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Gabby Cord-Cruz

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

Gabby Cord - Cruz is a spirited driver and working engineer! She lets us in on how autocross impacted her decision to become an engineer and the importance of a supportive codriver. We are so excited to see what Gabby will accomplish in the future, on and off the course.

What region do you belong to? What car and class do you drive?

I belong to the New York Region. I codrive a 1997 BMW M3 in B Street with my dad, Edwin Cord-Cruz, and sometimes a 1998 BMW M3 in STR with Heidi Ellison and Samad Jawed.

When did you start autocrossing? How did you get started? Did anyone introduce you?

I initially became interested after watching my dad drive at a few events over the years. Before I started my dad took me karting, to the BMW Teen Driving School, and to a TireRack Street Survival which introduced me to the basics of car control.

I started autocrossing in Summer 2014 right after I graduated high school and turned 18. I started in my automatic Mazda3 for a few events and then graduated to a manual - my dad’s (former) 1999 Turbo Miata.

What is your favorite autocross memory?

I’ll always remember the first time that Heidi offered me a codrive in her M3. It was also my first MSNE event in New Jersey, and I hadn’t driven in a lot that big before or in a car with that much power (so much fun!). I quickly took to the car and was really motivated to work on my driving after that (Thanks Heidi!).

What can you be found doing when you're not autocrossing?

If I’m not at work or autocrossing, you can find me at bar trivia nights (or watching Jeopardy/listening to podcasts to help with my trivia knowledge), at a concert/discovering new (and often obscure) music, visiting friends in Brooklyn, or watching True Crime shows.

Has autocross impacted your career choice? If it has, how so?

Autocross has immensely increased my interest in cars and has put working in the car industry on my radar. Given my engineering background I could see myself using either my mechanical engineering or mechatronics/robotics degree to improve/develop today’s cars or to contribute to autonomous car technology.

Has engineering impacted your driving?

Definitely. I always like to know why things work or why things are the way they are, and I understand things best when I get a technical explanation. I am cognizant of everything happening at an event such as what car I am driving, its modifications, and how they will affect my driving (or if/how I should change the way I drive), the course conditions, the weather, and variations of different course elements. Understanding the physics behind car balance helps me correct my driving during a run or improve my next run. Walking the course many, many, many times, decomposing the course into different sections, and figuring out a technical approach to the best line also plays a role in improving my overall driving and makes me a better driver.

What are some important qualities you find in a codriver?

I definitely do the best in a really supportive environment, and I love having a codriver more than driving alone because it’s more fun and there are so many learning opportunities. Before a run, I always repeat to myself in my head that “The car is more stable under throttle.”. I’ve been really lucky to codrive with people who mentor, support, and encourage me. Having been able to codrive with Heidi, my dad, and Samad continually over the years has definitely influenced my driving and motivated me to stay in the autocross community, and soon branch out from local events. It means a lot that they always look out for me, will go over data/videos, watch me during my runs, and talk me through tough areas on the course. It’s important to me that I get along with codrivers, am able to laugh about mistakes, and then talk through ways of fixing them. Even if I am codriving with someone for the first time, as long as we are able to learn from each other and encourage each other to improve throughout the day the event will always be fun and productive.

Do you have any advice for someone nervous to try autocrossing?

My advice is to just go for it. I was really nervous when I started, and I still get nervous all the time even if I have been doing this for a long time. But having the guts to go is the first important step. Once you make it to the event, there are plenty of people who have been autocrossing for a really long time who won’t hesitate to help out, and also make you want to keep coming out. After I made it to several events I was lucky (and am still very lucky) to have a mentor (thanks, Heidi!) who would always really want me to drive my best and improve continually. For a person who doesn’t know anyone and is afraid to dip her toes into the autocross pool, there are plenty of great women and men in each region who are always ready to talk you through the day, answer questions, let you ride with them, encourage you, etc. As long as you love driving and want to learn how to better control your car this is the sport for you - don’t be discouraged!

What would you like to see change in the world of autocross for women?

It would be nice to see autocross where women do not have to be looked at differently, treated differently, or separated from the rest of the competition just because of gender differences. I’m a woman who went to engineering school in a discipline that has been traditionally male dominated. I also work in the defense industry which is also traditionally male dominated. I've seen gender stereotypes implemented in places where they should not even exist in the first place and it still puzzles me each day. Over the years, I’ve seen this start to shift as more women began to enter male-dominated fields compared to before thanks to empowered women/allies working on empowering women. It’s about time that we see a shift in autocross and have *more* women want to stay and compete without barriers.

How do the Driving Forward Together ideals align with you?

First of all, I am just really inspired by the work that DFT is doing to support and bring more women into autocross. Having driven in Ladies’ Class in the past, locally and at a ProSolo, I can really put myself behind DFT’s push to have more women drive in Open Class based on the experiences I've had (shoutout to Gina, Tonianne, Amy and Heidi!). I would love to see more women feel comfortable driving in Open Class and just be able to compete together without the lens of gender, and it definitely starts with the gender stereotype threat/burden being removed from our events.

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