Aurora Straus enrolled in racing school at age 13, and she had an instructor tell her that she wasn't developing as a driver fast enough because she was a girl.
Fast forward five years, and Straus is racing in the second-tier Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge for IMSA, and she was recently accepted into Harvard University where she will study engineering and English literature.
Straus said her father initially enrolled her in the racing school to learn basic defensive driving, but she eventually discovered how she loved to drive at fast speeds.
"I mean, the first time I went over 100 miles per hour, I was completely in love," Strauss told Jalopnik. "I guess there's no other way to describe it. I was obsessed with the feeling of control and the sound of the engine accelerating at my will."
Straus began racing Porsche Caymans and Mazda MX-5s at age 15, and at 17 she became the youngest Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge driver. She and her co-driver, Connor Bloum, and ranked ninth of 39 in the standings.
Straus said she often gets backhanded compliments or passive-aggressive comments from male drivers, but she's learned to brush off any negativity.
"By asserting myself in those tiny ways or by pointing out those individual passive-aggressive comments that my counterparts don't even think about, I'm slowly making the men around me kind of aware of what women have to deal with," Straus said. "Overall, it's been a good thing for me to have to learn how to earn respect instead of have it given to me, but it was definitely tough."
Straus wants to race as long as she can, but she also plans to design a car or become an engineer once she finishes school at Harvard.
She also wants to serve as a role model for other females who want to race or do anything that is predominantly done by males. Her younger sister is currently wrestling on the boys' wrestling team in middle school, and Straus said she wants to become a role model for other female athletes.
"I have to expect to receive those comments and to work 20 times harder than the people around me for attention, for respect on and off the track, and for friendship from these guys," Straus said. "I've also had to work harder than my male counterparts to earn the respect they receive immediately.