One-on-one with Isabelle Tremblay, NASCAR driver
Isabelle is the only woman to drive in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series (NCATS). She started out in 2008, at the age of 36. Here is a glance at a woman proving it's never too late.
A few minutes between two interviews
It was at the press conference kicking off the 2012 season. Between three TV appearances and an afternoon full of radio interviews, Isabelle squeezed me in for a little chat at the restaurant.
I can tell she's on the adrenaline from all the media talks, grinning ear to ear. She's clearly focused on the season that lies ahead. Myself, I just want to know where she comes from and what brought her here.
Because there was a before
She did a bit of everything in her past life: modeling, gardening, and knitting. She had different jobs, different hobbies. At one point, she was a real estate agent. Most importantly, she was a woman looking for herself, hoping to one day find what really made her tick. And then there was the 2008 season where she tried circuit racing for the first time. The victory she took at the St-Eustache Enduro - where she became the first woman to win the 200-lapper - confirmed one thing: she was finally on the right track.
On the topic of career
She is now a professional driver. I watch her move about as she goes on about how much she wakes up with a smile every morning; how much she likes every little bit of her job. Whether it's working hard on the simulator, at the shop, on the track or in front of microphones - Isabelle is in love with her passion turned profession.
She compares her job to starting up a small business. Getting it off the ground takes a tremendous amount of time and effort. Of course, as she points out, many are called but few are chosen. Finding sponsors to fund the race team is a constant source of stress she has to learn to live with.
"What does your son have to say about all this?"
As a single mother, Isabelle has to deal with the frequent trips motorsports involve: between testing and racing, it adds up. Plus, it doesn't all happen in the greater Montreal area! She smiles to me and says: "My son is an artist. For him, whether I'm a race car driver or not matters little. I think it's his friends that think he has a cool mom."
A woman in a man's world
I was curious to see just how much pressure a woman has to live with in such a competitive and mainly manly world. I'm definitely not the first to ask. She replies that, because the question has been asked so many times, the answer has become very clear in her head: There is no additional pressure. "Once you're on the track, it's not woman racing men. It's all about drivers racing other drivers. The guys don't play nice with me because I'm a girl. The same rules apply for everyone," she tells me.
Isabelle will be out there for four of the 12 NCATS races. Depending on how money goes, there might be one or two events added to the calendar. Until the next race, held at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Bowmanville, you can join her Fans Zone, either on her website or her Facebook page.