ALTON, Va. – At age 27, Shea Holbrook is much more than a pretty face in the Pirelli World Challenge. She might gain attention as a female driver in a predominantly male motorsports world, but this business-minded University of Central Florida graduate is just as busy off the track as on it.
The Orlando, Fla., racing entrepreneur has expanded her Shea Racing operation to four cars in 2017 and she still plans to battle for the PWC Touring Car championship behind the wheel of her No. 67 Bubba Burgers/Lucas Oil Honda Accord sedan.
“We are extremely ambitious this year in the Pirelli World Challenge with four cars running out of the Shea Racing stable,” said Holbrook, a six-time race winner in PWC during her seven-year career. “When we started our team a few years back, we were a very small team like a ‘mom and pop effort.’ But it was always my goal to expand to a multi-car effort and, with help of my sponsors and Honda, we have gone from a two-car team last year to a four-car operation in 2017. There was a lot of opportunity this year and I’m very excited to get started racing.”
Holbrook and her four-car team makes its 2017 Pirelli World Challenge debut this weekend (April 28-30) in the Nissan PWC Grand Prix of VIR at the beautiful 3.27-mile, 17-turn VIRginia International Raceway when some 110 entries battle in seven different racing categories. Shea will be competing against 30 other drivers in the Touring Car division.
Holbrook finished fifth in last year’s Touring Car final point standings and the personable racer seeks her first TC title in 2017. But she knows it won’t be easy with a stellar field of drivers and machinery that includes Audi, BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Lotus, Nissan and Porsche.
“I can’t believe how competitive the Touring Car class has become in the Pirelli World Challenge,” admitted Holbrook. “The Series has done a great job in expanding with new cars and this class should provide some of the best road racing in the country. I know the TC class had some last lap passes for wins last year and I would expect that again in 2017.”
Along with Holbrook’s No. 67 Honda Accord in the VIR field, Shea Racing also brings three other cars to the paddock area this week with young college student Jason Fichter of Jupiter, Fla., in the No. 7 Turn 7 Motorsport/Revant/Donate Life Honda Accord, young woman racer Sarah Montgomery of Lafayette, La., in the No. 65 Lemon of Love/Lafayette Travel Honda Civic Si and the 2016 TCB class champion Tom O’Gorman of Mason, Ohio, in the No. 94 HPD/Black Armor Helmets/Gridlife Honda Civic Si.
Montgomery and O’Gorman will compete in the TCA category with their respective Honda Civic Si cars.
Holbrook, a nationally-ranked competitive water skier in her early teens, jumped at the chance to drive in the Richard Petty Driving Experience and age at 16 and never looked back. She moved into the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and quickly proceeded to the pro divisions in the Pirelli World Challenge, winning at the prestigious Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2011, one of only four female drivers to capture a race at Long Beach.
“Lyn St. James has been my mentor over the years and greatly appreciate her assistance with my racing career,” said Holbrook. “Now I have a little bit of that mentoring side with Jason, Sarah and Tom being younger and I can help them with their race craft. I’m only 27 and age is just a number, but age is experience too. I hope my experience will help the whole team this year.”
Holbrook has been a coach to a variety of drivers in the SCCA ranks in recent years and she says she is always looking for young talent to move into the professional divisions.
“I’m always trying to develop my racing brand as well as the team’s and this year we have some very talented drivers in Shea Racing,” Shea said. “Tom and I have worked together in many coaching situations and is a great colleague as a teammate. I see a lot of me in Sarah in personality, drive and talents and Jason is learning very fast despite his young age (19).”
The young Fichter started his racing career as a teenager and has been a great asset to the Shea Racing operation over the winter.
“I have been very impressed with Jason ‘s fine-tuning of our Honda race car this past year,” said Holbrook. “Despite his age, he has been huge for our team in the development of the cars at testing. I might be busy with the business elements of the team and Jason has been involved in many on-track things.”
The popular Touring Car classes will pack into the VIR racing facility this weekend with 55 drivers and machines already entered in the three categories, Touring Car, TCA and TCB.
Practice for the Pirelli World Challenge VIR weekend (including the season-opening SprintX events) begins on Friday (April 28) with racing on Saturday (April 29) and Sunday (April 30) and the weekend’s PWC races to be live streamed on www.motortrendondemand.com and www.world-challenge.com. All of the PWC competition at VIR will be televised on CBS Sports Network on a taped-delay basis.
The Touring Car Round 1 and 2 from VIR will be shown on CBS Sports Network on Sunday, May 14 at 4 p.m. EDT.