BNT NZ SuperTourers

The ‘Devil Princess’ - Life in the fast lane with Renee Gracie

If you haven’t heard of Renee Gracie, you will do soon. The young Australian racer, who looks set to join the NZ SuperTourer series in March, is determined to make her mark in the largely male dominated world of international motorsport.

It was only 7-years ago, that 20-year old Gracie, got her first taste of racing when her father took her to a local hire kart track. It turns out she was a natural driver with a competitive streak that saw dad relegated to second place very quickly.

From there it was straight into karting where she steadily moved up the ranks before breaking into Junior Rotax, a major national series in 2010.

Her second year in this series proved a breakthrough finishing fifth and subsequently recruited into the Fujitsu Cool Driver Program, a national youth development scheme that had proved the making of V8 prodigy Scott McLaughlin.

Since then, the young Australian has worked her way up the ranks of senior level karting in Australia, has competed for two seasons in Australia’s and Porsche Carrera Cup championship, and now she has her eye on New Zealand’s leading touring car category – NZ SuperTourers and ultimately V8 Supercars.

Nicknamed the ‘Devil Princess’ … a devil on the track and a princess off it, Gracie has big dreams and has her eyes firmly set on a racing career overseas.

“A lot of drivers in this part of the world aspire to race in V8 Supercars, which is fantastic and would be a great career. But I also want to set goals, so I’d like to go all the way to IndyCar or NASCAR in the US if I’m able to,” says Gracie.

However, she is set on progressing her racing career in down under first and is entering the Dunlop V8 Supercar Development Series in Australia and is eyeing a drive in New Zealand.

“We’re working towards getting on the NZ SuperTourer grid in 2015.”

“When I chose to enter the Dunlop V8 Supercar Series I decided that NZ SuperTourers was also something I wanted to do. Mainly because it gives me twice as much racing in a season. They are great cars, and will give a driver like myself a lot of experience. The aim is to learn as much as I can.”

Gracie recently completed a full day on the track in the Hydraulink Holden of her partner, Andre Heimgartner.

“They’re quite sporty and ‘Porsche’ like to drive, you have to be smooth with the throttle. They’re light and don’t feel as heavy as a V8 Supercar, they seem more nimble. I really enjoyed it.”

Did her partner Heimgartner give her any tips?

“He didn’t say too much really, he says he trusts me! All he told me was don’t push too hard on the old tyres, wait for the new tyres to go on and get more of a feel for the car.”

“Everyone in Australia has been talking about the cars already, so I kind of already knew what to expect.”

“Andre is actually going to do the SuperTourer two driver endurance race events later in the year. We might have to sort out who is #1 and who the co-driver is!”

Trying to forge a career in international motorsport is no easy task for a young female racer, and it’s a tag that doesn’t sit well with Gracie.

“I don’t really like the tag ‘female race driver. I just want to be known as Renee Gracie the racecar driver. It’s definitely a hard road being a girl in the sport, and you do feel like all eyes are on you seeing how you go.”

Internationally, Gracie looks to other female drivers like Danica Patrick as a role model – an American female racer who has raced in Indy Car and now in NASCAR.

“I keep an eye on what she’s doing, which makes me think it is possible. I get a lot more nasty emails that an other racers, and a lot more hate than other racers too. People just seem to expect you to fail.”

“So I always get a kick when I do well and prove them wrong. If anything it just gives me more motivation to succeed.”