Speed Secrets Podcast with Ross Bentley: A Late (Driving) Bloomer
The Avants Podcast: A Mini Glimpse into Michele Graaff
The Inside Line: Conquering Fear and Putting Her Foot Down
In 2012, I bought my first MINI Cooper: a modified 2007 Cooper S with some tack-on performance modifications. Armed with middling research into the marque, I had very little idea of the world of MINI. All I knew is that I’d wanted one of those classic-but-not, cool little cars ever since the first time I’d seen a new one in the early 2000s.
Eventually, after many years of happy-commuting Honda ownership, I decided it was time for something a little less…common. The search for a small, fun car began, and eventually, a little grey Cooper S, dubbed “Enzo,” found a home in my driveway. Within a couple months, I attended my first Driver’s Skills day with the local Porsche Club. There, I swerved around cones, learned about understeer in a skid, and fell in love with a burbly, poppy exhaust. Soon after, it was onto the racetrack for high performance driver education–learning the craft of fast and precise corners, keeping my throttle foot to the floor. One of my first coaches, Bill, impressed upon me the way something seemingly so close to the edge of disaster can be controlled with an intentional, thoughtful ease. It would be a lesson that proved significant, both on and off the track.
Life’s detours intervened and car fun took a backseat. Fast forward nearly seven years later, when I decided it was time to give the track another try, on my own. The journey, now in my 3rd MINI (a special edition, track-oriented Cooper JCW GP), has, quite literally, recalibrated every part of my life. I’ve met some of the most incredible, talented, heartfelt, and passionate mentors and friends because of this car and the race track. It has become my goal to encourage any driver in any car–especially women–to grow a strengthened sense of self at 120 mph.