After facing multiple setbacks that made for a rollercoaster of a season, a Comox Valley racer has become the first woman to win the Formula Pro USA Championship.
An athlete from birth, 17-year-old Nicole Havrda says she has wanted to do multiple different sports professionally, including swimming and skiing. However, the opportunity to see a Formula 1 race as a young girl changed her life forever as she now races on multiple world stages.
From starting out in go-karts to learn the basics, Havrda now finds herself in Formula 3 race cars around the world and her dedication culminated to the historic win last month. However, her success has not come easy, and the last race season proved to have the biggest challenges she has faced both mechanically and physically.
“It was a very interesting year because at the start of it I was leading the championship by a lot and then I had a really big incident which put me back in the points,” said Havrda. “It came down to the last race where I was seven points leading, and I had to win that race.”
Havrda says the issue was the result of a crash she had in a qualifying round at Sonoma Raceway. She says it was because she avoided another driver who suddenly moved into her path. However, avoiding the driver meant striking a concrete wall at over 200 km/h.
Her resulting concussion and damage to the car would prove to be a challenge not only mechanically, but mentally as well.
“There’s this bracket that attaches to the housing and so in practice it kept falling off and snapping,” said Havrda. “I was praying every lap that it wouldn’t break again because it would have been the end of it.
“A lot of people don’t know that these big crashes can mentally affect you a lot. The next day I raced, and I was driving around and I thought I was there, I thought I was good, but mentally it was just pulling me back.”
However, despite this, she feels it was getting back in the saddle so quick that made her continue to race as well as she could, leading to her historic win on Oct. 15.
“I was speechless when I got out of the car. When I won, I got out of the car there was this one lady, who used to race, who said ‘I want to bring you where I never made it,’” said Havrda. “So, I hugged her and was actually in tears when I won.”
Havrda is now racing in India over the next month, coming back and forth between there and Canada. She adds she will be continuing to race, with the goal of racing in the main Formula 3 events in Europe should her budget become enough.
She adds she wants to thank her team, especially for fixing her car so quick for the races, her sponsors and family for all their support.