How the Idea of Thunder Valley Racing was Born
During the America's Cup yacht races in 1995, I found myself passionately involved with the fortunes of an all-women sailing team. They were competing in a previously all-male sport and they received quite a bit of media coverage. A great many people all across the country, people who normally did not follow yacht racing, tuned in to follow the fortunes of this very special team.
There is something compelling about the extra courage, skill, and determination it takes for women to compete in a sport usually reserved for men. I had, for a number of years, followed women's collegiate basketball with great interest and knew the draw that women in sports had for me and for many others and the impact that it had on girls and young women. I wondered if I could combine my interest in women-in-sports with my over-riding passion for automobile racing.
I had previously worked as the head of program marketing for a major public television station. My job was, essentially, to market the intangibles of public television sponsorship to major U.S. corporations, not an easy task by any measure. Since I had this experience in finding and supporting sponsorships in public television, I thought it natural for me to try my hand at creating sponsorships for women race car drivers, with the ultimate goal of managing racing teams of women drivers.
In this way, Thunder Valley Racing was born. My new consulting business was already called Thunder Valley Associates (after my favorite section of the Road America track), so it wasn't a problem extending the name to include racing.
I quickly found that women associated with racing were eager to build a community of women drivers and their fans. I was shocked and disappointed, however, in the chilly reception I received at advertising agencies, public relations firms and the marketing departments of corporations, all of whom I sincerely believed would leap at the chance to break through the clutter and speak directly and forcefully to women consumers. In 1996, the notion of women race car drivers was quite universally derided. Things, happily, have changed quite a bit since then.
To my great joy, however, the community of women drivers and their fans that I launched in 1996 grew to encompass drivers from all across the English-speaking world and Thunder Valley Racing became, and still is, the premier Internet community celebrating women in racing. I stepped aside in 2007 and look with pride as a new generation of leaders is taking Thunder Valley Racing forward.