We’re back with our second rapid-fire Q&A with another female racer for this week’s Influencer Series on ChicMoto. Let’s welcome racing star Ashley Freiberg. Just 24-years-old, from a small town in Illinois, this racer has passion and more importantly: grit. She’s one of the most badass female racers to hit the pavement in the last decade…
And here’s some reasons why:
- Freiberg is the first woman to win overall in the Continental Tire Challenge.
- Named by Sports Illustrated Magazine as “Face in the Crowd.”
- The first woman to ever claim a victory at Daytona International Speedway.
- The first female, overall, to win the North American GT3 Cup Challenge at Watkins Glen International.
What’s next? According to her site, Freiberg “…will be racing with Turner in the M6 for three of the twelve races in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the GTD class.” These three endurance races include Daytona, Sebring, and Petit, which is coming soon to Atlanta, Ga. this year.
Needless to say, she’s a busy (and fast!) bee.
Freiberg got her racing feet wet with go-karting, like many other racers, which also gave her her first taste of speed at the young age of 13. And as she notes during our interview, “It was instant love!” Her passion for racing grew and became nothing short of explosive. She captured her first go-karting victories in 2006 at the ripe-old age of… 15. Her highlights as racer are too long to list, but can be viewed here and they’re impressive—so we highly recommend taking a gander. What you’ll find, as well as in other interviews, is that, honestly, Freiberg never stops giving herself opportunities to grow, learn and, of course, win. From tackling rock climbing to conquer her fear of heights, to working her way to become a sponsored (FOCUS Bikes and American Classic Wheels) cyclocross racer that earned her six podiums and one win: Freiberg is always up for a challenge.
Whether it be her greatest win or her most memorable defeat, she also has an unwavering ability to see ups and downs in the same light, which appears to be one of the many ingredients to her success. In just a mere decade, she’s managed to rise up the racing ranks with a razor-sharp focus. But don’t let me try to convince you of her badassness, go ahead and read it all here. Ready, set…Go!
ChicMoto Q & A With Ashley Freiberg
CM: What were you like as a child? Were you cautious or a risk-taker? Is your family surprised that you’ve built a career in the racing world?
AF: When I was young, I was definitely a risk-taker, when I had the chance to be. I was always very active and involved in almost any sport I could get my hands on: basketball, soccer, karate, gymnastics, swimming… When I first sat in a go-kart at 13 years-old, it was an instant love for me that has only grown stronger as I’ve gotten further along in my career.
CM: When you first started off in racing, what was the turning point for you where you knew you were “in”, as they say?
AF: I think the turning point for me was when I secured my current sponsorship with BMW of North America and IHG Rewards Club. Before this, I was getting to the point in my career where, although I was proving I could win major races, I didn’t have the funds to move up as a professional. I spent lots and lots of time out of the seat, hanging at racetracks, and making calls and emails. When I found out this deal was going to move forward, I don’t think it really sunk in until I received my first BMW Motorsport suit in the mail. I remember putting it on and running outside in my front lawn screaming and dancing with so much joy. My neighbors probably thought I was crazy! Securing partnerships with such high-level companies is something every racer dreams of, and I hope our relationship lasts for many years and race wins to come!
CM: What was your biggest challenge or milestone in your racing career?
AF: Definitely the sponsorship side was a challenge for me for quite some time. I was pretty much doing it on my own, so I had to surround myself with the right people to help me understand how to work sponsorship deals, how to network, and be better with marketing my brand. I can’t tell you how many times I had won big championships, or won major races, and yet I would be sitting on the sidelines the very next weekend because I didn’t have the funds. I am very thankful to be where I am now though because I worked very hard for this
CM: As a female driver, what are some big changes in the racing world that you’ve seen come around? How have these changes impacted your experience as a racer?
AF: I think the biggest thing I have seen in my career is that women are more often starting to win and get on the podium in high levels of racing. I know that when I was still racing go-karts, and I saw Danica leading the Indy 500, it absolutely opened many doors in my own mind:That could be me! So, I have no doubt that seeing women on the podium more often has helped women in racing.
CM: What was your proudest victory? And what did you gain from it?
AF: I have a few actually, but my most recent “proud” victory was at Road Atlanta, at the end of last year, in the GS class of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. It was misting, but looked like it was going to dry up, so we decided to start the race on slicks while mostly everyone was on rain tires. Well, the race started, and instead of drying it started to rain harder and harder. I can tell you that driving on slicks, in a full rain situation, at a fast track like Road Atlanta is pretty sketchy! Eventually, we decided we were not going to gamble for dry, so we pitted for rain tires, and I got sent out of pit lane directly in front of the leader of the race. I had to drive my tail off in order to stay on the lead lap, and prayed for a yellow so that I could get my lap back and be back in the race.
About 20 minutes into having the leader literally breathing down my neck, a yellow came out, of which I got my lap back, but I also had to start behind the entire ST field. The green waved and all I can remember is trying to pass as many people as possible, so that my co-driver, Trent, didn’t have his work cut out for him when I handed the car over. I had no idea what position I was in because all I could really see ahead of me was a cloud of mist, but I remember just driving as hard, smart and aggressively as I could.
I ended up handing him the car in first place. Which meant I not only passed the ST field, but also the whole GS field. He ended up driving hard to hold on to the lead all the way to the end—and we won. It was an incredible fight, not just for myself personally, but also for the entire team as we had been struggling a bit all year.but we never lost sight of what we knew we could do. It was also my first win with BMW and IHG Rewards Club, so having them standing beside me made it even sweeter.
CM: What was your greatest defeat? And what did you learn from it?
AF: I can’t say that my career up to this point has been flawless because I have made lots of mistakes along the way. I think in general it is important to understand that mistakes get made by everyone and it is important how you react and learn from them. Every mistake I have made has only made me better, smarter, stronger, and that is the only way they must be looked at in order to be successful.
CM: What advice would you give women interested in starting their own careers in the racing world?
AF: If you are interested in driving, most drivers like myself start out in go-karts and move their way up into cars. I found, in my career, it is best to go through a few different racing schools because they all have interesting things to offer and to learn from, and build from there.
Like anything in life, if you want to be successful, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Always be open to learning and always find ways to better yourself. Surround yourself with the right people to help guide you, keep asking questions and have an open mind.
CM: Do you think the racing world has adapted to having such strong female racers, like yourself?
AF: I think most people are supportive of strong female racers, but it is really hard for me to say because I don’t pay a ton of attention to that aspect of it. When I think about racing or am at the track, I am just another driver, another human with a suit and helmet on that has to execute driving a racecar well. To me, if people haven’t adapted to the fact that I am a female, then I view that as their problem!
CM: Have you been supported by a mentor during your career? Who were / are they? And what value have they brought to your career?
AF: I have had many mentors throughout my career that have been tremendously helpful in so many different ways. I think mentors are incredibly important because they have already been through many of the situations you are going to go through yourself, and it helps to have a wise voice to give you advice on these matters and to help guide you in the best direction possible. I will always be grateful for these people in my life, and I have already been finding ways to return the favor by being a mentor to others by passing along my own experiences and helping others be successful.
CM: Being a race car driver you have to know your car inside and out. ChicMoto was created with the idea of helping women learn more about the automotive industry to gain better confidence in what they were driving. In your opinion, what is the most important thing any person should know about their vehicle and why?
AF: As a race car driver, I would say the most important thing that everyone should know about their vehicle is how to control a slide. A car is a serious machine that should be understood how to control if things start to get challenging.
For example, if you live in an area where it snows, gets icy, or even rains, chances are you will experience your car sliding at some point. Sudden accelerations can brake rear traction and slide the car, so a smooth application on the throttle is important.
If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, and you go to the brakes and feel like the car isn’t stopping, chances are your brakes/tires have locked up. To regain traction, you have to release your foot off the brake to get the wheels rolling again and then go back to the brake to slow the car down. Repeat this process until the brakes stop locking/ the car has stopped. If you do have anti-lock brakes, stomp on the pedal as hard as you can and keep it there!
If a car starts to slide sideways, steering into the direction of the slide and not making any sudden throttle or brake movements, will help you save a slide.
Going to a proper driving school will be the best way to learn about this! I highly recommend that you do it!