A Grade 10 student at Edward Milne Community School who’s found the fast lane in go-kart racing will soon be turning heads in Western Canada and the United States.
Fifteen-year-old Charlotte Baye Pearson can’t drive legally yet but has already topped 120 km/h on four wheels.
“I think it’s the speed. It’s a big adrenaline rush. That’s what I like about karting,” Pearson said.
Pearson fell in love with the sport after her father Quinn initially bought a go-kart for her little brother three years ago.
The sport didn’t appeal to the brother, but she took a turn at the wheel and fell in love. First, she practised in her Otter Point neighbourhood near Sooke. Then she kicked into high gear when she began competing at Western Speedway.
“People drove by me so fast and my dad said, ‘You need to pass them.’ So I learned how to do that; it was so much fun. That was my first experience with that kind of competitiveness,” Pearson said.
Racing coach George Dornan met Pearson at her first race at Western Speedway and saw her struggling on the wet track.
He offered her a few tips, and her racing improved almost instantaneously.
“The one difference about Charlotte is that she listens,” said Dornan, who is now Pearson’s coach.
“I watched her go through her season this year, and she’s made me very proud.”
Pearson has taken her racing to the next level - often the only girl in the race – racing competitively almost every spring and summer weekend, with stops in Cowichan, Chilliwack and Oliver in the junior circuit. Among her wins are second overall in the province, best on the Island, most improved driver and numerous podium finishes.
She moves to senior racing next year and hopes to take her go-kart on the road to Las Vegas and other U.S. destinations.
Racing costs money. She’s now part of a racing team but is still looking for a travel sponsor.
“Parents have sacrificed a lot,” Pearson said. “My dad puts in extra hours at work, and my mom always ensures I’m ready for the races. It is an expensive sport and sometimes the bills can be a bit tight.”
Pearson’s first go-kart sped up to 75 km/h an hour, but now those speeds can top 120 km/h.
Racing at higher speeds heightens the risk of injury, but she never gets frightened by the speed.
“I think I’m just afraid of crashing,” Pearson said.
She’s only been injured once, when she hurt her wrist and was looked at by a track medic.
For Pearson, chasing her dream in a high-adrenaline sport might mean leaving the public school system and attending online schooling.
“I like school, and it will be a big sacrifice,” she says, adding that she would like to race in the Formula series one day.
“I think it’s something I want to do when I’m older.”