ACO CLUB- How Ben Keating gave young driver Sally Mott a helping hand

ACO CLUB- How Ben Keating gave young driver Sally Mott a helping hand

We come from all walks of life to share our passion for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the club is full of talents, some of them just waiting to be discovered.

An evening with a legend

The recent Evening with a Legend online ACO Club Members meeting boosted the ascension of a rising star, 18-year-old Sally Mott from Victoria in Texas. At the event, the racecar driver was introduced to another local driver, a guy called… Ben Keating! The well-known privateer, who operates a chain of car dealerships in Victoria, has several class wins at Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring to his name. His neighbourly gesture helped further Sally’s career.

A childhood dream

When you’re the only child of a national champion kart and car racer, sooner or later you’re going to find yourself at the wheel. Aged 8, Sally had fun driving around, but had little interest in racing. She was happy watching dad. But a few years later, at 15, she changed her tune, and began chasing a goal – to become a racing driver.

But speed costs money. Sally learned it wasn’t easy putting a sponsor’s name on the side of a go kart, so she switched to cars and chose a Miata, the most-raced car on the planet, and one backed by an enthusiastic manufacturer (Mazda) that provides a ladder system for aspiring racers. Coached by her father and number one fan, she began at racing at local club and then regional level. Success bred success. She raced as much as logistics and finances would allow, always looking ahead for the next opportunity.

Ben zooms in

Chance came in the shape of the ACO! During the Zoom event in July, a shout-out to Ben that there was someone else from Victoria on the call led to a career-boosting encounter. On learning of Sally’s race history and driving ambition, Ben invited Sally and her father to share
a car three weeks later at a Champ Car 24-Hour Enduro at VIR and to pay for the transport and accommodation. A massive boost for a racer on a budget!

On the flight to Virginia, Ben questioned Sally about her goal. She had her sights set on the pinnacle of Miata racing, the MX-5 Cup. Ben urged her to “jump right in at the deep end”. Sally was a bit hesitant to take the plunge, but Ben was adamant: “You’ll get exposure. You’ll get your name out there. And you’ll learn.”

A legend in the making

At VIR, Sally adopted the aggressive style that suits karting. A 24-hour endurance event calls for different tactics, as she learned, and by the end of the weekend she showed Ben she could hold her own in the MX-5 Cup. Thanks to his encouragement Sally secured a ride at the MX-5 Cup race during Petit Le Mans weekend. And she didn’t stop there. Spotted at Petit Le Mans, she was invited to the Mazda MX-5 Cup
Shootout where her performance resulted in a $75,000 scholarship from Mazda. This year’s goal is a full MX-5 Cup season.

Sally’s off-track performance is equally impressive. Practiced in seeking sponsorship since her kart days, she is adept at social media and knows how to get her story out. She maintains an active involvement in women-in-motorsports groups where she has “found her community” and is happy to invest time networking and signing autographs.

Making strides

Not content to climb the ladder one rung at a time, Sally went from racing Club Miata to Mazda factory driver within a year. Motorsport can be tough, but drivers look out for each other. May Club ACO events help many more rising stars on their way up!

Text by Stuart Wirtz.