“I fell in love with the Porsche 356,” Renee Brinkerhoff says. She was 57 years old, with no prior competition experience, when she started running her highly-modified, 914-powered, 152-horsepower 1956 Porsche 356 coupe in road-rally events. The car hasn’t always loved her back; it’s been in the weeds and in the shop as well as on the podium. But the two have carried on in pursuit of Brinkerhoff’s personal goal: to compete on seven continents.
In a few weeks, Brinkerhoff and her Porsche will run the Peking-to-Paris rally. Along the way, they will be stopping to donate money to, and share knowledge with, various organizations devoted to addressing the growing problem of global child trafficking. Her Valkyrie Gives foundation has already raised over $100,000 to date, which Brinkerhoff will be donating to “carefully vetted” foundations and partners.
Brinkerhoff’s charity has become a true passion project for her, but she remains a racer first and foremost. “While I was a mom, I kind of put my own self up on a shelf,” she notes. “Now that the nest is empty, I’ve had a metamorphosis. When you have something like this… a competitive drive… burning inside you for so long… you have to do it.” The 356 is a big part of that. “I’ve given it a name… but that’s private, it’s between the two of us,” she laughs.
The heavily modified 356 is not exactly a lead-pipe cinch to make it through the event unharmed, but Brinkerhoff isn’t worried. “I love swimming with sharks, living that kind of life,” she says. “I’m not worried about what might happen.”