Rebecca Bertok: May 2010 Enthusiast of the Month! In Her Own Words

My motorsports history began just four weeks after I was born, thanks to my dad. He was the first full term RE of the South Carolina Region-SCCA and was originally a rally driver and corner worker. My mom often served as a corner worker and rally navigator as well. I went to my first race, the Chimney Rock Hillclimb, in April 1981 (I turned 29 years old in March). My dad took a long racing hiatus after my birth, but we still went to the track all the time. I swear sometimes that I grew up among Road Atlanta's red clay hills and kudzu covered trees (previous to Panoz's involvement). After many years of spectating, I finally got to drive, and I took my first driving course in 1997 at Road Atlanta. It was just a single day Performance Handling School, but I loved it! I started autocrossing in 1999, in my Dodge neon ACR, and working corners and went to Le Mans in 2000 as a translator for a group of corner workers (of course, I worked too which I LOVED!!!!). We were stationed along the Mulsanne Straight, just beyond where the Cadillac burned that year. I still have friends in England and Holland from working that event. We are now planning a Le Mans trip, for 2012, for myself, my family, and friends. Yay! I can’t wait to go back!

Anyhow, I held a corner worker training event just two weeks after returning from Le Mans in 2000. I sent an email to a local car club to invite some gearheads to participate, and one of those men, Steve Bertok, well, I ended up marrying. Most of our region still finds it funny that I got my husband into the sport, not the other way around. After he met me, he started autocrossing, corner working, everything. We began working on a Spec Miata build, and Steve went to school just a month before our wedding in 2002. I went to driver's school in 2004 and in June of that year, was signed off on my license at Barber Motorsports Park. Two weeks later, we discovered I was pregnant. ha! I was cleared for normal activity 6 weeks after giving birth to our daughter in March 2005 and hit the track that same weekend. I just couldn't stay away. Now our daughter, MariKate, who turned five in March, has a collection box on her desk where she is saving for a helmet and driver’s suit. I agreed that I would pay for her kart if she would buy her own suit and helmet. Little did I know that our racing buddies would stuff the box for her, and I’m afraid she’s way ahead of me in the collections department!!  

My "injury", quite unlike yours, has been a lifelong battle. I grew too quickly when I was 12 and it seriously messed up my feet and the construction/mechanics of my hips and legs. I have had complete reconstruction of both feet for severe skew foot...nine surgeries over the past nine years. My condition is considered a birth defect since it occurred during growth. So I've been battling this forever, but it only recently has kept me from doing things I enjoy. I last drove our Spec Miata 3 years ago...almost to the day. I took a hard hit at turn 8 at Roebling Road (that's a story in itself, haha!) that fractured my left wrist and it was kind of a wake up call. Though my injury from that wreck wouldn't have kept me out of the car, my constant Physical Therapy would. My shoulder had frozen due to my poor gait, and I knew then that if I took another good hit, it could do more than just hurt my arm. My core structure doesn't recover well like most people. 

Sometime around this same period, my husband decided to pursue a lifelong dream of opening his own business. He left his 15+ years in automotive salvage and together, we opened Panic Motorsports. It had been a loose organization of gearhead friends for seven years, and we turned it into the real thing. Panic Motorsports supplies high-quality tested, salvage and aftermarket parts for Mazda Miatas and RX-7’s, Volvos, and the occasional Porsche or Mini Cooper. Steve still races and knocks 'em dead in the Southeast but for the past three years, it’s been a full time business. For the 2010 season so far, he has four podium finishes and an additional top ten run. He’s won the Carolina Cup Pro Series Spec Miata Championship the past two years. I’m so proud of him!

I run communications for Panic Motorsports and work as the crew chief on race weekends. By the end of last season, I had our team car as well as four client cars to manage. Busy, busy! Panic is working toward becoming a full racing management and racecar-leasing business, in addition to our parts livelihood. We’ve recently taken a big step toward our goal of encompassing racecar services, and we’re excited to see what the rest of the year brings. I'm still deeply involved in our racing, but my "condition" continues to decline so I'm not as active as I used to be. The guys, however, seem to be plotting to get me into an F500 or something that doesn't require a clutch (my left foot/side is weaker), but there's not much competition in the Southeast…what fun would that be? Boo hiss. 

I also have a beautiful 1988 convertible RX-7 (with an LS-1 engine in it) that Steve is going to retrofit with paddle shifters. Yay!

My physical condition has been a hardship but my mind outpaces it constantly, and I am working to get myself into a condition where I can get back in the car one day, or so I would like to. I think that in the back of my mind there’s a thought that someday I may not be able to do the things I love, so I constantly push like crazy to experience as much as I can. So anyway, that's me. Although I co-own Panic Motorsports, I actually work part-time in marketing and design at Creative Tile in Columbia, SC. I am an artist, wife, mom, and sportscar driver…life is never boring! I have a web site at and a link to my blog is on there as well.

Days in the Life of Becca as she  . . . finds her line:

1. "LeMans", hanging out with the Panoz boys at the 24 Heures du Mans, 2000.

2. "VIR2005", a family affair, Me, Dad, my little girl MariKate (6 months old here) and one of my best friends, who happens to work for us, Jonathan Black

3. "NewLeftFoot", I wear an AFO on my left foot, day in, day out.

4. MK (in her bicycle helmet) helps Steve celebrate a victory at VIR

5. "No90", Our P-40 Flying Tiger designed Spec Miata #90

6. "MK_22Sept07", A 2 1/2 y/o MariKate helping out at Roebling Road

7. "Suits", Mine and Steve's suits hang side by side in the race trailer

8. "Christmas09", family photo

9. "New Roll", acting as Crew Chief at a test day

10. I don't paint cars well, oddly enough, so I did a stylized self portrait for Steve, for Christmas this past year...the painting itself is based on the pin-up and hell's angel girls that used to appear on the side of bombers in WWII, in addition to our car being based on a P-40 Flying Tiger.  The eagle is our engine builder's logo, the #90 is our car number, and the blue sun was found on the underside of the P-40's wings. The girl is me.


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