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Fully Loaded: Michele Bumgarner
Tough girl Michele Bumgarner lets us in on what it's like to be a female kart racing champ.
by Michele Marie Bumgarner as told to Marla Miniano * photos courtesy of Agatep Associates, Inc.

I began racing when I was nine. My dad was a former racer, and he’d usually take me to watch races with him. When he got my younger brother a mini go-kart, I told him I wanted one of my own too. At that time, I wasn’t serious about racing at all, I just did it so I could have fun and hang out with my friends. After a few months, I realized how much I loved racing; for me, it was unlike any other sport. That’s when I decided I wanted to race for a career. Quite unexpectedly, I won my first race a year later—I was off to a good start.

My dad was my first coach. He has always been very supportive of me: he provides for me financially (since you need that in racing), and he taught me the basics at an early age, which worked to my advantage. Several years later, I got another coach, former world karting champion Terry Fullerton. He and my dad are close friends, so he’s like a second father to me.

Since a female racer is not that common, I usually race against guys. So far, I’ve encountered only three other female racers: two in Italy, one in Asia. Racing is actually a pretty good way of meeting other people. I’ve gained lots of friends through racing, so now I have friends from all over—Asia, Europe, the United States—and it’s been really fun.

This sport’s not all about fun, though. I’ve had to make lots of sacrifices. I used to play volleyball for my school team, but the policy is that if you miss three practices and games, you have to quit the team. Since the games are usually held on weekends, they clash with the races, so I had to choose. It was a tough decision for me, but I had to make it. I also had to learn to budget my time wisely, even if my friends often complained that I didn’t get to hang out with them that much. It’s a good thing I’m being home-schooled now, so I can do things at my own pace. I really have to stick to my priorities, and racing will always, always be number one.

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In racing, luck is a big factor. You never know what to expect, and you have to be prepared for anything. I have to understand that I can’t possibly win every single race; that’s just not how things go. I have to get used to the idea that there will be some wins, and there will be some losses. I cry sometimes when I lose a race, but I have an excuse for that ‘cause I’m a girl! I can’t help thinking about what I should and shouldn’t have done, but I usually just try to forget about everything and focus on the next race. It’s okay to be upset, but at the end of the day, it’s best to move on. Losing isn’t the end of world.

My message for aspiring racers? Try it first, just for fun. (My dad’s opening a racing track in Sucat, by the way, and you might want to check it out.) If you really want to get serious, then go for it! Let nobody stop you. It’s never too late to start. Patience and determination are essential. Success won’t come right away, you have to go through the steps. Most importantly, you have to give your best—nothing less than a hundred percent will do.

Overall, racing has been extremely good to me. It takes me places. It challenges me. It helps me become more focused, more driven. I chose this as a career, and I have to work hard until I finally reach my goal—to become the first Filipina Formula One driver!

http://www.candymag.com/magazine/fashion/get-this-look-naomi-and-erin-of-90210
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