Racecar driver Natasha Chang may not have captured the top spot at the Seaboard Marine Caribbean Motor Racing Championship at South Dakota Circuit, in Guyana. But the 28-year-old Jamaican athlete certainly created a buzz during her first meet on the South American circuit on Nov. 15.
Her exclusive interview with Caribbean Life News during a pit stop revealed that the confident young woman brings a passion and determination to the track at every event in which she participates.
Chang is the most consistent female Caribbean driver, and the first woman to race on the full two-kilometer track in her hi-tech 1.8-liter Honda Civic at Bushy Park Circuit in Barbados.
Competing in the male dominated sport, Chang said she had a rough day at South Dakota Circuit due to a lack of seat time before the races, as well as a serious under steering problem she experienced with her Honda.
Described as a daredevil, she admitted that the Guyanese ramp was rough, and amazed that she managed to finish the last group three race, adding that it felt like a bumper car race.
“I compare South Dakota to Trinidad’s circuit. They are very similar, fast and momentum based,” said the champion whose peers inspire her.
“I am not very competitive today. I am usually out with the boys. Anyone who has followed my career knows that I have proven myself many times before,” said the pint-sized racer.
She said it’s onward and up for her, and it was a great stepping-stone in getting reacquainted with RWD, but it’s time for the new ride. “I say goodbye to this beauty, and hello to my new AP2,” in reference to a new car.
The former go-kart racer who began racing as a hobby at age 17, has for the last 11 years raced her way to many championships throughout the Caribbean region, making history along the way.
“I was hooked after my first go-cart race,” said Chang, disappointed at the late arrival of her one-year-old chicken yellow Honda S 200 Stock motor, which had mechanical problems, and prevented practice time ahead of her performance.
Affectionately called “Chiney Dolly,” Chang does not think about the dangers of the hazardous sport because of her love of cars. She stays focused and looks for the checkered flag when she is racing.
The American-born competitor says by all means she loves Jamaica, adding that despite the support she gets from her parents, they would prefer to see her in a safer sport.
“My parents know racing is dangerous but I try to reassure them that there are rules and regulations I must follow, and safety gear that I must wear, so it is relatively safe to race, but there will always be accidents but at the same time an accident could happen on a regular roadway,” she contended.
“I believe you have to enjoy life, it’s all about balance. It is my initiative and my love of the sport, that brought me here, and to some extent my stubbornness that keeps me racing. My mother would love to see me go shopping for fancy shoes instead of race cars and race tires,” added Chang, who works at an automotive store in Jamaica, between meets.
She said it was amazing to drive on Trinidad’s WallerField, stating, overall she really enjoys racing on tracks in the Caribbean.
“I represent equality in a way, I don’t want to be seen as a ‘female driver,” we are all drivers. And many people misinterpret racing as only for a certain class of people. There is some truth to that, but you have to start small and build a name for yourself. Just like Jamaica, I see people from all walks of life competing in Guyana, that is a beautiful thing,” she added.
“Each island has its own culture, music, style and food, it is great to share that love and passion with my fellow racers. We travel together and we build this fraternity. It’s an amazing thing to do,” said the articulate sportswomen.
She has had practice runs on tracks in the U.S., but has no plans to race in this country anytime soon. And with it, the last event for 2015 under her helmet, the pretty ‘Chiney Dolly’ now has her sights set on the 2016 race season. Good Luck! Natasha.