Nicole Havrda is making a name for herself as a young woman in the world of motorsports. In a male-dominated industry, she’s breaking barriers and inspiring a new generation of young girls to follow in her footsteps. The Formula 3 Driver drives open-wheel and GT cars, and currently races in the Formula Pro USA series, as well as Formula Regional Americas, among others.
As a teenager, she found herself driving top speeds as a Formula 3 race car driver. Her grit, determination and positive outlook has set her up for success both on the racetrack and in her everyday life.
Nicole spoke with The Edge, A Leader’s Magazine, about her passion for the sport, the importance of being true to yourself and the value of role models.
Can you speak about how you got into car racing sport, and what excites you the most about it?
Prior to racing, I was a competitive swimmer, I skied, and was pretty active in general. My dad took us on a trip to Europe, and he loved F1 [Formula 1 racing]. We went to a track in Austria—initially I didn’t want to go—but once I was there, I immediately fell in love with the sport and decided that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I started researching driving schools and how to get into the sport, because obviously you don’t jump into a race car right away. I started go-karting, and was racing all around Canada and America. Through this, I was given a really great offer that got me into racing formula cars. I was approached by people who were making a documentary about women in motorsports, featuring female racers in particular. It was a really exciting opportunity to be a part of this, and it was a major step in helping me make the transition from go-karting to formula cars.
What challenges have you faced in racing, and what qualities do you need to be successful in it?
I think everyone faces different challenges, but as a woman, there are particular challenges around gender and the perceptions of you as a female, especially in an often very male sport. If a girl wins a race, guys are sometimes upset by it; I have seen that happen sometimes. It’s very male dominated—I’d see a couple of women here and there when I was go-karting originally—but now I see more girls becoming involved. This is growing, with more and more young girls starting to get into the sport, which is great! I think it’s very important for them to have someone to look up to and see women moving into Formula 3.
I think another challenge for women in racing is social media. There is often a comparison to guys in the same sport [on social media] and so as a girl, you need to be aware of what you post and to know your audience. With the focus on me as a racecar driver, it’s really important to be marketing yourself. Many people underestimate that. This year, my father and I have really focused on the business marketing side to get my name out there and create more awareness for the sport.
What advice would you have for other young people when faced with obstacles in life?
I think it’s important not to judge yourself or compare yourself to others, just stick to your own path and always try to be positive and outgoing. If you believe you can do it, you can. It’s sometimes good to just go for it—as you have nothing to lose.
Who has been a positive role model for you, and how have they shaped your worldview?
One role model in racing would of course be Lewis Hamilton. I actually got to sit down and have an interview with him on TSN, and he’s amazingly positive and always trying to help more people get into the sport. I think he’s one of the biggest role models for me and someone I look up to. I recently watched the documentary, The Last Dance, about [Basketball Star] Michael Jordan. I really loved his dedication to the sport and his focus. He was always in the zone and went after what he wanted. I think they’re both great examples of role models for me in my sport and goals.
To further support Nicole’s journey, check out her charity here: https://m.charitableimpact.com/1UKi
Stephanie Hawkins | Contributing Writer