In this interview race car driver Nicole Rocheleau from Vermont talks about her way into racing, her tips for beginners and her sporting goals.
WHEEL SISTERS: Nicole, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Nicole: Hello! My name is Nicole Rocheleau. I am a motorsport enthusiast from Burlington, Vermont and member of the Sports Car Club of Vermont, the Adirondack Motor Enthusiast Club, and participant in MassTuning HPDE events, among others. I compete in wheel-to-wheel ice racing, autocross, time trials, have drifted a handful of times, and volunteered as a rally co-driver since I began high performance driving roughly five years ago. I have a 1999 Miata with home-built bolt tires for ice racing, and typically use my 2015 370z for all other types of event driving.
WHEEL SISTERS: How did you get introduced to motorsport?
Nicole: I was introduced to motorsport by a family friend who mentioned that there was a group of people that plowed ice racing or “ice time trial” courses right in my backyard on Lake Champlain. I had to see it for myself, and competed in my first ice time trial in January of 2018. As background, I am originally an equestrian, and worked my way up to competing on a national level of show jumping during my first 20 years of life. I found that there were many similarities between driving and horseback riding, such as honing in on depth perception skills and linking together a course, which brought me to fall in love with motorsport.
WHEEL SISTERS: What has had the biggest impact on improving your racing skills?
Nicole: Whenever I have the opportunity and the ice is thick enough, almost every weekend in the winter time is dedicated to getting out on the lake and practicing my car control skills. Ice presents an engaging challenge as the conditions are constantly changing, and it has forced me to become better attuned to anticipating slip, learn how to rotate my car into corners, etc. which translates well to racing on tarmac during the summertime.
WHEEL SISTERS: What was the most impressive moment of your career so far?
Nicole: I was voted Rookie of the Year and awarded the 2022 ice racing championship of the Street Legal Modified division this past season with the Adirondack Motor Enthusiast Club. It was a special moment because it reminded me that consistency and continuing to show up, even in moments when I’m doubting myself, can lead to being successful.
WHEEL SISTERS: What does motorsport give you personally?
Nicole: Motorsport gives me an important outlet to channel anxious or nervous energy into, rather than defaulting to self-sabotaging behaviors. As a sober individual, I find that in a culture where alcohol is central to so many adult activities, racing is an exception to the rule; it is a place where I can cope with stressors in a much healthier way than I used to.
WHEEL SISTERS: What is important for girls who wants to get into motorsport?
Nicole: When I first began getting into motorsport, I decided that I had to become comfortable with saying “I don’t know” when it came to the mechanics of cars, racing techniques, and types of performance builds. A lot of the time, to no fault of their own, other drivers will assume my competence when it comes to chatting about motorsport technicalities, and explain very foreign concepts that I have to ask for clarification on or for more information…. and I’ve learned that’s okay! For beginners, I think something important to remember is that just because one is on a racetrack, it does not mean that one has to take unnecessary risks or drive beyond what they are comfortable with. In other words, one does not need to spin the car in order to learn its limits. I also find that not timing my laps is the best way for me to avoid frustration and feeling slow relative to other drivers when learning new tracks. Without a lap timer, I am almost always better able to focus on learning the racing line instead.
WHEEL SISTERS: What are your sporting goals in the upcoming months or years?
Nicole: I would like to begin competing in GridLife events within the next year or so, and eventually, Spec Miata racing. I also hope to continue working on the committee for Lady Driven New England for years to come, who is hosting an automotive festival for women this coming September 3rd at Canaan Motor Club. There will be both track driving and an auto show at the event, with the goal of women helping other women take their first step into becoming involved with motorsport. :)