Through The Esses - Mary Katharine's Dreams Have Persevered
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Photo Courtesy SCCA / SPEED Challenge
© Andrew S. Hartwell

Mary Katharine is a name followers of the Spec-Miata class may be familiar with. Anyone that followed the 2006 SPEED World Challenge series may also recognize the name. It is also entirely possible that movie goers will one day come to know Mary Katharine and her life story, for it is a story filled with desire and heartbreak and one that has come full circle to a point where her earliest dreams have come true.

Katharine raced a Tindol Motorsports prepared Mazda Protégé in the 2006 World Challenge series and equated herself quite well for someone who was running in her first full season of racing at that level, and while driving a car that was at least a year behind the rest of the field in terms of competitive potential.

A much abbreviated rendition of Katharine's story follows here. While space and time constraints have prohibited us from providing the kind of in-depth detail one would expect in a motion picture, we will at least attempt to give you a picture of this amazing woman who found the drive to put her own life in motion - fast motion - after having her life's tires' blown out when she least expected it

When I was a little girl, playing with my toy cars instead of dolls, it was always in the back of my mind that one day I'd like to be a race car driver. There were two things I wanted to be back then: a chef and a race car driver. I first went to a local cooking school when I was 11 and I actually began catering parties shortly after. My passion for cooking continued long after I was married at 19. Years later, after starting a family I knew I couldn't devote the time required to become a professional chef, but, pregnant with my third daughter, I enrolled in culinary school to become a pastry chef. Pastry chefs' hours, I knew, were far more flexible. I started working for a country club and would arrive at 4 a.m., run for an hour, then shower and work from 5 to 1, when I had to leave to pick my daughter up from school.

Katharine's life was moving along as well as any family could ever wish for until one wretched day in September of 2002.

In the fall of 2002 I found myself going through a very unexpected divorce after 17 years of marriage. I had been out jogging and when I returned home my husband told me that he was going to leave me. It was a complete surprise. When he left I was completely devastated and suddenly I had to hold the world together for my five daughters, then aged 1 to 9. I soon found that the best way for me to do that - and keep from succumbing to my grief - was to immerse myself in something in addition to my normal routine.

Racing was something that I had not thought seriously about, except for that dream I had in the back of my mind as a little girl. Shortly after my husband left I decided to learn how to race cars. I knew the discipline and level of concentration required would leave me little time to think about my situation.

I did some research and learned that the Justin Bell Motorsports Experience was at Moroso Motorsports Park, which is only about 40 minutes from where we live here in Florida. I enrolled in January of 2003, and I learned to race in Corvettes and Camaros. It was a challenge to learn all the techniques in cars that felt so big to me. I was used to my Lotus that I had run a couple of auto-crossing events in. I told my instructor at Bell that the Corvette felt like a Newfoundland to my Jack Russell Terrier!

When I went to racing school, the only person that knew about it was my younger brother, Michael. He also races, in the Milwaukee area. Even my mother didn't know about it. My children only knew that I was doing something with cars' for the weekend.

Her first taste of speed left this pastry chef hungry for more just desserts. She found a second helping in the form of a Japanese race car. It wasn't a Corvette, but it was a way to enter into the world of sportscar racing. That gave her the<