mitsubishi Evo 5 - making her the first female in the Caribbean to campaign a turbo charged four-wheel drive rally car. Her rally debut in Jamaica saw her placing seventh overall and fourth place finishes in Group N before competing in Rally Trinidad in 2009 where despite minor car problems, she placed 12th overall and fifth in her class on her way to becoming a firm favourite among fans.
Against the Boys
On competing in a male-dominated sport, Chang notes that she thinks of herself as equal to the male drivers. "Motor racing is the only sport in the world that allows men and women to compete equally. When you are behind the wheel, the car doesn't know whether you are a man or a woman. It takes some amount of balls to go out there as a female driver because the competitors don't care that you're a woman. But I have no fear," she points out.
Still, Natasha admits that it feels great to leave the boys behind in her car's dust. "What I love most about being a female race driver is the young children and women who look up to me and say if I can do it, they can too," she said.