Building a racing career on self-belief and drive: Meet Collete Davis
The first person who has to believe in you is you
In her freshman year, Collete Davis walked into the dean’s office at her college with a pitch. She introduced herself as a race car driver, made her case for receiving a sponsorship from the school, and walked out with a contract. Next step? Learn how to drive a race car.
Confidence propelled her to introduce herself as a driver that day (even though she’d never raced anything bigger than a go-kart).
“The first person who has to believe in you is you,” she says. “Even then, I truly believed I was a race car driver.”
Confidence and curiosity have defined Collete’s life. She was 13 when she dismantled her first engine (her family’s lawn mower in the backyard of their home). Since then, she’s graduated to more sophisticated projects, such as building a Microsoft Surface-equipped drift car from the wheels up, spending two years on the Red Bull Global Rallycross circuit, an appearance as the stunt driver in Kia’s 2019 Forte commercial, and a tour driving the “Wonder Woman” truck for Monster Jam.
Challenging the status quo
Collete’s rise wasn’t without adversity. Before one event, her father overheard another man telling his son, “Don’t let that girl beat you in this race.” (She went on to win not only that race, but the entire championship.) She says comments like that were motivation to learn more and be a more aggressive competitor.
Collete knew early in her career that understanding car technology could be her competitive advantage—especially as a teenage girl breaking into the notoriously exclusive (and male-dominated) racing industry. At 16, she started attending Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for mechanical engineering and entrepreneurship, with a focus on high-performance cars. In her engineering classes, she was one of two women; on the race track, she was usually one of one.
“Eventually I looked around and thought, Why am I the only girl here? I never let stereotypes sink in to my brain,” she says. “I never thought I couldn’t do something because I was a girl.”
As part of her deal from Embry-Riddle, Collete embarked on a speaking tour of middle schools around Florida, encouraging girls to pursue their interests in STEM-related fields. Many of the girls reminded Collete of a younger version of herself, and she saw they were experiencing a lot of the same roadblocks and social stereotypes she had. But while she pushed forward despite her experiences, she realized other girls often didn’t—they just stopped. She felt like something had to be done—and she knew she could be the one to do it.
The microphone is louder at the top
Fueled by determination and the thrill of a challenge, Collete has made it her mission to encourage young women who are interested in STEM fields to pursue their passions. She says it comes down to teaching girls from a young age that their interests are valid, whether they love Barbies or motorbikes—or both: “If we can have more light on the women who are already in [STEM industries], then they’ll grow up with a different perspective.”
I had one girl tell me she did worse in math on purpose because she thought that’s what she was supposed to do. For me, that was a jaw-dropping moment.Collete Davis, Racecar driver
“In the beginning, my passion for motorsports is what made me passionate about entrepreneurship. If I wanted to do one, I had to do the other.” - Collete Davis
Collete Davis and her team working in their LA garage to build a Surface-equipped drift car.
“If we can just have more light on the women who are already in science, technology, engineering, and math—or in racing—and show [girls] this is normal, then they’ll grow up with a different perspective, thinking [...] it’s OK to do whatever they want to do.” - Collete Davis
Collete’s message of empowerment is reaching more young women as her fan base grows. When she speaks to audiences, she tells them the most important lesson she’s learned in her decade as a driver:
“You have to believe in yourself more than anybody else in the world in order to convince other people you’re worth believing in.”
Believe in yourself, she tells them—like, sometimes, saying you’re a professional race car driver just a few months after you get your driver’s license, because you might just walk out with the deal that makes you one.