Updated: Aug 11, 2020
#DrivingForwardTogether had the pleasure of interviewing Solo driver Michelle Knoll of the Washington DC region SCCA. She is currently driving a 2017 Mazda MX-5 in STR.
When did you start autocrossing? How did you start?
I started autocrossing back in April of 2011. My sister had been autocrossing since about 2003 and finally convinced me to give it a try. I took a novice school on a Saturday and did my first event the following day in my autotragic 2004 Subaru WRX on all season tires. I was hooked from the first run!
Do you participate in other motorsports aside from solo? If so, what?
Up until recently I hadn't ventured much beyond Autocross. I had been interested in trying out track events, but since I tend to favor convertibles I didn't have an appropriate vehicle. This winter I've had the opportunity to run at Summit Point in their Refrigerator Bowl, which is a Trackcross event. I've had a great time doing that, and recently ran my first event in my own NB Miata with it's newly installed rollbar. I'm also planning to do my first HPDE in March at Summit Point, which should be my first of many.
When you're not autocrossing what can you be found doing?
I love a good story whether fiction or non-fiction. It's not very exciting, but I spend a lot of my relaxing time watching tv shows, movies, reading/listening to books, or listening to podcasts. True crime is also my guilty pleasure, so anything with crime/suspense/serial killers or the like tends to be my go to.
What is your favorite autocross memory?
This was a hard one. Both of the memories I thought about are autocross adjacent, neither would have existed without autocross being in my life though. Last year I co-drove with my best friend, Jen Fox, in her STR prepped 2016 Mazda MX-5. I also owned a 2017 Mazda MX-5 and had ALL the parts for an STR car just sitting in my house. We were taking her car up to New Jersey for a test & tune, to setup the car for the upcoming Jersey Pro and had a kind of crazy thought...two ND's are clearly better than one! Could we possibly build an STR light ND, with less than a week before the T&T? Apparently we thought it was yes. Jen and I managed to get the front sway bar, rear sway bar, suspension, cat back exhaust, basic tune, front upper control arms with camber bushings, and header (we got some help with the last two) installed. I also somehow found time to get it aligned, and the wheels/tires mounted. It involved a few VERY late nights, along with mental and physical exhaustion for both of us, but it's my favorite because it was such an accomplishment. Disclaimer: I am not very mechanically inclined, so Jen gets most of the credit.
What are your plans for the 2019 season? Tours? Nationals?
I think this is going to be my busiest National season so far. The schedule as of now includes Dixie Tour, Charlotte Tour, Jersey Pro, Blytheville Pro, Spring Nats Pro & Tour, Oscoda Pro, Pro Finale and Nationals. If Peru Pro turns into Toledo Pro, I'll also be there.
What will you be focusing on improving this season?
Think Ahead! I feel like that is always something I have to remind myself to work on. I will look ahead but not actually think ahead. I also have a huge problem of under driving. I worry I'll hit cones, because well I hit them a lot, and that leads me to under drive so I won't. New rule for myself, no safety runs in 2019!
Any words for newcomers or someone hesitant to drive?
My biggest advice for anyone starting out is to go to a novice school. I think it was the best thing for me to start by going to a novice school. I learned how to read a course and how autocross worked in an environment full of other novices. For me, that was a comfortable environment and made jumping into autocross a lot less scary. This is coming from someone who is incredibly shy in new social situations, so I understand how it can be a little scary.
How does the #DrivingForwardTogether initiative align with your views?
I've come to believe that the existence of ladies classes is sexist. I wouldn't accept being separated like this in any other aspect of my life, so why would autocross be any different? I know that you don't have to run in ladies classes, but it's the expectation as a female that you will run in ladies classes. I think we should do everything we can to encourage everyone to race together. Separate but equal has never worked.
Are you/will you register for the #DFT contingency?
We thank Michelle Knoll for giving us the opportunity to speak with her. Make sure you keep an eye out for her this 2019 season!
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the blog do not necessarily reflect those of the guest, host or the DrivingForwardTogether initiative.