Girl power on and off track
When 16-year-old Brooke Helms first heard the sound of her car’s engine running - she burst into tears.
The Cromwell College student had every reason to be emotional. She had spent the past 31 weeks attending an automotive course learning how to build the car from scratch so she could race it on the speedway track.
‘‘This is my fourth year racing at the speedway here, but I have been racing the mini-stocks for the past three seasons. I got a new car which was basically a body and roll cage. It needed a lot of things done to it and I wanted to learn how to do it myself.’’
Helms, with the help of instructor Richard Leach, has installed everything from an engine and transmission to gearbox and drivetrain.
Some of the skill-sets were covered on the course, other lessons were spent late into the night and weekends, beyond what level was covered on the course.
‘‘It was tough. It has been a real challenge but I would not have changed it for anything. I’ve got a car out of it. It’s been really exciting. As soon as I heard it fire up I cried.’’
The student, who has just finished Year 12, said she got into racing after she was diagnosed with diabetes when she was 13.
‘‘We used to go to speedway as spectators. When I was in hospital dad asked me what was something I would like to do to take my mind of it, and speedway was the first option.’’
Helms was one of 16 on the Otago Polytechnic’s Central Otago Campus course offered free to Year 11 to 13 students.
Leach said he did not mind giving students like Helms an extra hand, because she was so motivated to put in the work and help herself.
‘‘She’s put a lot of work in and been really committed to it. If she had not have done that I would not have stepped in to help her.’’
The course had run for five years and could be extended because of its popularity, Leach said.
‘‘I think word is getting out because it is a bit of fun and most boys, and a few girls, are interested in cars...With boys it is usually an indication they are mechanically minded if they always pulled their toys apart.’’
And for mechanically-minded girls?
‘‘Well, I used to pull my dollies apart,’’ Helms said.
Brooke Helms, 16, of Cromwell built her speedway car - a two-litre sr20de Nissan Primera.