Girl power on and off track

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

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.

JO MCKEN­ZIE-MCLEAN

Brooke Helms, 16, of Cromwell built her speed­way car - a two-litre sr20de Nis­san Primera.

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