Friday, August 18, 2017

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Isabella Busalacchi began her career racing in the San Diego Karting Association at El Cajon Speedway at the age of five. (Credit: Isabella Busalacchi) Isabella Busalacchi began her career racing in the San Diego Karting Association at El Cajon Speedway at the age of five. (Credit: Isabella Busalacchi)
 


Defying Gender Stereotypes

SDSU student Isabella Busalacchi is leaving gender stereotypes in her dust.
By Katie Stanchis
 

“The academics at SDSU are second to none and the student life is fantastic. I am very proud to be an Aztec and a legacy as well.”

San Diego State University finance major Isabella Busalacchi has been defying gender stereotypes since she was a young girl.

Busalacchi is an international karting and racing sensation, and is currently prepping for her first professional race, the Pirelli World Challenge.

Her passion for racing started when she was an infant sitting on her father’s lap every weekend watching Formula One on television. As an Italian family, they rooted for Scuderia Ferrari, a luxury Italian auto manufacturer. The team’s top driver, Michael Schumacher, inspired Busalacchi to pursue her passion of becoming a race car driver. While many young girls played with dolls, Busalacchi played with her battery-operated Jeep, which helped her develop a high level of spatial awareness and car control early on in life.

At the age of four, Busalacchi cheered for her father as he participated in the BMW Car Club of America at Qualcomm Stadium. Little did she know she would practice in the same arena years later.

Her father noticed her enthusiasm for racing combined with her talent for maneuvering toy cars and signed her up for racing lessons at Amago Raceway. The opportunity to have a taste behind the wheel fueled her desire to become a racer even more, and she asked for a go-kart for her birthday.

On her fifth birthday, Busalacchi’s wish came true. Shortly after, she began her career racing in the San Diego Karting Association (SDKA) at El Cajon Speedway in a 50 cc kid kart.

In her first years of racing, she wore Barbie boots as racing shoes, which angered many of her competitors and their fathers who questioned how a girl could beat their sons.

“When I was younger and had just started racing karts, I experienced a lot of backlash mostly from fathers of my young competitors for being a girl and beating all the boys,” said Busalacchi.

As she transitioned into racing cars, she was met with open arms from her club, Porsche Club of America, (PCA) and fellow competitors. Her father’s reputation as a fierce and respected competitor within the PCA coupled with her success in karting at a young age led to a well-respected position in the community.

“It is refreshing to be treated as an equal as I have never been treated as one before,” said Busalacchi. “Over the past couple years, women have progressively made up a larger demographic at race weekends whether it be at autocrosses, time trials or races. The effort myself and many other women have made seems to be successful in attracting more females to the sport.”

Since then Busalacchi has won over a dozen awards and even gained Scott Kuhne of 4R Motorsports as a sponsor. She has traveled to Paris, where she won the title of Female Spring Cup World Champion in the Sodi World Series in 2012 and 2013. Between both years, she placed 15 and 16 overall in the same series and received recognition as the top American driver.

In 2015, Busalacchi began her studies at SDSU, where she plans to prepare herself for a career in real estate or the automotive field.

“I chose SDSU because it has a great business school,” Busalacchi said. “I love San Diego so I wanted to stay at home, and I loved the campus and the atmosphere. The academics at SDSU are second to none and the student life is fantastic. I am very proud to be an Aztec and a legacy as well.”

Her freshman year at SDSU, she joined Aztec Racing, a student run organization focused on designing and building a formula open-wheel race car. She helped attract sponsors, wrote business proposals and arranged business presentations for competitions.

Since she started college, she has been practicing at Qualcomm Stadium, traveling to desert tracks on the weekends and practicing on her stimulator at home.

“Often times, I have to sacrifice going out with friends or relaxing so I can get my work done, but I have found a good balance to juggle all my responsibilities.”

Busalacchi has a busy summer ahead of her training for the Pirelli World Challenge, which will take place in October. She will be practicing at Laguna Seca to familiarize herself with the course where the competition will take place, as well as visiting Arizona to test drive the MINI Cooper she plans to use during the race. In between, she will be training physically to ensure she is in top condition come fall.

“As a racer in college, it can be difficult with the travel and the effort that went into working for my opportunity to race in Pirelli World Challenge," said Busalacchi. “However, I enjoy being an athlete in a unique sport. Most of my classmates cannot say that they are a race car driver, so it is nice to be unique at a large college.”