Behind The Helmet
It is 2013, and our societies still associate physical strength and ability as a male characteristic. Renee ‘Buttaz’ Edwards discredits these notions on a daily basis. Having recently competed in Nevis at the Winfes’ Drag Race Meet in the 10 seconds category and making it to the semi final stage, Renee doesn’t intentionally challenge society, but rather challenges herself to achieve the goals she knows are possible.
Renee attended the Antigua Girls' High School, and then took her love for engineering and went on to further her studies at the Antigua State College Engineering Department where she attained a Diploma in Automotive Engineering. Her educational journey later took her to the Centennial College Professional Pilot Programme in Canada where she attained her Private and Commercial Pilot License. The last leg of her studies guided her to the Art Williams and Harry Wendt Aeronautical Engineering School where she studied Aircraft Maintenance and Engineering and attained her Guyana Civil Aviation Engineering License. Currently employed at LIAT 1974 Ltd as a Grade 1 Aircraft mechanic, Renee is a burst of freshness that captivates your interest once you begin to hear the story of her life.
We wanted to share Renee’s story with you our readers, so we caught up with the busy lady to ask her a few quick questions.
365antigua.com: What drew you to drag racing?
Renee: Even before leaving high school, I was a sports car enthusiast. I just wanted to know how cars worked or even how to modify them to make them go faster. I would stay in my room at times, and listen to cars pass the house and I would be able to tell you the type of car (whether it be a Honda or a Toyota) and at times I would be able to tell you who owned said car.
During my 2 years at the Antigua State College (Automotive Department), my classmates were into it (racing) more than I was. I would ask a lot of questions about race cars; how to drive a manual transmission and even how to pull a 'hand lever'. I also worked part time at the ‘Auto Clinic’ alongside Brian Kelsick and Vernon 'Dash' Lloyd, who both raced. They were always willing to answer any questions I had, and allowed me to get hands-on experience on race cars they were working on. While working there, I got acquainted with other racers who would travel overseas to represent Antigua. Last September, I was introduced to Mervyn Bonnett (my present crew chief), who was told that I was very competitive and knowledgeable about cars and engines. He shortly after offered me the opportunity to Race my present race car "Da Black Widow".
365antigua.com: How many race cars do you own, and what sort of sacrifice have you put into owning them?
Renee: At the present moment, I co-own one drag race car in Nevis, which is a V8 powered 2nd generation Mazda RX7. I drive a '97 Subaru WRX STi and will from time to time take her down the track in Antigua. With changes and progress, sacrifices MUST be made whether big or small. I've sacrificed a lot of family time because of the constant travelling to make sure that the race car is up and running to attend events and also to get some "seat time" in. I also had to make some financial sacrifices, which is a given with this sport, to ensure that the car had everything it needed to be finished for the event. I won't complain about the sacrifices though, because my family is very understanding and supportive.
365antigua.com: The career fields you have chosen are heavily male-dominated, has that ever been a cause of concern or hurdle for you professionally or personally?
Renee: There are a few times in my career where I've felt intimidated by the guys, but there is always that small voice that would tell me to keep pushing and to do my best. This is why I haven't given up on any of my dreams....persistence and determination!
365antigua.com: What is your ultimate career goal?
Renee: At the moment my goal is to attain my authorization privilege within the next 2 years and become the first Antiguan female Aircraft Engineer. I foresee a career in aviation Sheet Metal repairing as well.
365antigua.com: Where do you want to be in 5 years?
Renee: In 5 years, life spared, I see myself as a happily married mother with a successful career in Aviation Engineering and a professional Drag Racer; that is a must!
365antigua.com: If people want to see more of you drag racing, where can they go?
Renee: For the balance of 2013, I am scheduled to participate in two events in Nevis: One during the Culturama celebrations on August 3rd and 4th 2013, and one during the Independence celebrations in September. I also should be in St. Croix the first weekend of July 2013 for an event.
I love Renee not because she challenges stereotypes, but because she walks and smiles without difficulty, doing what she loves, and loving what she does. At 26, Renee has already embraced her genius greatness, and has carved out a professional life that reflects the confidence of an individual willing to take on any obstacle to be happy. A bit of an over-achiever, her fearless nature is actually second only to her fun-loving humorous personality that allows her to smile and laugh with ease. Outside of cars, planes, and engines, Renee loves cooking, going to the movies, and spending time with family and friends. As if her plate wasn’t already full, she is currently the Antigua and Barbuda representative at the Miss Plus Caribbean Universe pageant. I am starting to think her days have more than the regular 24 hours, and her week is definitely longer than 7 days. Girl Power! Bad Ass! Fierce and Fabulous! Whatever you want to call it, Renee owns her destiny, and for that she gets a standing ovation. The sky is her limit and the race track is her playing field as her future moves speedily along.
Check out Buttaz in the YouTube clip below doing her thing; she is driving the green car.