Car Racing Dream Comes True for Teenager Dion von Moltke
Admit it -- at some point in your life you've plonked yourself down in the driver's seat of a stationary car, cranked the wheel and made "vroom-vroom" noises, pretending like you're the fastest one on the track, racing past all the other cars at lightening speed.
These days, even the most feminine girlie girl has fantasies of racing across the finish line first, then getting out of her car and letting her long, silky hair cascade down her back in slow motion as she removes her helmet and cameras flash. Most boys even fantasize about car racing in their sleep.
Dion von Moltke began living that car racing dream at age 13, and now, at 19, he's involved in it on a daily basis -- he's one of the hottest and youngest drivers on the Grand Am Rolex Circuit. Oh, and he's also a full-time college student at Florida International University, where he carries a full course load and has a GPA over 3.0. He's also an active member of a fraternity. Surprisingly enough, this Rookie of the Year attributes his success to something wonderfully accessible to all of us.
"I firmly believe that if you work harder than your competition, you will be the best," he says. "Sure, luck has something to do with it, but you make your own luck."
Grand Am standing
For those of you who aren't familiar with Grand Am racing, it's separate from, but owned by NASCAR. The season of intense races lasts about eight months out of the year. Dion is partial to driving on teams in endurance races. He drives a Doran Dallara Daytona prototype sponsored by McDonalds/South African Airways/PR.Newswire.com and P1 Groupe. Most professional racing, as everyone who has seen Pixar's 'Cars' knows, is all about sponsorship.
Dion races under the South African flag and his parents are from Botswana and South Africa, but he was born in Houston and has lived in Sydney, Australia and Los Angeles before he moved to Miami for his profession and his education. He started Kart racing when he 13 years old, the result of a bribe. "My father said 'I'll buy you a go-cart if you switch schools,'" said Dion, explaining that he was doing poorly in the computer-oriented school he was attending, but like many kids, he was adverse to change.
It was love at first race. Two years later, he was competing in World Championship Karting events in Italy. But he didn't race to the top effortlessly. He's attended numerous racing and driving schools, and worked like crazy to get the necessary racing licenses. He's also spent many long hours training with pros, and on his own, and already he has competed in more than 160 races with 123 top 10 finishes. "Like in any sport, you have to have talent and be athletic, but it also takes hard work and determination," he says.
Much harder than it looks
Grand Am racing is so much more strenuous than most people imagine. How hard can it be to turn a wheel and push a pedal? Dion has competed as a part of a team in the Daytona Rolex Daytona 24-hour race, which is not only physically demanding, but mentally demanding as well. "It can be tiresome and intense, and there's a lot of psychology involved in racing," he says.
That's one of the reasons he's minoring in psychology. He's majoring in international business, which he hopes will help him manage, and eventually own his own racing team.
As he struggles with balance between racing and academia, something's got to give -- after all, he doesn't have super powers. That something right now seems to be his love life. With all his studying and traveling and racing, he hasn't had much time for a girlfriend; but at 19, he's still got plenty of time to put the pedal to the metal in that area.
Youth and wisdom
Although Dion lacks the experience of some of the more seasoned drivers, his youth seems to be working in his advantage. At this point in his life he has boundless energy and optimism, and he also has little fear. "I don't feel any fright," he says. "The sport used to be dangerous, but now I have all the trust that they make cars as safe as possible. You just can't worry about that which is beyond your control."
That's good advice for anyone, of any age, in any profession -- especially during these difficult times, when there is so much that is beyond our control. Sometimes it's best just to grip the wheel and drive.
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