Rather appropriately given her surname, when Heather Holler walks into the room you simply can’t miss her.
Her energy is infectious, her passion as clear as day and ability to just throw herself at any challenge, no matter its scale, utterly laudible.
There were several high-profile guests at the DirtFish Women in Motorsport Summit on March 11, but Holler managed to make her own unique impact.
She’s a mechanic.
Unlike several of her panelists who are accomplished pros behind the wheel, Holler’s job is to fix, maintain and develop the cars those accomplished pros have just been driving.
“I did not grow up working on cars with my dad and motorsport, but my dad always told me that I knew what I wanted to do when it gave me the goosebumps and brought a tear to my eyes,” Holler said.
“So I went to my first autocross event, beat my boyfriend in his own car at the time… I sold my SUV two weeks later and bought my little Subaru.
“Knowing nothing about cars, it had a blown engine, so I learned how to work on cars more or less out of necessity, and I really, really loved it.
“So I went to tech school, worked for Subaru dealerships for six years, knew nothing about motorsport until that time, thought it would be kind of cool. So I applied for the Subaru rally team, and got a job with them.
“I freelanced for DirtFish and their rallycross program for about four seasons. I’ve worked for Vaughn Gittin Jr with their drift cars and WRC for Hyundai, and I just recently got back from Dakar with X-Raid on their Yamahas.”
It’s quite some resumé, and quite the inspiration.
The real mission of DirtFish Women’s Month is to represent – to show that there are women working in all roles of motorsport, and that there is a place for everyone no matter what their background or gender.
There really aren’t as many female mechanics working in the industry as there should be, and Holler acknowledged that in saying it was unique for a mechanic to be on the Summit panel – their job often goes underappreciated.
“A motorsport team is a small city on wheels,” she eloquently described.
“So even if you’re interested in motorsport, even if you have this fascination with motorsport and you’re not necessarily even interested in driving, there’s doctors, there’s all kinds of really cool positions that are needed within these teams.
“But I think it’s important just to see other women doing this because when I went to tech school – there’s actually a couple of my old classmates out here [in the audience] – it was really scary being one of 2000 men.
“You know, one woman for every 2000 guys is scary.
“And it was cool, because by the end of school I finished a class with three other women in it – and that was just unreal and unheard of. It’s been a little similar in motorsport – DirtFish was actually the first company I worked with with multiple women and it was actually really awesome.
“And then getting into WRC and you’re around all these female engineers. It’s just really nice because it’s not as much of a shock factor anymore as it is when you’re the only one.
“I think in order to get more women involved, it’s having events like this – just to show girls the option and we’re out here doing it, we’re laying out the bricks and you can set them in the place that you want to pave your own path.”
And that’s certainly what Holler has done, and continues to do.
As an example, she’s signed up for her first rally as a co-driver and has gone straight in with the Baja 1000. That’s not exactly messing about.
Holler is ultimately proof that the right attitude and a smile on the face can take you anywhere.
“I’ve actually been told that I bring an energy to the team,” she said.
“I was supposed to leave Hyundai after just a year and when I came back, I actually had Pablo [Marcos], he was one of the managers and he sent me a message saying: ‘Ahhh, yes, we can be happy, we can smile!’
“And you know I think that in events like the Dakar where we got four hours of sleep in the first four days and guys were asking: ‘How are you still smiling?’. But that’s the thing, it could have been worse, we could have had no sleep in four days!
“The camaraderie is fantastic. And to be honest, I never had a female camaraderie the way I do ever since I got into rally, so it’s pretty awesome.”