When she was 16 years old, Collete Davis walked into her college president’s office 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? Time to go racing.
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.”
This kind of confidence and curiosity has long defined Collete’s life, even as a kid. She was just 13 when she dismantled her first engine, which happened to be her family’s lawn mower in the backyard of their home. Now, as a bona fide rising star in the racing world, Collete has set her sights on a new goal: becoming the first female professional Pro-1 licensed drift car driver—with the help of her family.
It’s exciting for me because there’s something to prove and history to make. That’s motivating for me, and it’s an awesome goal to have.Collete Davis, Racecar driver
Success is a family affair
When Collete Davis’s younger brother decided to visit her for a week, neither of them knew that he wouldn’t be leaving anytime soon.
Chris Davis Guererro and Collete hadn’t seen each other in 13 years, and they had a lot of catching up to do. In the time they were apart, Collete had already built up a significant list of achievements. She competed at the pro level of motorsports, winning multiple monster truck championships, and worked with companies like Kia, Red Bull, and Hot Wheels. She even hosted a TV show on TLC. But recently, she had taken up the challenge of becoming a professional drift car driver, or Pro-1 drifter—something that required a new level of drive and commitment.
Although they had different career paths and lived in different states, when Chris saw the raw ambition and focus his sister was putting into her goal, he wanted to help. He moved in with her to give full-time support on everything from coordinating car build schedules to tracking promotional engagements and creating social media and YouTube content.
“She has worked really hard,” Chris said. “Before I got here, she was doing it all by herself. I don’t know how she was doing it by herself, because I’m here struggling with her.”
As the big sister, Collete wanted to inspire and encourage him, too. After teaching him some of the basics about cars and the world of racing, it was finally time to take the leap. She handed him the keys, climbed into the passenger seat of her drift car, and told him to buckle up. Today, he was going to learn how to drift.
Using tech to forge a new path
A former mechanical engineering student, Collete has always embraced tech. While driving skills and a relentless work ethic go a long way toward success, Collete knew early in her career that understanding car technology could be her competitive advantage—especially when she was a teenage girl trying to break into the notoriously exclusive (and male-dominated) racing industry.
Past cars were outfitted with sensors that would send feedback to a computer off the track so she could tune the car after the practice session or race was over. Now she’s taking it a step further.
By custom integrating a Surface Pro X into her drift car, she has a centralized command center that monitors sensors from key parts that affect the car’s performance—the engine, transmission, tires, suspension, and brakes—and makes real-time adjustments.
"I can see exactly what is going on in the engine and all the important systems that I care about when I’m driving on the track."
- Collete Davis
Combined with live remote input from her driving coach, the data also helps her set her pace so she can balance speed with how hard she’s pushing her car. After the race, Collete reviews data aligned with video footage of her driving so she can spot and correct any bad habits that compromise her race results.
Challenging the status quo
As Collete grows into a competitive force, it can be easy to forget that her rise wasn’t without adversity. In her engineering classes, she was one of two women; on the race track, she was usually the only one. She still recalls how 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. But Collete says comments like that were motivation to learn more and be a more aggressive competitor.
“Eventually I looked around and thought, ‘Why am I the only girl here?’ I never let stereotypes sink into my brain,” she says. “I never thought I couldn’t do something because I was a girl.”
Fueled by her own experiences and passion for technology, 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
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.”