Racers from around the country are gearing up and getting ready to see who captures the checkered flag in Nebraska for the Sports Car Club of America National Championships (SCCA). This year, we here at Mad Catz, are proud to have one of our own stars behind the wheel this week. One of our own graphic designers, Diane Bollenbecker, has earned her her bid to fight for the national championship of the STU class of cars.

We recently sat down with Bollenbecker to find out more about Diane and what this race means and what it's like being a woman in a male-dominated sport. Here's what she said:

How did you get into racing and how long have you been driving?
This is my third year racing. My husband Peter was the one who got me into racing. Before we started dating, we knew each other at the gym, he found out that I had bought an S2000 and he tried to get me out to race it. I was very intimidated and scared to go out and race. I figured it was a male-dominated sport and thought they would treat me like a stupid woman and not give me a chance. I was very wrong. When we started dating, he wanted me to come watch, I didn't want to intrude in his “guy time” and he told me that I was being silly and it wasn't like that at all. Over time, I gave in and went out to watch. It seemed fun. So I went for a ride along and then I decided I wanted to race as well which made my husband excited.  He then let me drive his Subaru STi and I was hooked.

What’s it like to be a female racer?
At first, I was very intimated. It was hard me for me to go out and race against the men. The people in my car class had all been out racing for a minimum of 5 years. I felt pretty small. In our local region, I race against the men, and will honestly say that I am treated as an equal. I am currently in 2nd place in the San Diego region, my husband is in 1st and there are 3 men and 1 woman behind me. I race in the STU class, Street Touring Ultra, It's a very tough class.

What does it mean to race in the SCCA Finals? Is this the biggest race you have been in?
I've raced in the Pacific Southwest National Tour for the past three years and this year I took first, which is pretty good for a veteran. It's a long two-day competition with three runs Saturday and three on Sunday. They add the best run of each day so it's very important to stay on your game and not lose focus on either day. The Nationals, where I'm racing next in Nebraska, is the biggest Autocross event in the world with an expected 1200 people entering.  It's a lot of competition and a lot of pressure. This will be my first National competition and I am very excited to represent the San Diego region.

How do you prepare for races? Do you have any routines? Superstitions?
I never drink the night before a race as I really don't do well if I do, especially if I run in the morning. I have what I call my “race gum” which is just cinnamon Trident, which keeps me focused. For some reason when I chew it I don't over think things.  I will, also, walk the course as many times as I can and talk with fellow drivers on how they might take the line, at least those in similar cars as some smaller or less horse powered cars will take a different line. I'll also run the course in my mind as I sit in grid to think of how I should position the car. If I've already driven and knew I didn't do something right, I'll think about how I can improve and will take the line. Also, try not to over think or over drive which means I'm stressed.

What would you say to aspiring drivers? Do you have any advice for them?
I would say that anyone who's interested in coming out to drive should do so. Our region is full of very friendly and helpful people. Don't worry if your car isn't fully prepped or it's stock. If it's not a truck or SUV you're welcome to come out. There was a 1999 70 horsepower Prius out there for a while, it was pretty amazing. If you're unsure about driving, just come out on a practice day as most people will welcome a ride along. The SCCA will have loaner helmets for free, just hand in your drivers licence.

If you're interested in competing, I would recommend having an instructor with you for as long as you feel comfortable, and take the novice school. One common mistake a lot of beginners will do is just drive fast and pick up bad habits. Bad habits are hard to break.

Want to follow Diane and the race as it happens?  You can the see live results for Diane's race and others at http://sololive.scca.com/.  You ca

Watch the race live on Thursday, September 5 at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/sccasolo