Overtaking men at Killarney racetrack

Melani Cook and Natasha Tischendorf at Killarney during the Womens Day themed Power Series. The two racing car drivers are challenging more women to be fearless and take on the boys in motorsport.

When two fearless female racing car drivers jump in their vehicles and rev their way to the Killarney International Raceway, they feel like they are going home.

Natasha Tischendorf and Melani Cook are not easily intimidated.

In fact, they go out of their way to prove themselves before there can be any doubt of their ability.

The racing car drivers both took part in the Women’s Day themed Power Series at Killarney at the weekend.

Tischendorf, 34, says power and speed are part of her DNA and she plans to remain on the track for as long as she can.

Although Tischendorf has been interested in motorsport from a young age, and was determined to make a lasting impression in the industry and disrupt the status quo, she had a late start in taking to the track in a competitive environment.

“This weekend was my second anniversary racing, so I started on Women’s Day in 2017,” she says.

“Both my parents are petrol heads so the love for this sport was born there. Whenever they went to a race I went with.

“It was in 2016 when I got a bit more involved and I did my advanced driving and enjoyed it and felt like I can really do this.”

Tischendorf drives for Lambert Racing team during the Power Series in the Fine Cars category.

She says her debut season, last year, was the highlight of her motor sport career so far.

“When I started I was still at the back learning, then I ended fifth in the championship so that was a big highlight for me and this year it’s all about improving on my lap times.”

Tischendorf’s teammate at Lambert Racing, Cook, also says her whole life has been about cars and speed and racing at the Killarney International Raceway circuit makes her feel at peace and at home.

Her whole family are petrol heads and her father, Albert Cook, has been competing in rallies since the late 70s. At the weekend, father and daughter were side by side in the Power Series.

Cook got the better of her old man on the day but was modest about the outcome and says it was only because her father’s car had problems on the day. He is usually faster than her as he has a bigger and better engine, she says.

Cook, 29, started racing competitively in 2004 in the stock cars mini class in the Cape Hell Drivers series.

An accident in a race as a teenager back in 2005 left her scared for her life and she contemplated calling it quits but 10 years later she was inspired to get back on the track after watching stock car racing with friends.

“In about two weeks I got the car and joined racing mid-season but I did the full season the following year and ended up winning the championship in Pink-Rods.”

After that win she made her way to the main circuit as her team felt she was ready to go up against the big boys.

In September 2018 she took part in her first main circuit race in Port Elizabeth and has not looked back. At the Power Series, Cook came 7th overall with Tischendorf coming 9th overall.

“Ladies should not be intimidated by the guys in this sport, they must take a chance and do it. Some of these guys are softies,” says Tischendorf.

Cook echoed her friend’s words about the need for more women drivers to take part in the sport.

She says women are more than capable of taking on the men in the industry.

“There is no special treatment because you are a female, when we take to the track there are no genders, it’s all about competition,” says Cook.

Tischendorf is also a qualified accountant who likes to spend most of her free time dancing when she is not working with engines.

“You can’t put me in a box, I’m very open, I do different things so doing belly dancing is another hobby of mine that I enjoyed the most and I’m also very much involved with music,” says Tischendorf.

Outside of Killarney racetrack, Cook spends her days as a sales representative for a leather goods company.