Teen driver fuels secret dream

Written by Staff Writer

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(CNN) — Teenage off-road racer Jesica Higginson spends her weekends racing mud-soaked souped-up cars in Peru.

But her passion isn’t just racing on the road. She’s also a keen sculptor and painter who takes her fellow students art classes.

“I like everything,” she said. “My hobbies and my creative side are very similar — it’s like each and every one of my hobbies is the other.”

Meanwhile, her activities on off-road race tracks in Peru are just another part of her day. Higginson, who is 17, prefers to think of racing in terms of challenges.

“It’s just competition, figuring out how to solve challenges on the course,” she said. “Having to do different stuff. That’s just learning from other girls. And that’s one of the reasons why I like it.”

‘She’s fierce’

In typical teenage fashion, Higginson said her father had to change her race car number from 14 to 26 after her first appearance in Peru, a sign of her ambition.

“I started it, and my father just changed it on the spot,” she said. “He was like, ‘This is my girl’s number. She’s fierce. Go do it.’ “

Her parents, who live in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa, take pride in her drive. Her father, Carlos Quintero, said the family wouldn’t have been able to afford to allow her to compete had they not had international sponsorship.

“I haven’t had any mishaps,” she said. “There haven’t been any major accidents.”

This year, she finished third at the Supersport World Championship World Championships in Queensland, Australia, with her teammate winning the overall title.

The statistics Higginson posted on the official ICC World Championship website show she’s developed into one of the country’s rising stars in the dirt bike-racing world. She was ranked ninth overall in the world for the 2015 season.

But she didn’t always love racing.

“When I was little, I hated it,” she said. “When I was little, it was such a mess. I didn’t like to cut corners. I guess I was a risk-taker and just wanted to go out there and race, like, how it should be.”

Higginson is still finding her calling. After listening to her parents’ opinions, she’s starting to become more comfortable with her craft.

“I’ve come to understand what my limits are,” she said. “I’m now much more content with my art. At one point in my life, I would have gone crazy.”

Living the dream

On the track, Higginson describes herself as a “reasonably patient” racer and plans to race in the events next year. Her long-term goal? “Anything and everything.”

That includes a career as a stunt woman, which she would like to avoid developing into an obsession.

“I don’t want to do something that I want to do a lot because that turns into a hobby,” she said. “Because you become a fixer. It’s not exactly how I want to be a part of the industry.”

But like some of her fellow hopefuls, the passion runs deeper than simply a desire to race.

To help make her dreams come true, she said she’s making a strong connection with the racing world she now inhabits.

“I’ve got some connections, because of track people — including the video team,” she said. “They’ve helped me so much.”

The title sponsorship isn’t coming easily. Her father said he’s had to turn down other offers, but there are still other options, including having the Quinteros become co-owners.

When he can’t afford to pay the entire purse, Higginson tries to help compensate the team. She often gives away her gear or borrows something from her friends and family.

“I just do whatever I can to be a part of their team,” she said. “They would never ask me to take something back.”

The Catching Feel is a series of short videos hosted by CNN consumer reporter Ivan Watson. Watson will feature 17 remarkable and surprising stories about how independent and accomplished Millennials are shaking up traditional media industries. For more information, visit www.cngreen.com.

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