Hi. My name is Bonnie Mortimer, and I am addicted to speed and racing.
I have been racing a Formula Vee for 38 years, racing alongside—and against—my husband, Reah. I frequently get asked how I got so involved with cars. My older brother, Mark Felsen, raced cars. I believe I was in middle school when he took me to an autocross where he was racing an NSU (some people may remember these little cars). After that, I began the countdown, at first by months and then by days, as to when I could legally drive. Of course, I did some joy riding prior to getting my license. I sat on a phone book and smoked a cigarette so that I would look older and taller.
I did get a street license and began a passion for cars. My first car was a 1959 MGA. It really was a POS. I think I pushed it more than I drove it. A short time later, I purchased a 1960 VW Bug. I blew it up on the very first Earth Day. I was skipping school to honor this new holiday and to go to the mountains. After all, that was pretty “earthy.” I had too many people in the car, was driving up Mt. Vernon canyon, pedal to the metal, when I knew something was wrong. I collapsed a piston. That was it…I had enough with slow cars and moved up to a ’69 Mach I Mustang. I used to street race down 16th street from traffic light to light. Yes, this was before they turned it into the mall.
I began autocrossing my ’73 Alfa Romeo. At first, what a disaster! That car would swap ends quite easily. I became one of Danny Collins’ first students. We went to PMP (Pueblo MotorSports Park) when it was in its infancy. By the end of the day, I learned car control and trashed a brand-new set of Pirelli tires. I continued to autocross for several years winning the SCCA regional championship in an E Prepared Honda Civic. I finished around 10th in the Nationals.
In 1979, Paul Malcomb, a well-known Vee guy, wanted to get a bunch of ladies to race Formula Vees. I volunteered. The only problem was that I was the only one to show up! He supplied a Form Car FV. Off I went down to Pueblo to attend an SCCA Driver’s School. Harvey Staab and Arnie Carvill were my instructors. Both of these gentlemen were well known nationally and have since passed away. They also ran with RMVR for years. After that, I was hooked. I had become a gearhead with a manicure.My husband, Reah, and I joined RMVR in 1984. We ran the very first Steamboat race. We shared a car back then, a 1968 Zink. It is the same car that I currently run now. I remembered that I didn’t fit the car, so I borrowed pillows from the condo just to reach the pedals. (I don’t think La Casa had fire retardant bedding.) There were only a few open wheel cars so we were mixed with production cars. I was also gridded behind Bob Martin in his E- Type Jag. His exhaust pipe was located just at my eye level. I wanted to check my fingernails to see if they were turning blue from too much carbon monoxide, but I was wearing gloves and didn’t want to be caught off guard when Grid released us. Steamboat was an awesome event for many years.
My husband and I continued to share a car. As the club grew, the Vee joined many run groups. At one point, my brother drove the car with us. That little car would run in three run groups each day. It was like a Timex watch…it just kept going. Then one day an unfortunate thing happened. Reah hit a Jersey barrier at Avon, another RMVR street race. Party over…I wanted my own car! I think I forgot to mention the generosity of my brother. He gave me that car. Reah bought an RCA FV and Mark continued to race in various classes with SCCA.
Marvin and Helga Hall were instrumental in the early RMVR years. Everything was snail mail, including paper entry forms. If you weren’t entered in a race, Helga would call you on the phone, and in her German accent, would inform you that you were going racing and to send in your money. She organized the first Ladies Race Group. I was the first “Head Lady,” but really didn’t get to run with them. By that time, RMVR had separated the open wheel from the closed wheel. We had tee shirts with “Real Women Wear Fireproof Underwear” printed on the back. We would gather at Second Creek for what I called the “Sunset Ride.” We got new shirts with PMS on the back. It stood for “Porsches Mostly Spin”. I think this was RMVR member Betsy Krill’s doing as she was driving a 2002 BMW. The shirts were purple, and as many of you remember, it was Marsha Hubbell’s favorite color. What a good sport! Kris Ellis and I came up with a new classification, FBV. You’ll just have to ask us what this stood for…RMVR is a family club.I love the Vee group. We have our own newsletter, the “Vee Room” and have some social gatherings. There is a lot of camaraderie and valuable friendships within the Vee Racers of Colorado. The Vee group is looking forward to the upcoming 7th annual Race Against Kids’ Cancer and working with Meredith, a very brave cancer survivor and our run group’s Morgan Adams Foundation (MAF) Ambassador for the event.
I am so fortunate to have a husband who preps my car, supports me, is proud of me, and bottom line, loves me. It’s OK when I beat him on some occasions. What a man!
Advice to other women who may want to give racing a try, I say go for it. Driving is one sport that women can do equally well as men…you don’t need to have herculean strength. Just the desire and a little bit of guts. Take the first step. RMVR has a terrific school that allows individuals to proceed at their own pace. Bottom line, even if you never race, it will make you a better driver.