All Straus’d Out

Dani Ben-Ari.

These days 21-year old Aurora Straus is not only busy running to classes at Harvard University, where she plans to study English with a minor in mechanical engineering, but continues to put her pedal to the metal as a professional race car driver on weekends competing in the Pirelli GT4 East races in the Blancpain World Challenge behind the wheel of Rennsport-One Team’s BMW M4GT4 with co-driver Connor Bloum. The pair have been partnered together since 2017. However, she did partner with, NASCAR’s Kaz Grala at Daytona to drive 2nd Bimmer World Racing M4 GT4 in January of this year.

Auora’s first experience behind the wheel came when she was just 13, when her father, Ari Straus enrolled her in a “safe driver lesson” at the Monticello Motor Club in the Catskills, NY, where he serves as its CEO.

While her dad’s intention was for her to learn car control skills, Aurora says that after the session with instructor Stevan McAleer, he let her continue to drive around for a few “fast laps,” just for fun, and “It was like a switch was tripped.”

“I will never forget the feeling of the machine under me. I was so small, and I had never experienced so much power. It was the first time I had ever gone into the triple digits,” said later stated in an interview with the Post.

After that, McAleer, 2015 Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge Champion, began to coach her in Go-Kart racing, and soon had her racing in several International Trophy Cup and Skip Barber Cup races. She then went semi-pro in the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup for two seasons before making her Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge (CTSC) debut at Watkins Glen in July 2016. At the time, the Cold Spring, NY native became the sole teenage girl to compete as a professional sportscar driver in the United States and Canada.

After graduating high school. Straus chose to “Gap Year” before starting Harvard to compete for a full World Challenge season in a BMW, ending the 2018 season, with 4 podiums, including 2 wins, and finishing 2nd overall for the season championship, earning “Rookie of the Year honors.

“Two percent of racing is getting behind the wheel. Ninety-eight percent is raising money with sponsors, testing the car, signing with a team,” she said. “It’s all time-consuming. It’s thousands of hours of work for a race that at any point could go badly. In racing, you don’t have the privilege to try things twice. You have one option and the stakes are extremely high. If you do badly, you’ve wasted tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars,” she told the Harvard Gazette upon beginning the school year.

In the meantime Straus is seeking to help steer other young women towards success through her non-profit “Girls With Drive” Foundation.

“My long-term goal with racing is to use it as a platform for Girls With Drive,” she said. “What sold me on staying in racing was the young girls who came to watch me at the track. I amassed a small following, and they would drive from racetrack to racetrack and I realized I accidentally have an effect on girls. If I didn’t do this, who would be here for these girls?”

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