Mazda MX-5 Cup’s Ashton Harrison Is a Fierce Female Racer With Some Fancy Footwork
The 24-year-old racing driver is also an instructor at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta.
Georgia native Ashton Harrison is one of the rising stars of the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup, and if you ask any of her teammates and competitors, she's also one of the fiercest racers in the field. And if this video serves as any indication, she's probably a great dancer as well.
As you can see on this footage that Harrison kindly recorded specifically for The Drive, she took her fancy footwork and excellent driving skills to Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin last weekend where she contested the fifth and sixth rounds the 2018 Mazda MX-5 Cup season. There, I had the chance to chat with her and discuss her personal background and what the future holds for the only female racer in the popular Mazda series.
Before diving into Harrison's career, it's worth highlighting that the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup is one of the most accessible racing series in the world thanks to its scholarship system that helps drivers progress through the sport in an organic manner. However, the best thing about the spec series is the extremely close wheel-to-wheel action it produces on the track.
At 24-years-old, Harrison isn't the youngest driver on the field, that honor belongs to 14-year-old Robert Noaker, but she probably has one of the most interesting and unorthodox coming-up stories in the series.
"Funny enough, I struggled with my driver's test," said Harrison. "I actually failed my learner's permit test four times when I was 16!" "However, there was something about driving and specifically about driving a manual [transmission] and being in full control of the car that was addicting. Oh, and I also had a 'leadfoot.'"
"Eventually I got in trouble with the law when I began accumulating speeding tickets and I almost lost my license, so that's when I went to the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona. After going through all the phases I got my SCCA license and began driving competitively in the southeast region."
Unlike most of her racing mates, Harrison never got behind the wheel of a go-kart or raced any of the series that are considered the "gateway" into sports cars or open-wheel racing. Instead, Harrison began her career at the wheel of a race-prepped C5 Corvette Z06, which she quickly realized wasn't the best car to go racing with as a rookie, so she eventually switched it for a 2002 1.8-liter Spec Miata race car built and supported by Racing Analytics, and the rest is history.
"I went from something that had over 500 horsepower to something that had 112, and I hated it at first, but it taught me to man up and learn how to squeeze the most out of the car regardless of the circumstances," Harrison explained. "I've always had a need for speed but I've really taken the MX-5 Cup by the horns. This is all I want to do and it's just a blast. You just can't beat the MX-5 Cup, it's the closest racing in the U.S. and you'll never be able to race as close as this elsewhere."
This video you see here shows Harrison making her way through the field on the first lap of the second race at Road America last weekend, where she successfully passed three cars at the start, and a fourth before the first lap was over. By the end of the race, Harrison finished five positions higher than where she started. If that doesn't sound like a lot, then let me remind you that the first six spots of the field were separated by mere hundredths of a second—it's that close.
Harrison, whose day job entails instructing newbies on how to drive their toys at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, doesn't like to play the "woman card" too much.
"I feel like I've got a very good chance to represent women who are actually interested in motorsports," she added. "I don't think women are treated differently here, I simply feel that I've done a good enough job to be respected by everyone else who I race with."
"If I can manage to make women more aware of their worth, through racing, I'll be happy. We're just as competitive as men and we're a bit more patient!"