Walero’s ‘Real Racers’ campaign intends to shine a light on the personalities, stories and characters across all levels of grassroots motorsport. All members of the campaign compete up and down the land and have independently chosen Walero to keep them cool under pressure and help them fight it out at the front of the grid. In our first edition of 2021, we speak to Tricia Reina as she guides us through the scintillating world of cross-country rally, her route into motorsport and what it’s like to race through some of the furthest, most remote parts of the planet.
Motorsport comes in a plethora of forms. With perhaps more variation than any other sport on the planet; stories, experiences and personalities are not hard to come by.
One of the most exhilarating, but often understated, disciplines of motorsport is cross-country rallying. Guided by nothing more than an old-fashioned map or road book, drivers tackle some of the harshest of terrains on earth.
One such driver is Tricia Reina, a driver and navigator from San Diego, California. When she dials in to speak to us, she’s in the midst of the Baja California peninsula in Mexico preparing for the season ahead.
It’s early in the morning, 06:30 in fact, and Tricia is setting her UTV up for another day on the trail. Akin to the calm before the storm, it allows Tricia a chance to reflect on exactly how she got there – taking the story back to the very beginning.
“My father was an antique car collector,” Tricia recalls. “Mainly pre-war vehicles but he also sought out exceptional, original condition motor cars and he drove them too.There’s a lot of club activity surrounding that so I always tagged along to car meets and car shows.
“He had everything from a 1913 Ford Model T to a Rolls Royce Silver Ghost from the 1920s. I spent my days and weekends polishing and brass for the headlights and learning how to crank start a car.”
Immersed in a world of vintage classics and pure engineering from such a young age would no doubt leave you in awe of all things automotive, and Tricia believes those memories have shaped her life.
“My appreciation for machinery and understanding what it takes to keep something going started at a very young age, it’s in my blood.
“We set up Gymkhana rallies in the backyard when I was young. We had to hold a tray of champagne with one hand and drive around cones with the other and then figure out how you’re going to shift if you needed to. You really had to get your footwork together!”
Through those experiences, Tricia has developed a deeper understanding of how to pilot a car and extract the most out of it.
“There’s an excitement around making a machine do what it can do and how you pair your mind and your body with it. That’s really where I draw a connection for any motorsport, but especially in the harsh terrain and the conditions you are doing in off-road and rally.”
Tricia moved from New York to California as an adult, where the sunny climes and short distance to Mexico made the idea of off-road racing a real possibility.
“I was keen for a different type of adventure,” Tricia explains. “I learned about cross-country rally and had an opportunity to co-drive and navigate. And I thought ‘yes, this is for me’.”
As a winner of the Australasian Safari, part of the Dakar Challenge, Tricia is well-equipped to explain the intricacies of cross-country rallying and what sets it apart from any other form of racing.
“There’s maps, there’s compasses – it’s about taking something on paper and matching it up with nature to go fast through the waypoints without missing any. That’s really one of the overarching things I think that is appealing to me, the stimulation you get from nature. And we’re doing it at speed, your brain has to process that information rapidly.
“It takes a laser focus. No matter what seat you’re in, you really can’t lose your concentration.”
When it comes to driving the cars themselves, there’s a particular mindset you must adopt. You almost have to forget everything you already know.
“‘Slow is fast’ is what we say. You can only drive to what you can see because you don’t have a track to memorise.
“You look as far as you can in the distance – you push your eyes out as far as you can see and you study the patterns of the terrain. If you see a mountain or an elevation then you know you’re going to turn and make your way around it.”
With a degree in geology, Tricia has extensive knowledge of different terrains and the vast combinations of rocks found in all corners of the globe. Her expertise gives her a real edge out on the trail as she can quickly evaluate her surroundings and adjust her approach accordingly.
“Geology influences the texture of the trail and how you need to control the car or caution your driver. You have to understand the desert or learn very quickly.
“That said, nature is not one and done; you need a tremendous amount of seat time to be able to react to the infinite number of situations that can arise. Things you can’t even think of.”
Tricia splits her time between driver and co-driver, meaning she has a wealth of experience in both seats of the car. In fact, 2020 was Tricia’s first year being listed as the driver of record in her UTV Pro.
The year brought success as well, with visits to the rostrum on several occasions.
“I ended up with two podiums [in the UTV] and 2nd place in the championships so that was pretty good. I was able to take a big jump in a short period of time.
“Then I kicked off 2021 in the Unlimited car where I navigate and co-drive, we just got a podium too.”
Racing as a whole requires a fierce mental discipline, that discipline can be amplified when traversing unknown land and ensuring you remain on course.
“When you’re not in the car, you do whatever you can to keep your mind clear and keep your life free.“
Women’s motorsport has seen huge advancements over the past decade, with inclusivity and diversity forming key pillars of the sport, and Tricia has noticed the positive change from within.
“In 2010, I had the opportunity to go to a rally out in Morocco and at that point in time, it was a bit of a novelty to see a woman go out and be in a rally car for 10 days in the middle of Morocco.”
Entering a male-dominated industry and succeeding, Tricia also hopes that her experiences have helped open the sport up to more women.
“As someone that didn’t have family by their side pushing them into it, I had to show up. I started out pit-supporting people down in Mexico and just learning as much as I could.
“There are a lot of women out there now, more so now that I don’t think people really look twice at it. People send me messages with things like ‘seeing what you just did makes my day better’.
“I like to think by seeing me out there, it helps to encourage people’s daughters, their sisters or their wives to follow their dreams. It’s all just really good fun.”
For the year ahead, Tricia has grand plans. If the pandemic allows, she’ll take part in a range of different events throughout the year, including the NORRA Mexico 1000, the SCORE Baja 1000, the inaugural season of the LEGACY Racing Association and the revered Sonora Rally. It’s a busy schedule but one that Tricia can’t wait to get started with.
You can follow Tricia’s progress throughout the year by following her on Instagram.