In rock racing, a competitive sport where drivers maneuver 4×4 buggies over obstacles on off-road courses, accidents happen. Differentials break. Axles snap. Buggies roll.
Bad scares and broken vehicles are part of the sport, but most drivers get used to it, said Bree Molitor, a regional rock racer, as the drivers are called. Usually, the worst blow is delivered to the driver’s pride.
That blow is all the worse when you are one of the only female drivers in a male-dominated sport and you shatter a rear pinion in front of 800,000 viewers watching from all over the world via the Internet, Molitor said. That is exactly what happened to her at the Griffin King of the Hammers desert race Feb. 7 in Landers, Calif.
“When you’re one of the only girls racing, it’s hard to be anonymous,” Molitor said during a Tuesday telephone interview.
Molitor has been a rock racer for approximately a year and a half in a variety of professional circuits, she said. Her desire to get behind the wheel and into the game, which pits drivers against each other in timed attacks to determine who can cross a treacherous path in the fewest seconds, was kindled when she began covering the sport for www.4x4nation.com.
Molitor started the site with her father, Chad Molitor, a partner at RAI Advisors, a financial planning firm in Murfreesboro. Chad Molitor has raced all manner of vehicles, from dirt bikes to four-wheelers, he said.
Bree Molitor grew up around performance vehicles, drivers and race tracks, Chad Molitor said. When she started hosting the web show with her father, drivers who she knew started pushing her to compete.
“I’m competitive,” she said. Her voice over the was phone matter-of-fact.
Her first race in the extreme sport did not go ideally, her father said.
“She blew up the buggy on the first hill,” Chad Molitor said, explaining that a front-wheel axle failed when Bree Molitor attempted to climb a slope of boulders.
However, the fans still supported her despite a rough start, Chad Molitor said.
“The crowd loved it, because it was a girl competing in a normally male sport,” he said.
Other female rock racers exist, but they are a rarity, Bree Molitor said. She suspects women are intimidated by the pressure of having so much attention being paid to their gender rather than their ability to compete in the races.
“It’s not that there are a lack of women that are interested and involved in the sport,” Bree Molitor said, adding that audiences are often evenly made up of men and women. “Breaking through that may be a confidence thing. Everyone is watching you. You have to get in that buggy.”
People have taken note: The web show has viewers around the world, and multiple networks have expressed interest in featuring the family on a reality television show, Chad Molitor said. One of the appeals is that fact that Bree Molitor is an outlier in the sport just because she is a woman.
The lopsided tendency for more men to race than women is slowly eroding, though, Bree Molitor said. Other women have joined the ranks over the course of 2013, and some of them are giving the guys a run for their money.
“With some sports, it makes sense to separate guys and girls, but with driving there’s really no reason,” Bree Molitor said.
Bree Molitor placed 16th out of 32 racers who competed in the American Rock Crawling Series race March 8 at Hawk Pride Mountain Offroad in Tuscumbia, Ala., she said.
Chad Molitor placed 6th. Her father may have more experience on her, but she just views that as another challenge to overcome, Bree Molitor said.
Her father said it is a challenge she is likely to overcome.
“When it comes to racing, she keeps up with the best of the boys,” Chad Molitor said.