by Moses Leos III
In the world of wheel-to-wheel racing, fast movements, snap decisions and quick reflexes dominate. When travelling upwards of 100 miles an hour on a winding track, with 20 competitors racing side by side, the adrenaline rush is intense – and generally left to more experienced drivers.
Brianne Corn of San Marcos, a relative newcomer to the sport, managed to notch a tenth-place finish in her first professional race against other drivers in the Pirelli World Challenge TCB held May 17-19 at the Circuit of the Americas just southeast of Austin.
But this 2004 Texas State graduate is no stranger to fast machines. Corn’s love of racing goes back to grade school, where she traded books and pens for a motorcycle, as a form of incentive.
“I have always enjoyed driving cars and riding motorcycles,” Corn said. “It was always done after I finished my homework; [riding]was the incentive. It was my way of finding my happy place.”
With her motorcycle riding past, Corn grew to love the thrill of racing. A trip to Italy in 2004 brought with it a new love of fast cars: Rally Cross racing – essentially time trials on paved and unpaved surfaces, on winding mountains and paths.
“Every weekend, my friends and I experienced the [Italian] countryside, going up the west coast, which had numerous turns and switchbacks,” Corn said. “On our way up the mountains, we raced sports cars and modified rally cars. It was during these moments where I told myself, ‘this is what I want to do.’”
And race she did.
Corn claimed the 2010 and 2011 Rally America Open Lite Series Championships, as well as the 2012 Pike’s Peak Time Attack class championship.
When an opportunity surfaced to race on the paved road, or tarmac, of COTA, Corn jumped at the chance.
“I have been looking for an opportunity to move into wheel-to-wheel racing, and what better way to start than in a hometown race in Austin at the fantastic Circuit of the Americas,” Corn said in a press release.
James Wilson, a former rally cross champion and current owner of Texas Rallysport, a company which offers amateur level rallycross and rally sprint events, offered her the chance to race at the new track.
Corn borrowed the B-Spec Mazda 2 Wilson used to win the 2012 Sports Car Club of America Rallycross National in the Stock Two Wheel Drive class.
Most racers compete in the Club and National tarmac levels first; Corn leap-frogged ahead and entered her first professional race at COTA. Looking back, she said she didn’t know what was in store but quickly learned the differences between tarmac racing and Rally Cross.
“Wheel-to-wheel racing is much different; it is unique. The vehicles have a front wheel drive and a lot of power,” Corn said. “In Rally Cross, it is just you and your machine. In wheel-to-wheel, you are racing against other opponents. You can do everything right, with no mistakes, yet a mistake from someone else can ruin your day. It was a whole new world.”
Over the three-day event, Corn was challenged by racing in a new medium. In addition, the car she drove was what she called, “Heavy.”
In the race itself, which was a 15-minute sprint, Corn was hit twice and pushed sideways. However, she maintained her positioning on the track, holding on to her spot.
“It was so much fun to race in the middle of the pack, jockeying for position,” Corn said.
After the race, she was surprised by the camaraderie and encouraging words from other drivers.
“[Driver] Shea Holbrook told me that I, ‘drove with respect’; I had another Team Manager tell me the same thing,” Corn said. “They expected new drivers to drive in a crazy fashion. They told me I drove with intelligence. That is what struck me the most.”
While she enjoyed her time on the tarmac, Corn does not see herself in wheel-to-wheel racing in the foreseeable future. Rally Cross is where her heart is, where she wishes to devote her time towards finding a professional ride in the Rally America and World Rally Championships.
“I could easily be lured [to wheel-to-wheel racing]if the opportunity arose,” Corn said. “My destiny, my dream and my goals are in the off-road world; in Rally Cross.”
In addition to racing, Corn works at Texas State as a Media Technician.
The support, both psychological and monetary, from her Texas State coworkers helps her continue her racing dream.
“They are all supportive,” Corn said. “They have showed up at races and even went as far as having gone with me on Rally Cross races.”
A tape-delayed showing of the Pirelli World Challenge TCB race at COTA will be broadcast on June 16 at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports.