HEATHER WAS FEATURED IN THE JULY 12 LOCAL EDITION OF THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Vroom, start your engine
Who said men are the only ones who can go off-road racing or enjoy motor sports?
Meet Heather Mishell Bonanni of Laguna Niguel who not only rides, but she races competitively – and she is pretty darn good, too. Here is a closer look at this daredevil.
Q: Do you have a full-time job?
A: I used to work full time managing the Mortgage Loan Servicing Call Center at Downey Savings and Loan in Newport Beach. My husband has since afforded me the opportunity to be what I always wanted – a stay-at-home mom.
Q: How did you become interested in racing?
A: Watching my husband race. I have always enjoyed motor sports, and off-road racing was right up my alley.
Q: What is the fascination with it?
A: That you can drive over the most rugged, dangerous terrain in Mexico for hours on hours, push your body and mind farther than they have ever been pushed, get dirtier than your 3-yearold playing in a pile of wet sand and mud, cross the finish line completely exhausted and still want to do it all over again. Not only want to do it all over again, but cannot wait to do it all over again!
Q: Have you ever been hurt?
A: Yes, at the Baja 500 last year. The race was going through the infamous pine forest and this was my section. This section had not been raced through in years. I was feeling like I was in the groove, got a little too comfortable and hit head-on into a deep rut. I broke the left front trailing arm off the body and limped it in to the next pit where the BFG guys welded us back together and we sent the next girl on her way. I ended up having a concussion that made me pretty loopy for about four days and a compressed disc.
Q: So, you compete, how often, where and when, and against whom?
A: I will compete with the All-American Girl Racing team for the 2007-2008 race years starting with the Baja 1000 in November. Our race schedule after that is being worked out, but if all goes well, we will complete the entire SCORE International season, which includes the San Felipe 250 in March and the Baja 500 in June, both in 2008.
Q: Any awards, prizes, trophies, ribbons?
A: Our very first race, we took first at SNORE’s Buffalo Bills 400. We also captured the first place trophy at SCORE’s Battle at Primm in September. Both of those races were at Stateline (Primm, Nev.). We completed the Baja 1000 in November and are currently, that I am aware of, the only all-female team (both drivers and navigators in the car at all times are female) to ever complete the Baja 1000 when it runs from Ensenada to La Paz.
Q: Will this or could this ever become a full-time career for you?
A: Probably not … we do this for the sheer excitement and the money we get from sponsorships is barely enough to pay for the car to race. We put a lot of our own money into it so we can continue to do this.
Q: What type of off-road vehicle do you ride?
A: We used to race a buggy type car. Some compare it to a ‘beefed-up’ sandrail. A brand new car like ours last year would today run about $100,000, at the least.
About Heather Mishell Bonanni
Born: Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, raised in Downey. Hobbies: Anything outdoors, swimming with the kids, running with dog, Charlie, around Lake Laguna Niguel, volunteering at the kids’ school, ‘date nights’ on Mondays with husband, and planning the race schedule for next year.
Family: Husband, John Bonanni, a real estate developer, two step kids, Derek, 17, and Jordyn, 14, and two kids of her own, Andrew, 10, and Kalani, 8.
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