A change of thinking last year culminated in former NZV8 racer Chelsea Herbert having her first official Toyota Racing Series hit-out at Highlands Motorsport Park, near Cromwell, Central Otago, this week.
The TRS championship is Herbert's first foray into a single-seater series, having cut her teeth previously in karts, utes and V8s. But she has already proven to be a mould-breaker when she became the first woman to win a race in the BNT V8 championship.
Herbert has always been at pains to say that on a race weekend, she is first and foremost a racer, and not a woman. To this end, it suits Herbert that she's following in the footsteps of Fiona Hamilton (2005), Christina Orr (2006, 2007 and 2008), Leanna Tander (2007), Michela Cerruti (2012) and Tatiana Calderon (2013) who have competed in the TRS.
"I'm going into the series as just another racer and wanting to learn," said Herbert. "I needed a bit of a challenge and a few people were telling me that they could tell by my driving that I hadn't had any single-seater experience.
"This opportunity arose and knowing I needed single-seater experience at some point was the right option. It's also great that I'm in a class with 20 other drivers, a lot of them with international experience. It will be a good benchmark to see where I am."
Herbert had her first full day of practice and set-up on Thursday, and although she was the slowest, is not fazed by it.
"My goal this season is not results, it is to learn and develop. Normally I would be annoyed [being slowest] but I'm not. I've taken all the pressure off myself and just want to see a steady improvement.
"I'm lucky that I'm with Stephen Giles and his team [they have won four drivers' championships]. They are really good and are being a great help. We work really well together and he makes a lot of sense to me," said Herbert.
Early in 2019, Herbert had a test in a second generation FT-50 before jetting off to Spain for the tryouts for the 2020 W Series. She drove the Tatuus T-318 that is the base model for the new 2020 TRS FT-60 car.
"I'm actually driving the exact same chassis as the one I drove in the W Series. The only thing though is that we've had to put blocks in the car so that I can use the peddles properly.
"Also, the steering is really heavy and I'm struggling to get the thing around [race track]. I know I'm not the only one who is finding it hard. Some of the others have said it's the heaviest steering they've experienced, so it's a matter of just getting over it. It's tiring, though, and I need to deal with that.
"I've trained really hard for this, but being in a gym is not the same as being in the car," she said.
Herbert has a good support network around her and is happy to have Nick Cassidy keen to help with advice. Cassidy has an excellent pedigree in TRS having won two series championships. His success there led to him heading overseas, where he's been the dominant driver in Super GT and Super Formula, winning both titles in his few years racing in Japan.
"Nick has been a family friend for a long time and he has been great for advice and help. He has mentioned I should get some single-seater experience to increase my knowledge and his advice has been important.
"Obviously there's a big difference between driving a V8 and a single-seater and to have Nick helping is a big bonus," she said.
Round one is this weekend at Highlands Motorsport Park.
Round two is the following weekend at Teretonga in Invercargill, with the remaining three weekends of racing at Hampton Downs, Pukekohe Park and the New Zealand Grand Prix meeting at Manfeild on February 14-16.