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Finding her own lane: Vancouver Island teen breaking barriers from behind the wheel

Courtenay race car driver aims for the fast track
Courtenay’s Nicole Havrda is training to compete in Formula 3. Photo by Mercedes-Benz Canada.

This story is part of the Comox Valley Record’s fall edition of Trio Magazine, published quarterly and available throughout the Comox Valley.

A Courtenay teenager is doing her part to help break barriers for women as she makes a name for herself in the world of high-performance car racing.

At 16 — though she only has a learner’s road licence — Nicole Havrda is training to compete in Formula 3, an open-wheel category for juniors en route to becoming Formula 1 drivers. She attended the Montreal F1 Grand Prix in June, where she met British F1 driver Lewis Hamilton, an advocate for diversity in motorsport. Broadcaster Kayla Grey interviewed Havrda and Hamilton on The Shift, a TSN series.

“We spoke about diversity in the sport, and how important it is for the big teams in Formula to open up and help young and upcoming girls, like myself, get into motorsports,” Havrda said. “The Grand Prix was amazing. I got to meet lots of important people, especially since I got to stay in the Mercedes suite.”

Following the Grand Prix, Nicole took part in another interview on CTV, The Social, along with her coach Melanie Paterson — who also coaches Canadian women drivers Demi Chalkias and Cherie Storms — and Mercedes Benz Canada president/CEO Eva Wiese. Nicole explains how she took to the sport during a trip to the F1 Austrian Grand Prix at age 12. She started with go-karting and it went from there.

“I recently moved from a successful karting career to working my ways up the open wheel ladder, along with some sports car driving as well,” said Havrda, who attends school online as she pursues her sport of choice, which involves a fair bit of travel. “Me and my parents are usually at the track down in the United States for one week and one week at home. We have an RV so my parents drive non-stop, 24 hours down and 24 hours back home.”

She is also featured in a documentary to be released in late September.

“This documentary is very important in showing women in motorsports, and helping change the sport from an all-male sport to both,” Havrda added, who was part of a Mercedes Benz Canada campaign that helps market women in the motorsports world. “I do believe 100 per cent there will be another woman in Formula 1 in no time at all, especially with WSeries helping women get higher in the sport.

“This year, my team and I have a high-intensity testing program with the Formula 3, so lots and lots of practising since I am skipping Formula 4 and jumping straight into a Formula 3 from karting. I have plenty of races coming up later this year. The goal is to impress the WSeries, which is an all-female series driving Formula 3 cars, and they are a support series for Formula. So my goal for next year is to get there.”

This story originally appeared in the summer edition of Trio Magazine, the Comox Valley Record’s quarterly publication. For more Trio stories from our latest edition, read our e-edition at: