While most her age will probably be recovering from a night out next Sunday morning, Renee Gracie will be making history at the Bathurst 1000.
The 20-year-old will team up with Swiss driver Simona De Silvestro, in the first all female racing duo to compete in Australia’s most famous race since 1998.
“It was of those things I never thought it was going to come this soon, but it’s really exciting and it’s a once in a lifetime,” Gracie told Yahoo7.
The Queenslander, who is often dubbed a glamour girl of Australian motorsport, has been racing since before she could legally drive on the road.
She made her start in go-karts at the age of 14, before graduating to touring cars on her 18th birthday.
She then spent two years in the Porsche Carrera Cup, the first female to do so, before moving on to the V8 Supercars development category, the Dunlop Series.
Now, thanks to a wild card entry, her and De Silvestro will compete in the grueling 161-lap endurance race next Sunday.
Gracie says she is is thrilled to be hitting Mount Panorama with the more experienced De Silvestro, whose track record includes being the Indianapolis 500 rookie of the year and an affiliate driver for Formula 1 team Sauber.
“She will be really great to partner with and I think with her on my side we’re going to do really well.”
“I’m glad it can be me and Simona who are part of the first female drive team to hit the track in years.”
Gracie, who finds it a novelty to even be around another female racer, said she has become used to being someone that breaks down the gender barriers.
“It was never really the intention I was just doing what I wanted to do and what I loved doing,” she said.
“Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of female racecar drivers in Australia so it’s one of those things that I’m just fortunate enough that no matter where I go no matter what I do that it often happens to be that I’m the first female to do it.
“I hope that I might be the first, but I hope that there are many more to come.”
She admits that being one of the few females in a male dominated sport can be challenging.
“It is hard and it is tough… I still doubt myself everyday and you still get people who tell you that you can’t do it and I’ll probably suffer that for the rest of my career.”
Gracie, whose best result for the series so far is a 12th place she claimed at the Townsville 400, has been working incredibly hard to prepare for the race.
She has spent hours doing gym sessions, endurance bike rides, simulator work and strategy reviews, in order to improve her fitness and concentration levels.
Ready for some testing in this Beast. 😃 https://t.co/000CKdIkyc— Simona De Silvestro (@simdesilvestro) September 27, 2015
Earlier this week, she and De Silvestro, who has never previously raced a V8 supercar, spent two days testing their Ford Falcon FGX at Winton Motor Raceway in Victoria.
Helping the girls along is Gracie’s mentor, reigning Bathurst 1000 winner and team owner Paul Morris.
“Being a girl a lot of people sometimes tell me they don’t want to hurt my feeling or don’t want to see me upset but Paul’s not like that, he doesn’t care if he makes me cry or annoys me, he tells me how it is and that’s important if you want to improve.”
While Gracie doesn’t want to be treated any differently from her male competitors, there is no escaping the glamour girl tag, which has followed her for years.
“I don’t try to be glamorous, I think it’s just the way people perceive me cause I’m doing something that isn’t necessarily done.
Gracie who can sometimes be found straightening her hair after a big race, makes no apologies for not changing her ways to blend in more with the boys.
“That’s what I want to do and that’s me and I’m not going to change that just because I race in a sport where the boys laugh at me for using a hair straightener.”
Gracie is confident that in time, more women will make it big in Australian motorsport.
“It just takes time for people to really realise that we want to do it and we can do it,” she said.
“It takes people like Simona and I going to Bathurst and showing people that we might not win the race but we are going to have a go at it.”
“We’ve just got to break through the barrier really… There is no reason why no one can’t accept us and we can’t do it. It will get easier and easier as time goes on.”
Gracie hopes she can inspire more young girls to get involved in motorsport and become someone they can look up to.
“I hope people will look up to me how I look up to Simona in a way, just know that there is hope and that they’re not the only one.”