Sun | Dec 5, 2021

Lisa Bowman Lee - Driving comes second only to parenting

Published:Friday | May 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMKareem Latouche
A young Lee collecting one of her many awards.
Lee doing a photo session in her racing outfit.
Lee hugging her two biological sons Matthew (left) and Nicolas.
A young Lee collecting one of her many awards.
Lee doing a photo session in her racing outfit.

Being the last of four children, Lisa Bowman Lee is what many Jamaicans refer to as a 'wash-belly pickney', as her father took pride in spoiling her. For her, this meant he took her everywhere with him, most notably his garage, where he would spend hours each day fixing cars.

"My father was heavily involved with cars and motor racing from the time Vernamfield was just a circuit. I would observe him working on engines to get them to go faster, especially Mustangs, which he had a lot of," said Lee.

This exposure would continue to grow.

"From I was about eight or nine, I said I wanted to become a part of this field, and by age 13, I started driving. Back then, I had a friend whose father had an automatic Peugeot that we would practise on - of course, without his father's knowledge."

Two years later, at age 15 in 1985, she stepped up her game when she met her future husband, who started to teach her how to drive a manual transmission.

"He would show me different techniques with his VW bug and Isuzu that helped me to understand how the mechanics worked," said Lee.

Nonetheless, Lee's approach to driving at this time was very passive as she spent the latter part of her teen years socialising and partying. However as the '90s began, her perspective changed, and she started to dabble in go-karting.

"My boyfriend at the time was into go-karting and I was very curious about it, so I joined him. Once I started doing it, I realised I had a knack for it so I began to compete at the local level," said Lee.

After go-karting for two years, Lee decided to get married as well as have her first child.

"I remember getting married on the Sunday and heading back to the go-kart track on the Monday. In a nutshell, the go-kart track was the honeymoon for us," said Lee.

Not one to underestimate the responsibilities of pregnancy, Lee decided to take a break and alter aspects of her life to accommodate her son.

"I took a sabbatical so I could create a stable world for my son, Matthew, and figure out how to be a mom first. Things were also a bit tricky because he was quite sickly when he was young, so I had to spend a lot of time nurturing him and being Mommy. which I love the most," said Lee.

While getting the hang of the maternal lifestyle and not participating in racing, Lee decided to have her second child, seven years after the first one.

"Three weeks after I had my second child, Nicholas, we acquired a race car and I did my first race event, which, surprisingly, I won," stated Lee.




This encouraged Lee, who by now figured out how to achieve an effective balance between parenting and professional racing.

"After Nicholas was born, I decided I wanted to go for championships, so I started to enter every event that took place under the umbrella of the then racing body. My events would range from sprint dexterity to circuits," said Lee.

With a determined mind and natural inkling for driving, Lee's performance gradually improved in each event.

"The first year, I came second overall, and then the second year, I won the Female Drivers Championship and held that title for three years in a row, after which they retired the award to me. This really motivated me, so I started entering rally racing afterwards, which was challenging at first because it was on dirt, but I gradually got the hang of it," Lee said.

Throughout her years on the track, there has only been one thing that has been more intense - her love for kids.

"I have many kids in addition to my two biological ones; I'm everybody's aunty. I see a lot that can be done with kids, whether it's listening to them or bonding with them through motor sports. I take my kids everywhere with me. The only time I break this cycle is when it comes on to exams," shared Lee.