Please, introduce yourself!
My name is Amy Ebert, and I race in the Central Florida Region (CFR) SCCA.
Which Motorsports do you participate in?
I race in CFR’s RallyCross program. I also participate in private track days with my husband, his car-crazed coworkers, and our racing friends at our “local” track (it’s actually 3 hours away, but whatever) called “The FIRM” (https://gorally.com/).
How is Rallycross different from Autocross?
SCCA RallyCross is very similar to Autocross except in the driving surface. We have cones marking the course, pointer cones, gate cones, start/finish, the whole shebang. BUT instead of racing on a paved surface, all those cones and curves of the course are out in an empty field. The different surfaces of the different race facilities add another element to the competition. I’ve been told that seat time from one translates very well to the other, so you won’t need to start from square one if you already Autocross but want to try out RallyCross!
What class do you compete in there?
I was competing in “PF” which is Prepared Front wheel drive. I compete in a 2015 Ford Fiesta ST which I share with my husband. This year I’ll be moving up to Modified, “MF”.
When and how did you start in motorsports?
My husband and I started racing SCCA RallyCross in January 2018 and just completed our fourth season.
In 2017, my husband had just finished grad school; I told him that the past few years of our lives had just been spent focusing on what HE wanted to do, and we were both a little burnt out from the work required. So I said “now it was time to do something fun that I want to do”. Luckily for him, it was RallyCross.
Any words for newcomers or someone hesitant to motorsport?
I always tell people that they don’t need a dedicated racecar. Most people think you need training or a special/expensive car/tires/suspension/etc., but with SCCA RallyCross, you can show up in a $500 mechanic’s special from Craigslist, no prior seat time beyond your daily commute, and still have a blast AND be competitive! Skill comes from instinct and practice, not from equipment.
One of my favorite hashtags to use on the CFR RallyCross Instagram (which I now manage for our region’s program) is #RallyCrossisforEveryCar because it’s true; we have everything from stage-raced & caged subarus to stock 350Z, and everyone has a great time!
The other hashtag I try to use anytime our diverse competitors give me the opportunity is #RallyCrossisforEveryDriver – it’s VERY important to me to set a good example for our children, especially our daughter, and any other women, BIPOC, or LGBTQ+ out there who think they can’t race or are intimidated by the motorsport community. Being comfortable in and around cars, especially behind the steering wheel, is at worst: potentially life-saving and at best: hella fun!
What sorts of preparations does the car require for this type of racing?
There’s really nothing needed except a car that can pass tech inspection and a helmet that fits (and even then there were loaner helmets, at least there were before COVID happened). Remember, #rallycrossisforeverycar! But there are lots of things that can help!
The choice of car matters mainly due to ground clearance and height of the center of gravity of the car. Higher ground clearance means you don’t have to worry as much about damage from bottoming out on the ruts that are formed at almost every event.
But you can’t go too high, because if the car has a narrow stance and is tall, it’s going to be easier to roll, and the program organizers don’t want to deal with that paperwork.
The choice of tire can help depending on the racing surface. Some of our tracks are literally a dirt field. Some are more of a packed gravel surface. Gravel tires or snow tires can help give traction to get you moving faster, but they aren’t necessary.
Skid plates or some sort of underbody protection can really help preserve the low-riding racecars (like our own Fiesta ST). Our home course in St. Lucie has quite a few rocks in it and I’ve seen a car lose all its oil due to an oil pan puncture on course.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention harnesses, cages, or the like that you’d expect from any stage rally car; the SCCA RallyCross courses are specifically designed to keep the risk level low so that competitors don’t need to invest $100k to get started in the sport. Luckily low risk doesn’t mean low fun!
What is your favorite racing memory?
Behind the wheel: no one thing in particular except that feeling of finding the groove and having everything happen when/where it’s supposed to on the track!
At an event in general: offering up or being offered a racecar to help finish the day’s runs; sometimes a car breaks and it cannot be repaired with a zip tie or wd40 and that means the end of the day for that driver… but it doesn’t have to!!! Seeing a competitor’s face when they realize they don’t have to stop for the day really lifts you up. I dunno about you, but I certainly don’t want to win because of attrition.
What are your plans for the off-season and upcoming 2022 season?
Since this season was my second in a row getting 2nd in class by 3 points or less, I’m hoping to bring back the fun and focus a little less on the podium finish, especially because this off-season will see big changes for our racecar. It has already received a tune care of our first ever sponsor: Tunewerks (https://www.tunewerks.com/)! It also has an upgraded intercooler and a new intake. All of these upgrades (except the tune, surprisingly) bump us into Modified Front wheel drive (MF) class.
I also hope to compete in our “home track”’s private rally series called Rally-X. It’s a notch above SCCA RallyCross in intensity, but not as kapow as stage rally. That will be a whole new challenge for me!
This coming season, I’ll need to relearn what Toothless is capable of with all his new upgrades. I hope to focus on improving my handbrake turns and trying out some left-foot braking. Getting a front wheel drive car to rotate in turns isn’t impossible, but these skills will help make it much easier!
How did you hear about DFT, and how does it align with your views?
The car we race is really what prompted me to get into sharing our story and our progress on social media. Through my time on Instagram (@toothlessrallydragon) I discovered more and more women in all levels of rally. I forget exactly how I stumbled across DFT, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it immediately.
I really focus a lot on my motto/mantra: “Lead by example”. It’s on my mind all day every day. It’s easy to just tell someone to stick their neck out and try something new, but you can lend others some of your confidence when you show them that you’re willing to take that step too. With a young son and daughter to parent, a group of young girls in our Girl Scout troop to guide, and other ladies I’ve met and befriended over the years seeing me go through this, we can all grow stronger and win together. They see what I do and realize that they can do it too.
I really want to help grow the RallyCross program for SCCA since they’ve done so much for us; they’re a 2nd family now. I also want to encourage & grow women’s presence in motorsport and help lift women everywhere up. There are some women already competing at all levels that I’ve mentioned, and I applaud each and every one of them for the work they’ve put in. When we lift each other up, we all rise together!
I would also love to see DFT grow beyond Autocross and to include RallyCross and related competitions. Let’s show the women already competing in these events that they’re seen, and let’s show everyone else that we’re right there with them, going through that finish line and onto the next race!
When you’re not racing what can you be found doing?
When I’m not racing, I’m either busy working as an engineer or busy with my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. As troop co-leader, I help plan meetings, events, outings, and the “big show”: the Girl Scout Cookie Sale season. I try to work STEM activities into our badge work whenever I can since I have an engineering degree. My co-leader and I want to take them to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center and show them the wonder happening in our own “backyard”!
I also support my husband when he’s coaching our son’s soccer team or when he’s planning another DIY project. In my rare “me time”, I like to make quilts or bake/eat cookies.
Anything else you would like to share?
It was easy to convince my husband to pursue RallyCross, but not as easy to agree on the car to purchase. We shopped for a car for a few months because we wanted a fixer-upper to keep costs down (we’re both mechanically inclined). We didn’t have any specific make/model in mind, but we eventually found the perfect car.
Our Fiesta ST is named “Toothless” after the main dragon in the How To Train Your Dragon movies because it’s small, black, fast and had “tail” damage. The previous owner had unfortunately been rear-ended causing the car to be totaled. It was later sold at auction to a body shop and that shop put it up on Craigslist due to having a backlog of cars to work on. The listing said something like “you can buy it now or buy it later, but once we put in the work, the price goes up!” We bought it, brought it home, and spent 4 months of evenings and weekends fixing it up to become street legal on the salvaged title.
Even though the car had been totalled, it came with all the parts and body panels, all except the front driver’s side fender. We bought a replacement, unpainted, and used red vinyl to protect it from the harsh Florida sun. Considering the name, we added a vinyl sticker of a skull onto the fender, so it would look similar to the tail prosthetics from the HTTYD movies.
A short couple months of daily-driving was all the shake-down we gave him before throwing him into the dirt!