RENEE BRINKERHOFF RALLIES FROM PEKING TO PARIS
Written by Deb Pollack
Photos courtesy of Valkyrie Racing
When Colorado-based philanthropist and mother-of-four Renee Brinkerhoff decided to race in the legendary and highly dangerous La Carrera Panamericana rally in 2013 at the age of 57 – not only was she a rookie on a race track, but she had yet to ever experience a road race – let alone a 2,000-mile racing challenge. As the founder of Valkyrie Racing, Brinkerhoff has exceeded her dreams and all expectations by earning class victories in the famed Mexican race four years in a row and made history as the ‘only woman to finish the race’ each year she has partaken.
With a self-imposed challenge to complete six races across seven continents, at press time, Brinkerhoff was embarking on her next challenge along that path: the month-long Peking to Paris rally. She hopes to continue her winning ways while extending her charitable mission on a global level through her dedication to fight child trafficking, a cause she has already championed in Mexico, Australia, and Peru.
Brinkerhoff made her driving debut in Mexico behind the wheel of a 1956 Porsche 356A, navigating treacherous mountain roads that claimed several crews on day one. Her class made her the only female driver to accomplish this feat. Further success in subsequent years encouraged her to look at challenges further afield, and a plan was hatched to race on every continent: Project 356 World Rally Tour.
To help achieve her goal, Brinkerhoff partnered with leading specialists in rally car competition, including famed rallyist and Porsche restoration master Richard Tuthill -- and she soon began racing the car all over the world. The story captured unexpected media attention, which the savvy sixty-something soon realized could be used to draw attention to worthy causes in the areas she intended to race. A philanthropic wing – ‘Valkyrie Gives’ - was formed to assist in directing financial support and donations to the charities closest to Brinkerhoff’s heart: countering child exploitation and human trafficking in poorer parts of the world.
“I had so much spare energy and personal time when my children left home,” said Brinkerhoff. “I initially filled this with rallying – an incredibly exciting passion which requires immense focus and courage – but I knew there was more I could do. We started by exposing the audience that was building around our story to important social issues and asking for help to make peoples’ lives better."
Brinkerhoff began researching social problems in the countries she was rallying through, finding that child trafficking was a significant issue across the Americas, where she was participating in two rallies: Mexico for the La Carrera and Peru for Camino del Incas. Looking at the racing calendar, Renee noted that similar issues are found in Asia, where she will race on the Peking to Paris Rally in June and July, and also in East Africa, where she will be racing in late 2019 as part of the East African Safari Classic Rally.
“Understanding the scale of these problems and how a lack of transparency and education keeps children in danger from exploitation and trafficking, we reached out to some of the agencies on the ground in our target areas, to figure out ways we could help by pooling our resources,” she explained.
During each rally, Valkyrie Racing gives financial support to carefully vetted charitable efforts active in preventing or intervening in trafficking operations and restoring victims of trafficking. These charities provide education, rescue victims, provide legal assistance and travel funds to repatriate victims and nurture and counsel them after their rescue, for a healthy and productive future.
Brinkerhoff’s goal through Valkyrie Gives is to bring comfort to those in need, working to identify children at risk and working to secure and protect them. Efforts have included funding trafficking investigators and rescuers and obtaining the latest technology so that charities can match the traffickers on a technological level. Valkyrie Racing is proactive in rural communities, taking rain boots to remote Quechua communities in Peru, and using the opportunity to educate children on their right to be safe, and when to report issues to trusted authority figures.
Learn more about the exciting story of Valkyrie Racing and follow Renée Brinkerhoff’s progress on the team website at racevalkyrie.com