The little old lady's 500

The "little old lady" of the Fiat 500: ageless to run

Read about the retired teacher Yara Loeffler who, at age 70, realized her dream of flying low with her beloved Fiat 500

October 23, 2019 - Sitting at the Christmas dinner table last year, Gustavo, Max and Bruno Loeffler had no idea what their mother was about to tell them: “next year I ‘ll be 70 years old and I decided that I want to celebrate it either skydiving or participating in a race on a race track”, said Dona Yara. The initial astonishment was soon replaced by the good humor characteristic of the family. "'Little old lady', go take your meds!" joked one of the children.

But no one was more serious than Mrs. Yara, who remained firm in her intention to celebrate her birthday on June 4 doing some kind of radical activity. Sensing that the conversation was serious, the brothers began to support her plan of racing on a race track. “In May, we learned that there would be a new edition of Friends Track Day, at the Curitiba (PR) racetrack, the city where my mother lives. Because it is a controlled environment, and to test if she was really serious, we signed her up but kept it a secret until the day of her birthday”, says Gustavo.

Open to the general public, the event is geared toward enthusiasts, under the supervision of the motoring federations, which set some rules. The event in which Dona Yara would participate in consists of four 1h30 batteries, without timing or prizes and the participants must use their own cars. Yara's meeting with the race track was scheduled for July 7. On her birthday, she was surprised by her children with the news that in just over a month she would be ready to race! “She didn't talk about it for a while and we thought she was going to give up on the idea, but we were surprised once again when we realized she was watching videos of our own races and other Track Day editions. Yes, the 'little old lady' was studying”, says Gustavo laughing.

Adventure in her DNA

“I always liked speed, but getting on a track had never crossed my mind,” says Yara, who acknowledges the influence of her kids, all in love with motor racing. In addition to racing, two of them, Gustavo and Max, work in that same field.

The Saturday before the race, Yara went to the mandatory survey site to validate her entry. People standing there were looking curiously at this smiling, determined lady. “Maybe they thought it was funny, but I didn't care. I'm not afraid of things. I've ridden a camel, an elephant and even a hot air balloon! I have an adventurous spirit”, says Yara, who recently went with friends to Fernando de Noronha.

Is this the car?

Yara admits she had no idea what her racing performance would be like, but she had no doubt what car she would use to take on the tracks: her good, faithful Fiat 500. The acquisition of the car yields another good story. Before that, Yara drove on the streets of Curitiba in a pickup truck that belonged to her deceased husband.

With the weight of the memories that this car brought her and the desire to drive a more compact model, Yara fell in love with the Fiat 500. As the love for surprises runs strong in the Loeffler family, the purchase of the vehicle was also different. “We knew she liked the 500, so we started looking for one that was in good shape. After some time searching, we found a white, 2012/2013, with sunroof, the way she wanted it”, details Gustavo.

The car was at a friend’s dealership and, one day, with the excuse of wanting to have lunch with his mother at a nearby location, Bruno parked in the store’s lot. As they talked about other matters, Yara observed curiously as the parked 500, not suspecting that the car was hers. Then she heard, “How do you like this car, Mom? Here, take the key!”

Bruno also helped personalize the car for the race. In addition to designing an exclusive jacket for the racing mother, he prepared the sticker kit to place on the side of the vehicle. For fun he also created a stylized “shopping list” using world-famous motorsport brands. To top it all off, her children bought a set of 16 rim tires from the 500 Sport, just the way she wanted it. The cart was ready! But what about the "little old lady"?

Dona Yara and the cartTake a good look at all the stickers of famous brands but read carefully…

D Day

“Up until the day of the registration, I was feeling calm, but on the day of the race I was a little nervous. My biggest fear was disrupting the others on the track and, of course, hitting someone”, says Yara. With the authorization of the event’s organizers, her son Gustavo took a few laps on the track with his mother in the passenger’s seat. He showed her how to use the gears and how to navigate the circuit layout in the best way.

Back in the pits, Yara announced that from now on she would go on her own. “At that time it was frightening”, confesses Gustavo. Zealous, Yara didn't go so fast right away. The teacher seemed to be studying the track, trying to find the best put the pedal to the metal with her Fiat 500. But with each lap the "little old lady" went faster and faster. By the end of 8 laps, she had already gained confidence and was pushing the 1.4 engine of the cart to the limit. “I had a Corsa 1.0 in front of me and I had no doubt, I really pass it!”, recalls Yara.

At the end of the event, several people went to the pits to greet her. Yara and her Fiat 500 had already reached celebrity status. Friends, relatives and many women on the race track made it a point of taking pictures with the new ace at the wheel. “I was an elementary school teacher for 26 years. I attribute this desire to live and to do things with determination to the many years of being around children and youngsters in the classroom”, she reveals.

In time: See in this other story FCA's actions to transform education.

Yara and her son GustavoIn the first few laps, Yara followed her son Gustavo's advice. Then she kicked him out.

And what about the future?

Yara does not know yet what her adventure will be to celebrate her 71th birthday in 2020. "Let's see what happens, I still have some time to decide," she says. But evidence points out that a return to the tracks is not ruled out. “A few days ago, I saw her looking at ads for a Fiat 500 Abarth. This 'little old lady' is crazy!”, concludes Gustavo.

Words: Roberto Ângelo

Pictures: Juca Lodetti

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