Global Woman of Vision: Courtney Mageau
This drag racer is shaking up a male-dominated sport and blazing a trail as the only female racer in her class in Alberta.
August 13, 2017
photography by Cooper & O'Hara
By day, Courtney Mageau works in human resources. However, whenever she isn’t at the office, her time is spent at the racetrack or working on her car, getting it ready for her next race. Mageau is the only female driver in her class in Alberta, and one of only two within all of Canada drag racing at her level. The other Canadian female racer, Sherrie Bodnarchuk, is close to retirement — which will only leave Mageau. “I guess I’ll be carrying on the legacy for now until we have more females joining our class,” she says.
For Mageau, drag racing isn’t something new and unusual — it’s the family business. She’s a third generation drag racer, and grew up watching her father racing. In fact, the name she’s racing under — Girl Trouble — isn’t just indicative of her unique position as a female racer; it’s actually a family legacy name. Mageau’s grandfather raced under that name, and her father used the name for his cars for years before passing it down to Mageau and taking up a new name for himself. Her older sisters raced when they were younger, but for a variety of reasons didn’t pursue the sport. Mageau was bitten by the racing bug when she was 12, and asked her dad for a shot at the track. “That season, my parents surprised me. They called me out to the garage one night, and other kids come home to brand new bicycles, and I had a junior dragster sitting there,” says Mageau. Soon, she was hooked.
Mageau competed for several years before graduating to the next level and building her first funny car three years ago. A funny car is a particular vehicle designed for drag racing that has a one-piece fiberglass body over a chassis, with the engine placed in the front. “To get in and out of the car it essentially pivots on the back, the front end lifts up, and somebody will put a bar in there to hold it up and then the driver can climb in,” says Mageau. The interior is fitted with things like neck restraints to prevent whiplash, a tight enclosed roll cage to prevent the driver from moving around, and a roof hatch that Mageau can climb out of after the race is over.
“I love it [the sport],” says Mageau. “It’s not just what’s happening on the track…it’s that thrill of building something with your hands, tuning it, the sense of satisfaction when something goes right, the camaraderie of working on a team. We’re all working on a common goal together.”
While Mageau does literally have family involved in the sport, she’s also quick to point out that the bonds you form with the crew and the other racers makes everyone on the track feel like family. “All of the down time in between [races] you’re still in the pit area working on the car, your family can be there, and it becomes a sense of community,” she says. Her pit crew exemplifies that perfectly. “My entire pit crew is volunteer — everybody does this out of love for the sport,” says Mageau. While Mageau and her team have competed in Alaska, Washington, B.C., Saskatchewan and Alberta, they’re limited about how many races they can compete in and generally can’t do the longer road trips to bigger races because of cost and scheduling conflicts with their jobs — but she’s hopeful that may eventually change. “If there was ever a point where I was offered a national sponsorship or something that could finance the team, to go for a longer season and to permit that travelling, I would pursue that without a blink of an eye,” says Mageau.
Her passion fuels her racing, and she embraces all the challenges that come along with involvement in such an expensive sport. “If you want to be successful and you want to continue, you have to persevere, you have to find solutions,” says Mageau. “You have to wake up tomorrow knowing that it’s a new day and a new way to approach things. And that’s what’s going to get you to the race track.”