Aurora Straus is hopeful that her newly formed all-female driver initiative can build “from the top down” and offer a “springboard” for aspiring young women racers in North American sports car racing.
Straus has joined forces with Christina Nielsen and Katherine Legge for this year’s Pirelli GT4 America season, which will see the 22-year-old Harvard student team up with Nielsen at the wheel of Murillo Racing’s Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 Clubsport in the first all-female lineup in SRO America history.
While competing in the Silver class in the highly competitive SprintX-style championship, Straus explained to Sportscar365 the greater goal of the program, which is to help bring more female racers into the sport.
“I feel very grateful to be in the position where we can not only have an all-female program but also be in the position where I personally feel we can contend for the championship,” she said.
“We like to win races; that’s why we’re here.
“But there’s also a huge lack in the U.S. of a real development driving program for girls and women who have very promising talent.
“That’s starting to change. You see the initiatives in IndyCar and you can tell in the upper echelon that executives in motorsports are trying to put their money where their mouth is.
“Part of what Christina, Kat and I agree on — and I appreciate we all share this vision — there are so few women in motorsports, they get propelled to a level they’re not ready for immediately.
“We’re almost trying to build a program from the top-down.”
Straus, who is making her racing return after more than a year away from the cockpit, has created a number of women-focused initiatives, including offering trackside tours with the Girl Scouts of America (pictured above).
She also carries the backing of Richard Mille, which has been a global supporter of women in motorsport, particularly in sports car racing.
“I reached out to [Christina and Kat] months ago, saying that I have some partners that I think would be interested. ‘Would you be willing to help me build this program?'” said Straus.
“My much longer-term goal is to use this as a springboard to build that driving development program within American sports car racing.
“That’s a goal I share with all of my sponsors that I know Christina and Kat are also on board with.
“We need to be on the field in order for this to be a vision, in order for girls and women to even be interested.
“The first step is go out there, win races and put different toes in the water in terms of figuring out the team, the platform and sponsors.
“Ideally we’d work down from there.”
While having driven a number of different GT4 cars through the years, Straus is hopeful to forge a long-term partnership with Porsche, which has already supported Nielsen and Legge’s initiative in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“Porsche has been an amazing partner,” she said. “I think there are executives in top levels of motorsports, including manufacturers and partners, that understand the view of diversity of motorsports from a gender standpoint.
“If you’re Porsche, a majority of their stakeholders, the people that buy their cars, are actually women. Women have the majority of the purchasing power in the U.S.
“I think a lot of people in motorsports are starting to realize that it’s lucrative to have more women in racing. But separate from that, it’s just the right thing to do.
“I appreciate the fact that they understand that. They have been super supportive about it and could be a very good potential long-term partner.
“I’m anxious to see how this year goes.”