Demi Chalkias is shining on the track for female racers
For as long as she can remember, Demi Chalkias has always loved anything with a motive.
“We grew up in the country,” she told CTV News. “We don’t have internet or cable running along our way but we do have ATVs, dirt bikes and tractors.”
Growing up just outside of Stoufville, Ont., Chalkias learned to drive and fix cars as a child. It is a passion that she has turned into a successful career.
She is a two-time Pirelli GT3 Spirit Championship and has just returned from the 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium, where she was the second fastest woman.
“You really just have to bow your head and do your job,” she said, when asked what it took to get where she is, at just 27 years old. “Find a passion and just follow it.”
Cars have always been Chalkias’ passion, but it wasn’t always her dream to become a professional racing driver. Her goal was to compete in a triathlon at the Olympics once, but a serious hip injury derailed that plan.
A self-described competitive man, Chalkias returned to his driving roots and began racing karts. She then switched to auto racing, and quickly climbed the ranks in a sport still dominated by men.
“It wasn’t until the end of my first race week that I looked around at the drivers’ meeting and said, ‘oh yeah, I’m the only female here,'” she recalls. “You work a little harder for your respect. You have to be mentally strong when you get into the sport.”
For Chalkias, that hard work isn’t just exclusive to the track. Racing was expensive, and Chalkias decided to drop out of college to save money for his first race car.
“I would serve from 6am to 12pm and I did that until I had enough money to buy my own race car,” she said.
She now makes a living doing what she loves. She’s part of She’s Mercedes, a global initiative to empower women.
However, there were bumps in the road. Last March, Chalkias was diagnosed with a rare disease that causes tumors to develop in his joints. She needed extensive knee surgery and was told she would be on crutches for three months.
“I was like no, this can’t be happening,” she recalled, telling the doctors she would be back in the car in a month.
She began physical therapy and mentally prepared to return to the driver’s seat.
“I was visualizing myself pressing the buttons on the steering wheel and visualizing the track,” she said.
Now Chalkias has set her sights on next season. With the hope to continue to break down barriers, and at the same time inspire more young girls to embark on racing.
“I hope my journey in the race can show them that they belong here too,” she said.