By Chelsea Royer
Most girls, at the age of five, when faced with choosing either a race car or a pony would choose the pony. Not Ariel Biggs. When her dad gave her the choice, Ariel chose a quarter midget – a small, caged, go-cart type race car. At age six, she began racing and today is going round the track faster than ever. Her dad’s love for cars and passion for building and fixing them was infectious. Ariel not only drove, but learned about the insides of her car and how to make them run correctly when broken.
At age 13, Ariel won her first Extreme Winged Sprint Series Championship in Oregon on the dirt track and shortly after, Don Emery became her first “car owner.” As her sponsorship base grew, however, so did Ariel’s challenges. “I’ve grown up with girls who get pushed around on the track, but my dad always said to me, ‘you’re not a girl – you’re a race car driver.’ Because of that, I’ve always gotten along fairly well. But I’ve had people laugh at me and walk away when I’ve told them that I race cars – all because I’m a girl,” explains Ariel. “Having people laugh at me has driven me to work harder. I think it’s fun proving people wrong.” As a woman in a primarily male-dominated arena, Ariel has had to work hard to earn respect.
“If Ariel isn’t in her gear, people will assume that I am the driver and are super surprised when they discover I’m not,” says Will Corvell, Ariel’s boyfriend and one-man pit crew – fondly nick-named “crew of ten.” Ariel adds, “It is a challenge to earn respect as a driver and even then people assume you don’t have any knowledge about the car itself.” Fortunately for Ariel, it’s not always this way. Many drivers have approached her to say what an excellent driver she is and how they are glad they had the opportunity to compete with her.
“Racing is a great sport. When you put on a helmet, everything is equal ground. Everyone has the exact same opportunity. It is nice to be a woman in the sport and hear little girls tell you that they want to be like you when they grow up,” smiles Ariel.
Ariel’s current car owner, Hando Debakker, can’t speak highly enough of the young woman who used to compete against his son at the races. “One of the best things about Ariel is that although she is constantly competing against men, she has not lost her femininity to racing,” says Hando. “She can dance on that razor edge better than anyone and stays in tune with her vehicle and fluently communicates problems with her car. It’s a consciousness many people don’t have. It’s the difference between a race car driver and someone who drives a race car.”
Ariel shrugs her shoulders in the face of praises and says, “I’m not talented. I’m stubborn.” Her boyfriend can laughingly confirm Ariel’s stubborn personality trait. Will Corvell has been fixing cars for a long time. His love for Ariel followed shortly after developing his love for racing. “Will’s awesome. It took him one race to get the basics down. He’s smart and has learned to do exactly what I need,” says Ariel.
With her entire life centering around the track, it would make sense that her love story would begin there as well. The duo are committed 110% to the sport and often spend days on the road at a time, many hours putting together and fixing their cars, and long afternoons discussing plans and strategy. Their racing family includes Hando and his wife Arlene, who not only own Ariel’s racing vehicles, but sponsor her as well. “Hans spoils us. He’s done 97% of the work on these cars,” insists Ariel.
This upcoming racing season, all four of them will face new challenges as they experiment with asphalt racing. “This year, I want to win as many races as I can in the dirt series,” says Ariel. “I also want to be the first female driver to win the Washington Midget Racing Championship with an asphalt open car.” But opportunities to compete are limited unless Ariel can help bring back the popularity of racing.
In an age of electronics and television, many smaller sport and art-focused events are seeing a decline in interest and attendance. With the older generation fading out of the racing scene, drivers like Ariel are hoping to attract the youth. “The racing community is dying,” says Ariel sadly. “The new generation is not into it. I am learning how to promote myself online and one aspect of that is a weekly video post to give people the background of the racing community.”
Will adds, “The dirt and experience of being there is a lot different than watching it online. We hope to market things differently so that people can be interactive while at the track. We need involvement and to change perspective.”
“It’s the American sport,” insists Ariel. “It’s as exciting as the community. There’s so much history behind it and it’s a sport anyone can do. Almost any other sport you have to look or be a certain way. Racing, however, is for the underdog.”
Ariel’s first race of the season will be hosted at the Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma on April 25. You can see for yourself why people like Will and Ariel have fallen in love with racing by attending their events and visiting them online.