Back racing seven months after a traffic accident almost ended her life, Ashley Taws sat nervously on the grid of a support race at the Molson Indy Toronto and thought, "Finally, it's happening."
While there was no Cinderella ending for the Barbie-sponsored Formula Ford driver yesterday, Taws stepped out of the cockpit after missing the podium by the slimmest of margins, wiped the sweat off her brow and couldn't stop smiling.
"I was getting sick of sitting in the sidelines because I felt good enough to hop in the car," she said after finishing fourth in her 2003 debut. "My goal was to come back as soon as possible and finish the race.
"It was definitely worth it to get it out of the way here in Toronto. I have all my friends and family here, so I'm happy."
The 19-year-old from nearby Newmarket was critically injured in December when a friend fell asleep at the wheel of a vehicle and crashed into an oncoming car. She was scheduled to rejoin the Formula Ford circuit at the next race, in Trois-Rivières, Que., but decided to return a few weeks early. Starting fourth, the 2002 Formula Ford rookie of the year battled hard with three other drivers for the final podium position. The battle ended in a thrilling four-wide drag race to the finish line. Taws missed third place by 0.057 seconds.
"I think I did a good job during the race and I was fine physically, but I'm just not exactly on the top of my game," she said. "They made me work really hard out there, and I just missed a crash at the other end of the circuit, so I could have been out and fortunately I made it to the finish."
David Clubine of Brantford, Ont., won the 20-lap race, with Christopher Guerrieri of Pickering, Ont., second and Toronto native Walter Koller third.
Although she arrived at the Molson Indy Toronto eager to compete, Taws said, she didn't begin to feel comfortable and confident in the car until the end of the final qualifying session on Saturday.
"I got into the groove of how it was last year, so I figured that when I went out to race I would step it up, but there's so much more going on and it's full of pressure, but with more track time and I should be right there," she said.
"I definitely could have gotten second place, but I made a couple of mistakes."Report Typo/Error
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