If you think that racing karts are made for boys alone, Michele Bumgarner is here to prove you wrong! This 28-year-old Filipina racer made her debut in racing at the age of 10 during the National Karting Series in 1999. She started to develop her love for driving with her brother at the early age of 9 because her father owned a go-kart track in Subic.
In an interview with Autocar Philippines, Michele said that being a woman in the male-dominated industry did give her a bit of a hard time. Being young, she had to beg her dad to give her a go-kart but his initial reaction was ‘You’re a girl, you stay home and play Barbies.’ Other than karting, she was also into tennis aside being a fan of the track. That is when her father made her choose, not because he discouraged her, but because tennis tournament and racing competitions both happened on weekends so the schedules clashed. Michele chose racing for two reasons – she has more fun in racing and there aren’t a lot of girls. Now, that’s one way to standout.
But starting out, she did not really care if she was the only girl on the track. She didn’t care if she stood out. She wanted to race and focus on improving her skills.
“I was really slow when I first started. I think people were a little bit shocked when I eventually started winning, but I was really slow.” Michele said.
But of course, sooner or later, she had to prove herself. Michele said she always had to compete against boys since she was the only girl in the group most of the time.
Being a champion racer, we asked her if there is an end trying to prove herself in the industry. “Never. This is something that I constantly need to overcome time and time again. And honestly, it sucks, it’s hard but its something that I choose to be in and it feels really great when I prove them wrong. It’s one of the perks being fast but it feels great when guys just shut up, when they can’t say anything because I beat them, I’m faster than them so it feels great.“ Michele said.
When asked if she does things to intentionally go against the stereotype, she said that what she does just comes out naturally, it just so happens that it breaks the mold. Michele also thinks it’s great things happen without her exerting too much effort. Her actions are loud enough to make a point.
Outside The Tracks
Away from the adrenaline and fast-paced vehicles of the track, Michele is still a driver of course. But a go-kart is a lot different from a streetcar and driving the two is pretty different as well. But just as she drives a go-kart alone, Michele also shared that she prefers driving a car alone because she’d rather sing along to a song in full blast than talk with her passengers. But if you sing along with her, she’d definitely make an exemption!
Michele admitted that she is a big fan of Mazda cars. Whenever she stays here in the Philippines, she’d always choose a Mazda car as a companion. She says that her Mazda is one of the best cars she has ever driven.
Her profession also involves a lot of travelling. Races aren’t held in one place. So she has driven the roads of different countries. But driving in Manila is a standout. She told us that everyday is a horrible day to drive in EDSA because of the traffic. But not all that come out of the experience is bad.
“I always tell people that if you know how to drive in the Philippines, you can drive anywhere in the world. It’s tough to drive here, even coming from me who drives for a living. I always tell them that I always get good practice when I come here because there are so many obstacles in the world that I have to avoid.” she explained.