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From tractors to race cars: How Demi Chalkias is blazing a trail for female race car drivers

By Heather Wright, CTV National News Correspondent

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    Toronto, Canada (CTV Network) — For as long as she can remember, Demi Chalkias has always loved anything with an engine.

“We grew up in the country,” she told CTV News. “We didn’t have internet or cable running down our road but we had ATVs, dirt bikes and tractors.”

Growing up just outside of Stoufville, Ont., Chalkias learned at a young age how to drive and fix cars. It’s a passion she has turned into a successful career.

She is a two-time Pirelli GT3 Spirit Championship winner and just returned from the gruelling 24 Hours of Spa race in Belgium where she was the second fastest female.

“You really just have to keep your head down and do your work,” she said, when asked what it took to get to where she is now, at just 27-years-old. “Find a passion and just chase it.”

Cars have always been a passion for Chalkias, but she didn’t always dream of becoming a professional race car driver. Her goal was once to compete in the triathlon at the Olympics, but a serious hip injury derailed that plan.

A self-described competitive person, Chalkias went back to her driving roots and began racing go karts. She then transitioned to race cars, and has quickly climbed the ranks in a sport still largely dominated by men.

“It wasn’t until my first race weekend that I looked around the drivers meeting and said ‘oh yeah, I am the only female here,’” she recalled. “You work a little bit harder for your respect. You have to be mentally tough when you’re coming into this sport.”

For Chalkias, that hard work was not reserved just for the race track. Racing is expensive, and Chalkias made the decision to drop out of university to save money for her first race car.

“I would serve from 6 o’clock in the morning to 12 midnight and I did that until I could afford my own race car,” she said.

She now makes a living doing what she loves. She’s part of She’s Mercedes, a global initiative aimed at empowering women.

Still, there have been bumps in the road. Last March, Chalkias was diagnosed with a rare disease that causes tumours to grow in joints. She needed extensive knee surgery and was told she’d be on crutches for three months.

“I was like no, there’s no way this is possible,” she recalled, telling her doctors she was going to be back in the car within a month.

She began extensive physiotherapy and mentally prepared to get back in the driver’s seat.

“I was visualizing myself pushing the buttons on the steering wheel and visualizing the track,” she said.

Now Chalkias has her sights set on next season. Hoping to continue to break barriers, while inspiring more young girls to get into car racing.

“I hope my journey in racing can show them that they belong here, too,” she said.

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