historic vehicles, Motoring News, motorsport, porsche, sport cars

Racing Renée: Passion for Porsche and fighting child trafficking

  • Valkyrie Racing making history in vintage 356 Porsche
  • Record six races on seven continents by 2020
  • Defeating child-trafficking all part of the plan
VALKYRIE RACING: The whole racing time with mother-of-four RenéeBrinkerhoff in the centre. Image: Supplied

LOS ANGELES,  California – When Colorado-based philanthropist and mother-of-four RenéeBrinkerhoff (right) decided to race in the legendary and dangerous La Carrera Panamericana rally in 2013 aged 57 she was a racetrack rookie.

She had certainly not experienced a 3200km road race – let alone a 2,000 mile racing challenge.

However, as the founder of Valkyrie Racing, she has gone beyond her dreams and expectations by earning class victories in the famed Mexican race four years in a row and made history as the only woman to finish the race each time she entered.

RENEE BRINKERHOFF: Philanthropist, mother of four, and 63 years old, is also a multiple Carrera Panamericana road-race competitor. Image: Supplied

With a self-imposed challenge to complete six races across seven continents, Brinkerhoff, now 63, is preparing ready to embark on her next challenge date – June 2 2019 and the start of the month-long Peking-to-Paris rally.

MEXICAN INTRODUCTION

With this she will not only further her goal but also extend her philanthropic mission on a global level through her dedication to fighting child trafficking.

It’s a cause she has already championed in Mexico, Australia and Peru.

Brinkerhoff made her debut in Mexico’s infamous La Carrera Panamericana road race in a 1956 Porsche 356A, driving treacherous mountain roads that claimed several crews on Day 1.

She scored a class win on her first event to become the only female driver yet to accomplish this feat. Further successes in subsequent years encouraged her to look at challenges further afield and a plan was hatched to race on every continent.

So was born Project 356 World Rally Tour.

BACK HOME IN COLORADO: Renée Brinkerhoff with her treasured classic Porsche. Image: Supplied

To help her reach her goal Brinkerhoff partnered with leading specialists in rally car competition, among them famed rallyist and Porsche restoration master Richard Tuthill.

Soon she was racing the car all over the world.

TARGET: HITTING CHILD TRAFFICKING

Her story captured unexpected media attention which the savvy sexagenarian soon realised could be used to draw attention to worthy causes in the areas she was intending to race. A charitable wing – ‘Valkyrie Gives’ – was formed to help direct financial support and donations for the charities closest to Brinkerhoff’s heart: countering child exploitation and human trafficking in poorer parts of the world.

Brinkerhoff explained: “I had so much spare energy and personal time when my children left home so I at first filled void with rallying – an incredibly exciting passion which requires immense focus and courage – but I knew there was more I could do.

”We started by exposing the audience that was building around our story to important social issues and asking for help to make peoples’ lives better.”

THEN THE IDEA BEGAN TO SPREAD

So began research into social problems in the countries through which she was rallying and found that child trafficking was a major issue across the Americas in which she was driving in two rallies: Mexico for the La Carrera and Peru for Camino del Incas.

Looking further afield, similar issues were found in Asia, where she will race in the 2019 Peking to Paris Rally through June and July, and in East Africa where she will be racing later in the year in the East African Safari Classic Rally.

READ MORE ABOUT RENEE BRINKERHOFF

“Understanding the scale of these problems and how lack of transparency and education keeps children in danger of exploitation and trafficking,” she said, ”we reached out to some of the agencies on the ground in our target areas to figure out ways we could help by pooling our resources.”

PROTECTING CHILDREN AT RISK

During each rally Valkyrie Racing gives financial support to closely vetted charitable efforts active in preventing or intervening in trafficking and restoring victims of trafficking through education, victim rescue s, legal assistance and travel funds for repatiation, nurture and counsel for a healthy and productive future.”

Brinkerhoff’s goal through Valkyrie Gives is to bring comfort to those in need by working to identify, secure and protect children at risk. Efforts have included funding trafficking investigators and rescuers and obtaining the latest technology, so that charities can match the traffickers on a technological level.

Valkyrie Racing is proactive in rural communities, taking rain boots to remote Quechua communities in Peru, and using the opportunity to educate children on their right to be safe, and when to report issues to trusted authority figures.

Fund-raising so far in 2019 has included two charity golf days which raised more than $100 000 (about R1.47-million).

MORE PLANNED FOR PEKING-PARIS RALLY

The Valkyrie team is considering ideas for charity fund-raisers – potentially Porsche connected – in St Petersburg when the Peking-to-Paris Rally visits the city in June.

Efforts to distribute practical gifts and educational sessions in isolated communities in Mongolia and Kazakhstan along the Peking-Paris route are also under way, as are plans for an East African child safety campaign towards the end of 2019.

So where in the world is Renée Brinkerhoff?

2013: La Carrera Panamericana (3600km Mexican Rally Race first run in the 1950’s.
2nd woman in history to win a class
1st woman to win a class in a debut year
Only woman to finish the race
Awarded ‘Most Beautiful’ race car

2014: La Carrera Panamericana
Second in class
14th overall after extremely high attrition of 50%
Only woman to finish the race

2015: La Carrera Panamericana
Second in Class
Only woman driver to finish the race

2017: La Carrera Panamericana
1st in Class
Only woman driver to finish the race

2018: Targa Tasmania (3600km Australian Rally Race started in 1992)
Won the Targa Plate
Only female driver among more than 300 drivers

2018: Caminos del Inca (3600+km through the Andes mountains (10 000-16 000+ feet, started in 1966)
Only classic car in the race out of 80+ modern, race-built, cars
One of only two female drivers
Crossed the finish line

TO COME…
2019: Peking to Paris (June-July 2019)
2019: East African Classic (November 2019)
2020: Antarctica

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