January 11, 2012 - The world of auto racing has seen very few female drivers make a significant impact on the sport.
Sisters Amanda Skelly (right) and Desiray Skelly pose with Amanda’s rally machine, a 1998 2.5RS Coupe. Photo submittted. (click for larger version)
Even with the recent success of Indy Racing League/NASCAR driver Danica Patrick, the sport has mostly been dominated by male drivers going full throttle and racing for all the glory.
The Skelly sisters are looking to change that.
Amanda, from Lake Orion, and her sister Desiray, from Oxford, are looking to make a name for themselves in the competitive world of rally racing.
Rally racing is a form of auto racing that takes place on public or private roads with modification production or specially built road-legal cars.
"It's not like you are put on a track and you are racing against these cars all at the same time," Amanda explained. "You are put in these minute increments and you are battling the terrain and the natural roads and everything."
The rally bug didn't bite Amanda until she attended a rally event in December 2006.
"Ironically, I didn't even know what a Subaru was until I had met an ex of mine, and he was into rally cross," she said. "I used to have a purple Saturn, and after I went to my first one, I went...I need to do that."
She purchased her first Subaru, a 1998 2.5RS Coupe, and less than a month later she entered her first rally cross with the Detroit Region Sports Car Club of America.
Her sister Desiray joined her in later in 2007 and since then, they have been participating in rally crosses all over Michigan.
She began by participating in time speed distance races, which test a drivers ability to stay on track and on time, and rally cross, which are usually held at closed fairgrounds.
"They set up a bunch of cones, and they usually are about one to two minutes long, sometimes even 30 seconds, and you are based on a class, and those you have to go as fast as you can through them," Amanda said.
"Those are where I get my car super muddy and I get sideways," she noted.
It was during the rally cross events she met her good friend Matthew Noble Marker, who was running an independent team called SubaRoots.
Unfortunately on April 30, 2011, Marker was killed in a rally accident during the third event of the Rally America National Championship.
Amanda noted Marker was a popular driver among his peers and the rally community.
"He encouraged everyone, regardless of age or gender, to take an interest in racing and to live their dream," Amanda wrote in an email. "His charisma, fueled by a love for the sport, left marks on all who crossed his path."
Marker's passing left such an impact on Amanda, she proceeded to design and market some memorial bracelets in order for people to remember Marker by.
After Marker's death, his parents decided to keep the team going, and in September of 2011, asked Amanda and her team, Noble Star Rally, to become a member of SubaRoots.
Amanda came up with the team name as a tribute to Marker.
"I wanted to do something that honored my friend and kept him going in our own way and to uphold the image that he had," said. "Noble was his middle name, and he was a very noble person. So that is our mission, and that is what we follow."
She said the star part of the team name came from her and Desiray's obsession with stars.
"It kind of just flew together really well," she said.
Amanda said SubaRoots has been great supporting Noble Star Rally and calls them "family."
"Matt inspired us and is family to us. The Marker family has been phenomenal in supporting Noble Star Rally and it is an honor to be part of their son's legacy.
Marker's character inspired the girls to look at rally racing through a different perspective.
"We don't believe in fighting and getting all crazy on each other...our safety is the most important thing, and if we go the wrong way, we will laugh about it and will turn the car around and go back the other way," she explained.
"If we see somebody on the side of the road, we are going to help them too," she said. "We are not there to sit there and win and be better than everybody else. We love having fun, and for me, when I am in my car, I'm connected to the road and it's a thrill to take the perfect apex through the turn and get sideways and everything."
Amanda said if it wasn't for her team - Manager Kayla Fryatt, Crew Chief Matt Peterson, Crew members Jacob Bryant, Derek VandenBroek, Daniel Fryatt, Ben Vallerand, 31 Motorsports owner Jeff Reamer and employee Ronnie Allor and Marketing Director Derrick Bachi - she and Desiray "wouldn't be where they are today with the car."
"They are my brothers," Amanda said.
She would also like to thank her sponsors 31 Motorsports, Thompson Racing Fabrication, SafeDrives, Pro Vinylshop, Team Illuminata Motorsports and discoveryparts.com.
According to Amanda, her team is busy prepping her car to compete in Sno Drift stage rally competition, which will be held Jan. 27-28 in Atlanta, MI.
"What they do is basically close down a bunch of side roads, so you get gravel and mud and snow and ice...and during that time you have a co-driver, which obviously is my sister, (who) reads through the notes," Amanda said. "She reads those off to me and we have to keep on pace and keep communication between each other."
"At that point, I am driving as fast and as comfortable as I can be on those roads," she added.
However, Amanda and Desiray are struggling to raise money to finish the car and purchase the necessary safety gear in order to make it to Sno Drift.
"Our primary thing is getting suits, helmets, shoes, those are our biggest need," she said. "Other things we need are simple stuff like buying all the fluid for the car once we put the motor in and things like that."
Amanda said they have only raised $500 of the approximately $2,000 to $3,000 they need.
Noble Star Rally currently is selling bracelets in order to raise funds. The cost is $5, which includes free shipping.
If you would like to place an order, email email@example.com and include your name, shipping address, email and number of bracelets requested.
You can also visit the team's Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NobleStarRally, where one can make a donation as well by clicking on the merchandise link.
For every braclet purchased or $5 donated, a person is entered into a drawing to get their name on a star on Amanda's car.
They also take money orders and cashier checks, and t-shirts, hats and hoodies will be coming soon, according to Amanda.
Ten percent of the funds from all donations will go to support Children's Hospital of Michigan.
Amanda said they chose Children's Hospital because they both work in the child care industry.
"We both felt it would be really great to go out and meet kids at the hospital and make them feel like they have a dream," she said.
Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.