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Girl racers breaking down barriers

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Ashley Horseman and Jorja Thomas are doing their bit to shatter gender stereotypes by proving they are just as fast, if not quicker, than the male karters in their class.

In fact, once the pair have donned their anonymity-granting helmets, it is virtually impossible to differentiate them from the boys, such is their proficiency behind the wheel.

The 13-year-olds have been among the standout drivers in the Tag Juniors this season, claiming multiple podium finishes while regularly outperforming their male counterparts.

During the previous race day at the Rubis Southside Raceway, they produced their best performances yet; Thomas winning her first races and Horseman finishing second to beat Ryan Burgess, the runaway class leader.

As Horseman so succinctly puts it, they showed that “girls like to get down and dirty, too”.

Placing first in the opening heat was an unforgettable moment for Thomas, who also won the third race. “I wanted to go around the track one more time for a victory lap!” she said.

Horseman said she could not have been happier for her close friend, whose wins have further stoked her fire for a maiden victory.

“We placed first and second, and I think the person who normally comes first, Ryan Burgess, took it as a bit of a shock,” Horseman said.

“I think he was like, ‘whoa!' It was a personal win for me when I overtook Ryan on the last lap of the last race. He was like, ‘oh, you pushed me off'. I replied, ‘I've got to do what I've got to do'. People don't think we have the aggressiveness to be in there and overtake, but we're just as aggressive [as the boys] and want it just as bad.

“When they see us perform the way we do, they're blown away. We're beating the boys down there and that's not expected from girls.”

The pair are braced for a backlash from Burgess, who won the second heat, and are not averse to teaming up to improve their chances.

“If she was in front of me and there was someone [in front of her], she would give them a little knock so they would get a bit scared and then make a move, and I would just follow her,” Thomas revealed.

Thomas has blossomed this season, according to Horseman, particularly after being given a kart by fellow racer Mikey Lopes.

“I've been quite surprised with myself,” said Thomas, who has raced against Horseman for several years. “Usually, I'm racing dinosaurs, old cars with 20-year-old chassis. Mikey Lopes has been helping me and gave me one of his karts. It has a newer chassis.”

Between them, Horseman and Thomas have tried most sports: ballet, basketball, cricket, football and karate. It is karting, however, that has ignited their shared passion.

“When I first hopped in the kart, it was an immediate love; I thought, this is my sport,” said Horseman, who attends Mount St Agnes.

“It's just the need for speed and the control you have. It's just you and the kart; it's not a team sport. It felt so different to any other sport ... the focus, the adrenalin.”

Thomas, too, was immediately bitten by the karting bug. She “eats, sleeps and dreams” karting, according to her mom Hildegarde Thomas.

“My dad says that I had a smile when I first got in the kart and that I never took it off my face,” said Thomas, a Saltus Grammar School pupil.

Karting is a family affair for Horseman. Her 16-year-old brother Blake races the Tag Seniors and readily gives his sister advice, even though it often falls on deaf ears.

“I'm glad I have Blake because he's out there racing on the same track and not too long ago he was in the same class as me,” Horseman said.

“Although we always argue about little things and sometimes I might not want to hear what he has to say, he's always giving me advice.

“A lot of people say they love being at the track with me and my brother because we're always arguing! The track is the place where we connect and bond.”

• For more information on how to get involved and what the club offers, e-mail bermudakartingclub@yahoo.com or go to the club's Facebook page. Alternatively, call club president Scott Barnes on 505-1611 or committee member Travis Lewis on 535-0558

Shared passion: Jorja Thomas, left, and Ashley Horseman have been among the most competitve drivers in the Tag Junior class this season (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Thomas claimed her first chequered fag in the previous race day at the Rubis Southside Raceway this month (Photograph by dynamicdigitalbda)

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Published February 23, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated February 22, 2018 at 10:02 pm)

Girl racers breaking down barriers

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