Audra is well known in the New England Region, and has contributed a lot of time to help keep Autocross at Devens, especially with the Boston BMW CCA.
What is your name? What region do you belong to?
Audra Tella. Northeast Region
When did you start Autocrossing, and how did you get into it? What clubs do you drive with?
I started autocrossing in 2006. I bought a MINI Cooper in 2005 and took part in many of the social events offered by local MINI groups. One of the people I met, a member of Boston BMW CCA, kept telling me about autocross and about how I should try it. I wound up going to a couple of SCCA events my first season and was immediately hooked. At the time, I was not much of a hugger or giggler, but after my first run I hugged my friends and was giggling uncontrollably! (I still giggle a bit :-))
You are currently the Autocross Chair for the Boston BMW CCA Autocross Club, how has that shaped how you feel about autocross and women in motorsports in general?
I have had the opportunity to really see that there are so many great women drivers who are very involved in the sport and others who run events or provide support from behind the scenes. It is encouraging and really heartening to see many young women who are now joining as well. I think women are represented and we have made great strides, but we still have a long way to go to normalize women in motorsports. Unconscious residual biases have an impact on involvement and we all need to be aware that they exist and to address this issue directly.
What cars have you owned, and what car do you currently drive and what class are you in?
I started autocrossing with a 2005 MINI Cooper S. I have also owned a 2011 Volkswagen GTI, a 2008 BMW M3, a 1995 Mazda Miata and a 2017 BMW M2. The M2 is my current autocross car and it is in class BS.
Any words for newcomers or someone hesitant to motorsport?
For the first two years of autocrossing I would eat a handful of antacid on the way to events because I was so nervous. But, I kept going, even though I was always dead last, because it was so fun!. Do not let your anxiety prevent you from trying the sport and, if you like it, going back.
We hear that you have started a podcast with a few other women, tell us about that!
I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I am a huge fan of the media. A friend approached me about doing a podcast about cars, from our perspective, and I thought it sounded like fun. After thinking about it for a year, I talked to a couple of other friends and we started Shifting Points Podcast. Our focus is on the people who organize events and the everyday person who is the core of the sport, the person who may never be champion, but who is always there and is passionate about the sport.
Before we started, we talked in depth about how we wanted to present ourselves as a matter of gender in motorsports and consciously decided that in order to normalize women in motorsports that we would not focus on that as a priority. But, I do think that having all female co-hosts has made a positive impact for women. We discussed this on Episode 14 with Tom Colette, of Tedward Drives, as it relates not just to women, but for other under-represented groups as well. We are definitely starting to see more female podcasters talking cars. It is pretty wonderful and will go a long way towards normalizing our presence in motorsports.
When you’re not racing and podcasting, what can you be found doing?
Currently I am spending some time on home renovations. I am an avid reader, I like to travel and spend time with friends.
What is your favorite racing memory?
In 2006 I participated in the BMW CCA Advanced Driving Skills School. Although not a “race,” it was the first time I felt like I drove well. The instructor that I had was awesome and really pushed me on the wet/dry skip pad. It was the first time that I really let go and had a blast pushing my car, and myself, to the limit. I was smiling the whole time and my performance was good enough to elicit applause from my friends when we stopped.
What are your plans for the 2021 season? We hear that you did a ProSolo in New Jersey a few years ago running in BStreet, would you consider doing another one?
This year I am planning on going to the ProSolo in New Jersey. I am also looking into trying Time Trials and, if I can find a team looking for a real rookie, I would like to try LeMons or other endurance racing. I have been doing autocross for a long time now and am ready to branch out and try other motorsports.
What are you focused on improving this off season and into next season?
Slaloms. Always slaloms. (Okay and looking ahead too). I have a terrible tendency to dive at the cones. So much so that my friends call it “pulling an Audra.” I am still trying to fix that.
How does the Driving Forward Together initiative align with your views?
DFT is a great way to provide a positive supportive environment for women in the sport, and for those who are just beginning. It is important for us to reach out, not just to other women, but to all underrepresented people. It is really important overall as women define themselves in the sport and show that gender is not tied to performance.