Since 2016, non-profit Drive Toward a Cure® has made an impact within the inclusive world of car aficionados and automotive enthusiasts to raise funds and awareness for Parkinson’s Disease. By building upon the emotion and pleasure of those that enjoy Cars and Camaraderie™ the foundation has raised more than $1million and benefitted numerous regional Parkinson Foundation Centers of Excellence within the United States and are becoming recognised worldwide – most notably as the beneficiary for the upcoming CORFU FESTIVAL OF CLASSICS on the Greek Island of Corfu.
Between car clubs, organisations, individuals, and racetracks that have created on-site and virtual programs on behalf of the charity, momentum continues as enthusiasts harness their passion for cars and driving to promote the cause.
Fourth-generation racer, 24-year-old Loni Unser will also be teaming with the charity, when she joins world-record holder Tanner Foust, on September 13th at 7pm ET (9am AEST on September 14th), for a free and live virtual event to share her passion for racing while encouraging others to take initiative and contribute to causes like Drive Toward a Cure that make a difference.
“I am thrilled to be doing a live virtual event with Drive Toward a Cure. It feels good to be involved with such a cool cause that has become elevated throughout the entire automotive enthusiast community and that is really making a difference in people’s lives,” said Loni.
Loni grew up ski racing in Idaho and this is what started her on the path for a love of speed and the skill of finding the right line. After moving to Colorado to attend college at the University of Colorado in Boulder Loni was able to begin her racing career driving a Spec Miata in the Rocky Mountain region. The Mountains are an important part of Loni’s life, and she loves spending time in the area mountain biking, hiking, and running.
Being the daughter of racing driver Johnny Unser and granddaughter of open wheel driver Jerry Unser Jr is somewhat of a double-edged sword for Loni. She is both inspired every day by what her family has accomplished and is so lucky to learn from my family members. However, it comes with a lot of pressure.
“When I go to the track, I get a lot of outside expectations and judgements, but I like to use that as motivation to do better and be better.”
“Every time I go to the racetrack, I experience challenges and setbacks. It is part of the sport. I have found that almost nothing goes exactly how you planned. The way in which you deal with challenges in this sport is how you are defined. As my dad always told me, in racing, the highs are really high and the lows are really low,” shared Loni.
To date Loni has primarily focused her career on sports car racing and she has been lucky enough to race and drive many different sports cars. Loni currently works as a driving instructor and hopes to break into the stunt driving world. She is also honoured to be a part of a program called ‘Shift Up Now’ whose mission is to inspire confidence and courage in women in motorsports.
Loni loves the contest of motor racing and recalls, “I had a team owner tell me it [motor racing] is a game of chess at 100 mph, and I couldn’t have agreed more. You always must be one step ahead whether that is analysing how you can find a tenth of a second in each corner or if it’s how you are doing to make a pass on a competitor. I have always thought that it is very important being uncomfortable in life, and I always feel uncomfortable in a race car because I am testing my limits and the limits of my car.”
This past weekend, Loni earned two podium finishes in the World Racing League endurance races at Virginia International Raceway. Along with teammates Ayla Agren and Zack Ping as part of team Round3Racing, they together shared driving time in a Porsche Cayman. While excited to secure a second-place finish on Saturday, it merely set the stage for a 1st place victory in Sunday’s eight-hour race!
The challenge of adapting her driving style to suit every different car she drives is something Loni thrives on. No more so than when she competed in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb earlier this year.
“My biggest accomplishment thus far is being second in the Pikes Peak Trophy by Yokohama class at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb on my rookie year. I also made history last year in 2021 as the only women to finish in the top 10 in two consecutive races overall in the Mazda MX-5 Cup.”
“There aren’t words to describe it [driving at Pikes Peak] other than it was the coolest feeling of my entire life. There was something immensely special about it, and through speaking to other competitors everyone feels the same way. It was the intersection of the two things I love the most: race cars and mountains. To also be honouring the Unser name this year at the hundredth running was very special to me,” beamed Loni.
Loni has added another chapter to the remarkable Unser legacy at the Pikes Peak event, driving the same number 92 that her father Johnny had previously ran. The Unser family raced in the very first Hill climb race, with various family members winning the event and setting more than a dozen course records throughout the century of its existence. Loni hopes to be racing there herself for many more years to come.
“I loved the camaraderie of it all. It felt like everyone wanted the best for every one of their fellow competitors. It didn’t feel like a race against each other, it felt like a race against the mountain,” added Loni.
Tune in to the live virtual Drive Toward a cure event here on September 13th at 7pm ET (9am AEST on September 14th) to hear more from Loni of her own dedication and commitment to racing, including the prep and concentration it takes to run both on-track and off-, but also will share how she has made a mark in history for herself as one of only three women participating in the recent 100th anniversary of the famed Pikes Peak International Hillclimb ‘Race to the Clouds.’