For 55 years, Mercedes-AMG has pushed the limits of performance and broken boundaries in the automotive industry. Now the performance brand is celebrating a group of Canadian women who are doing the same. Canadian drivers, Nicole Havrda, Demi Chalkias, and Cherie Storms, formed an all-woman driver line-up to compete in an endurance night race at Buttonwillow Raceway in California as part of the Western Endurance Racing Championship.
Canadians can learn more about their journey at www.mercedes-benz.ca/fullthrottle.
"It's in our DNA to push the limits of performance and challenge the status-quo," says Eva Wiese, president and CEO, Mercedes-Benz Canada. "The legend of AMG starts with a large luxury Mercedes-Benz sedan that was converted into a racecar. It beat out the lighter racecars of the day and caused a sensation. We started by challenging the norms of what a racecar can look like; now we are challenging people's ideas of what a racecar driver can look like."
The All-Canadian, All-Woman, Driver Line-Up:
- Nicole Havrda: Sixteen-year-old Nicole Havrda from Comox, British Columbia is a former competitive skier and swimmer who first set her sights on racing after attending a Formula 1 race in Austria while vacationing with her family. She started her career in karting where she earned her first podium finish in 2019. Havrda has quickly made a name for herself and is currently training to compete in Formula 3 in 2023 in the open-wheel racing car category for junior drivers.
- Demi Chalkias: Demi Chalkias is a two-time Pirelli GT3 Spirit championship winner from Bowmanville, Ontario. Her motorsport career was suddenly halted in spring 2021, when she was diagnosed with Tenosynovial Giant Cell Tumor (TGCT), a rare condition that attacks the body's joints. Following surgery and a spectacular recovery, Chalkias was back behind the wheel to compete as part of the all-woman driver line-up in Buttonwillow and is gaining notoriety again, placing first in the BARC Canadian Touring Trophy Races at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park Races in 2021.
- Cherie Storms: A three-time winner of the Sports Car Club of BC Competitor of the Year Award, Cherie Storms' exposure to motorsport came early through her father, an accomplished professional racecar driver. She didn't start driver training until 2018, after her father experienced a health scare. This experience prompted Cherie to follow in his footsteps, and she has since gone on to build a solid reputation for herself as a fierce and successful competitor.
Melanie Paterson, a former racecar driver who has been involved in motorsport since 1999, took a leading role in identifying drivers for the all-woman driver line-up. She also coached and mentored the drivers to prepare for the race. In October 2021, the racers competed as a team in a three hour endurance race at Buttonwillow Raceway in California. They took shifts driving a Mercedes-AMG GT4, which is an orderable customer-racing car that shares many similarities with the road-going Mercedes- AMG GT R.
"I could see an immediate bond form between these drivers. They each understood what it was like to be the only female in their field and were excited for the opportunity to work together with other women and establish themselves as serious competitors," says Paterson. "Representation matters, and I know it will inspire many young women to see these incredible racers in the spotlight."
Driving Change: Diversity in Motorsport
In motorsport, competition is based on experience, tactics, and skill; men and women can compete shoulder-to-shoulder. Still, women remain significantly outnumbered and underrepresented in the sport. Lewis Hamilton, driver for Mercedes-AMG Petronas is the most successful driver in the history of Formula 1; he is also the only black driver in the history of the sport. He has been vocal about boosting efforts to increase diversity.
"Mercedes-AMG has a long and storied history in motorsport and is committed to making it the best it can be for generations to come. That means creating space for everyone to participate," says Wiese. "We are excited to highlight Canadian women who are competing and excelling in this exciting sport, and hope seeing this representation can serve as inspiration to others to follow your dreams even if you don't fit the traditional mold."
Canadians can learn more about Havrda, Chalkias and Storms at www.mercedes-benz.ca/fullthrottle. The project is linked to the She's Mercedes platform, a global initiative by Mercedes-Benz, which aims to inspire and empower by highlighting high-achieving women.
Feature Documentary Project
Canadians will see more of these drivers in an upcoming full-length documentary produced by Deep Cove Productions Ltd. The streaming platform for the documentary will be announced later this summer.
"While Mercedes-Benz was not involved in the production of this documentary, we're excited for Canadians to learn more about these drivers and of course to see them pushing the limits of performance in a Mercedes-AMG GT4," adds Wiese.
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About Mercedes-Benz Canada
Mercedes-Benz Canada Inc. is responsible for the distribution, marketing and customer service of Mercedes-Benz, Mercedes-AMG, Mercedes-Maybach and Mercedes-EQ passenger vehicles, as well as Mercedes-Benz Vans. Headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario, Mercedes-Benz Canada employs approximately 250 people across Canada. Through a nationwide network of 59 authorized dealerships, Mercedes-Benz Canada sold 36,240 vehicles in 2021. This positioned Mercedes-Benz as the top luxury manufacturer in Canada for the eighth consecutive year.
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