From the first time she got behind the wheel at a safe-driving lesson at the Monticello Motor Club, 13-year-old Aurora Straus was hooked. The young girl was just there to learn to car control skills, but when an instructor let her drive a few fast laps for fun, it flipped a switch in her.
“I will never forget the feeling of the machine under me. I was so small, and I had never experienced so much power,” the now-19-year-old explains. “It was the first time I had ever gone into the triple digits.”
And now she’s a professional driver about to do her 35th race. While perfecting her moves behind the wheel, the teen also graduated from high school, where she did well enough to win acceptance to Harvard. But Aurora deferred her admission until next fall, so she could continue her most challenging year so far in the sport.
In an upcoming race in Austin, she’ll be one of just three women out of 150 drivers in the series and she’s had to deal with her share of sexism in the male-dominated sport. From being told she “braked like a girl” to a team owner commenting about how she’d appeal to more supporters if she wore revealing outfits, but Aurora’s not letting it get to her. “I want no business in victimizing myself,” she explains.
She’s looking forward to attending Harvard, where she’s planning to study English and minor in mechanical engineering. But there’s another milestone she’s excited about - turning 21 in September 2019. When she makes the podium now, she gets sparkling cider, but once she’s legally old enough to drink, she says, “I’ll get real Champagne.”