“It all started because I had that need for speed,” says Jessy Lucena, who is often seen plying her competition-orange 2012 Boss 302 Mustang at ProFormance. Jessy’s racing odyssey began with a Subaru STI that she “wanted to drive properly.” Before long she had dived into autocross and joined SCCA.
“I was very much a newbie, a novice through and through, and everything was a surprise. But I was hooked!” Things progressed until, a few years ago, she contacted ProFormance and got her racing license.
“I’m not one to do things halfway.” She notes that ProFormance Chief Instructor Don Kitch, Jr. urged her to take it easy for a year, learn about racing, get used to what’s happening around her. “But I was stoked – I did completely the opposite, and decided to set up a race car.” Within a couple of months her Mustang was race ready.
It Takes a Village to Make the Finish Line
Jessy drove in her first Majors race this year, at ThunderHill in California, teaming up with Scotty White. That outing started off inauspiciously, to say the least.
“It was wet. My testing time was limited, and my car broke down. My brakes weren’t working — my foot went straight to the floor. The car stopped accelerating…”
The problems were located, and everyone pitched in to fix them, finishing up about an hour before the race. “I just had time to test the track, but I felt I had to make something happen — all these people put so much effort helping me get my car ready.”
Despite almost no practice and a challenging track, she took second place.
Setups and Setbacks
While her orange beauty gets a lot of compliments, the car took the slow road to a satisfactory setup. “I spent years trying to get a good seating position, and to figure out how to see out the window.” It was in the Mustang that she won her first national championship. But great as autocross is, the car “needed to stretch it legs,” so Jessy is setting it up for road racing. On her site lucenaracing.com, where she chronicles her automotive life, you’ll see details of her labors, right down to stripping the interior and welding the roll cage.
Recently the Mustang took an unplanned turn off the road. “A test day, new setup, car was feeling good, I got overconfident, I put my foot down a little too much, the car spun, and I ended up in a ditch.”
“The lesson I would relay is always wear your safety gear. I had my harness, everything was place. I’ve been preparing for this day. As Scotty White says, there are only two types of racers: ones who have crashed, and ones who haven’t yet.”
Looking to the Road Ahead
Up to now Jessy has raced mostly on Northwest tracks, and currently she’s doing SCCA Touring 2, but she plans to add Conference to that. And with the Covid smoke clearing, she’s hoping to do more racing in California. Her bucket list of racetracks includes Laguna Seca and Nürburgring, the latter in part because it’s the home track of the late Sabine Schmitt. “It’s not just her driving that I admire,” she says. “It’s her whole attitude. She was so passionate about racing, a joy to watch.”
Schmitt has been hailed as an inspiration for women in motorsport, though Jessy echoes a common theme heard in paddocks: “When you put on a helmet, it’s an equalizer. Whether you’re a guy or a girl, you’re a driver.”
Jessy works in tech, has a dog, and used to teach dance, but right now she’s focused on getting her mental and physical routine ready for racing.
“Driving has always been something I have to work at, but I think that’s what keeps me going. It’s not easy, but when you get it right, it’s so rewarding, Because you know you’ve put the work into it. Not just the driving — you put work into the car setup too. When the car and you are getting along, it’s a good feeling.”