RDC Driver Profile
10 questions with Michelle Bruckmann
The driver profile is new to RDC. From time to time, we will interview notable drivers from the grass roots of our sport. Our first section will focus on the women of off-road racing, the one’s who regularly compete against the boys and win.
RDC Driver Profile: Michelle Bruckmann.
Husband: Vic Bruckmann
Hometown: Tijuana Baja Mx
Current home: Lemon Grove Ca.
1. First off, how long have you been racing and how did you get into it?
I’ve been racing since 1996 and I started with my dad. My dad is Ray Gastelum and he raced for 24yrs. I started racing his pre-runner, a 5 open, mostly in Mexico. At the time the series was CORP and later turned into CODE. I raced down there until maybe 2006 and then started a few SCORE, BITD and now SNORE races.
2. You raced with CODE/CORP for many years. How has that prepared you for racing SCORE, BITD and SNORE?
It really helped a lot. Back then, there were a lot of 5 open’s and good competition; it’s not as intense as a SCORE race but you had the same terrain and I raced by myself. Races were 200 miles or so and it really coached me to read the terrain, conserve myself and take care of the car.
3. You race against the boys and do well. How do the men in the industry treat you?
At the beginning, they were not very nice. The first five races or so I battled, the guys really looked down at me and that really pissed me off. (laughing)
My dad often told me, “You have to drive like a guy. You can’t drive like a woman. You have to be more aggressive! If they hit you, you move; but if you catch them, you hit them! Honk and hit! Not honk and then hit. You will earn their respect and if you start winning, you will really earn their respect.”
And I did. I won a few races; I hit a few guys and then they were nice. In the States, they have always been nice; but in Mexico, it’s a different culture. It’s that machismo mentality where men have to be stronger than women. It’s still exists. But for a long time, I was just Vic Bruckmann’s wife that races. Then I won a few races, and I was Michelle (Vic’s wife that races). Now I’m Michelle, just Michelle and that feels nice.
4. What was your greatest race moment so far?
One of the best moments was in 95′. I rode with my Dad in the 1000 which ended in La Paz that year. Our section was from the start to El Arco; we drove all night in a 5/1600, going through crazy washes and down La Rumarosa. On the way down the grade, the throttle got stuck. When I got out of the car to work on it, the wind was so violent I had to hang onto the car to prevent getting blown away.
5. Why class 5?
Well that’s what I started with, it was accessible. It was what I learned in and knew; I couldn’t race a 1600 and beat the guys because it’s too rough. I know I’m not as strong as others to run in a class like 1600 for 200 miles and beat the guys; but in a 5 open, you have a stronger engine allowing you to come hard out of corners and has better suspension so it doesn’t beat you up like a 1600.
6. If you could have any race car what would it be? Dream ride?
A free ride! Anything. I don’t want to say I want to race class 1 because I know I can’t beat the guys there. I like to drive where I have a chance to win. If I don’t honestly think I can win, I don’t want it. I’d like to race class 12; I think I can excel there. Maybe I’ll steal Vic’s car!
7. What is your goal, or hope to achieve in off-road racing?
I would love to race a SCORE series as driver of record and have my name in the books as a Champion.
8. You’re pretty popular in Baja. I’ve heard the locals cheer for you and claim you as “theirs”. How do you feel about that?
I’m very honored. It brings out the shy side of me. I mean it’s nice. I’m from Tijuana and even though I haven’t raced in Baja for a while, it’s so awesome that they remember my name there. It make me feel great and proud to be from Baja.
9. Being a mother, what would you say to your son, Lucas, if he wanted to race?
Yes! Definitely! We’re gonna start him on motorcycles. He’ll learn best that way and it will make him strong. We all know our best drivers start on bikes!
10. Your husband Vic races as well.
Do you ever race with him or against him?
Yes, we team up. We’ve raced together in SCORE class 12 in 07 and 09. We tried to race my 5 open, but we had endless mechanical problems with the car. It was weird, like fate wouldn’t let us. I love racing with Vic; he’s my honey, but he’s a good driver.
Are you competitive with him?
Oh hell ya! We fight about who’s driving which sections all the time. “Why do you get to start? You started last time?! Why do I have to drive the night section Vic?” It’s fun. We’re competitive but a good competitive and he’s taught me a lot.
HAHA! He is…. Vic in the background, “That’s not a good question.”
My Vic of course; he’s my coach, my prep guy and my everything and my parents. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be able to maintain racing. VP racing fuels, Majors Performance, Fox Shocks has always been supportive, as well as Shock Pro’s for their help. BFG has always been good to both of us. ORW and Adam and Rick at PowerBox do all our tranny work.
CORP – Class 5 Sportsman Champion 1998
CODE – Class 5 Pro Champion 2002
CODE – Class 5 Pro Champion 2005