Women in Motorsports: Janine Shoffner - Engine Builder Magazine
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Women in Motorsports: Janine Shoffner

Addiction is rarely ever a positive thing. Most people would agree. But, in what cases is addiction good for a person? Janine Shoffner is a prime example of how far a simple addiction can take you in life. Of course, Janine’s addiction isn’t to particular substances, but rather a feeling. That blood-rushing adrenaline caused by extreme sports and other activities has resulted in Shoffner building up a laundry list of unique experiences over the course of her life.

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While her most recent achievement is one most people in racing can only dream of – a championship title in the German Nürburgring Endurance Series – her exhilarating career path starts from humble beginnings.

“When I was 10, my sister was my idol,” Janine Shoffner says. “She was five years older than me and had a boyfriend who had a motorcycle, a Suzuki TS250. I’d go sit on it when it was parked out front and rev the engine and I was just transfixed by this motorcycle.”

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After a few years of growing up, Janine began working at a local fish and chips shop in England, along with delivering newspapers, washing cars, and whatever else it took to save up for her first motorcycle. She finally purchased one at age 14 and began riding it religiously at the local gravel pits. A love of motorcycling was born that would carry on through the rest of her life.

“I would push it from our house to the local gravel pits, which was private property, but there was a gate I could push the bike underneath. It was a TY 175. I had to push the bike uphill for a mile to get to the pits since it wasn’t street legal. I’d ride it until the gas tank was empty then walk home covered in mud and blood and bruises.”

Motorcycles were Shoffner’s first love, and like many hobbies from a person’s younger years, it opened the door to a world of adrenaline-filled fun. In her earlier years, she worked as a motorcycle dispatch rider in London, raced motorcycles, rode horses, snowboarded, and got into a number of other non-traditional career paths.

Shoffner’s next endeavor occurred in her late-20s, a few years after she earned her degree in film and photography from the University of Westminster. An acquaintance propositioned her to try skydiving, but it wasn’t just any ordinary person. Her friend was a part of the elite British Special Air Service (SAS) and invited her to go with a group of them.

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“My first ever skydive was a tandem with them, and I remember being all gung-ho in the plane… and then they opened the door,” she remembers. “You get a lot of wind coming in and then I was pushed out into free fall.”

Testimonials of people who try skydiving usually go one of two ways – they either hated it and felt sick the whole time or it was the best experience of their life. Janine’s was the latter.

“As soon as I landed, I thought, that’s it, I’m pursuing this,” she says.

For a decent stretch of her life, Shoffner became a professional skydiver and trainer and combined her love of photography and film to become a freefall photographer. A typical day saw her dropping from a plane upwards of 10-20 times, soaking in the sights of drop points all-across the world.

Shoffner worked for skydiving teams and individuals and quickly began appearing on the covers, centers and back pages of many popular magazines. Around 2000-2001, she was in almost every reputable skydiving magazine for her one-of-a-kind shots.

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While it may be hard for a regular person to view skydiving as “just a job,” Shoffner admits that like motorsports, the thrill and adrenaline of skydiving slowly fades away and it becomes your new normal.

“Once you’ve done something long enough, you reach a point of saturation since you’ve spent so much time on it,” she says. “I remember being in California at a massive drop zone and one of the first times I wasn’t being held onto by an instructor. I looked back at a cameraman for one of the teams who was casually reading a paperback book, and I thought, how he could be reading right before jumping?”

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Skydiving would carry Shoffner through the majority of her life, up until her next big endeavor that began from a simple conversation with her husband, John, who she described as a “car guy.”

“I told him, you need a midlife crisis car,” she says. “He wasn’t sure, but I pushed him to get one.”

After a ton of research, contrary to Janine’s gung-ho “straight to the dealership” attitude, John finally settled on an 06’ Ford GT. The two decided that public streets were no place to test their new performance vehilce, so they quickly hit the track, running laps at NOLA Motorsports Park in Louisiana, at a track day in Atlanta, and a track day at Daytona.

Countless racing sessions and connections made in the racing world led the pair to start their own racing team.

Janine and John formed J2-Racing, a GT3 motorsports endurance racing team based near the famous Nürburgring in Germany. The team competes in various endurance series throughout Europe, including the VLN, Nürburgring 24h and GT Open Championship series. The team has over 80 race starts on the Nürburgring, including six N24h races, and over 150 total worldwide race starts.

“J2 is kind of an umbrella racing company – we don’t own a wrench or spanner or anything – we have GetSpeed Racing to support us,” Shoffner says. “But the drivers and the organization is under J2-Racing.”

Shoffer is currently the only driver as John is working to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming a private astronaut through Axiom Space’s Nasa-level training and flight program. The team also consists of co-drivers Moritz Kranz, Maxim Soulet, and Markus Palttala.

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The team races a Mercedes-AMG GT3, outfitted with high-class racing technology and a spectacularly attractive design. The car is powered by an AMG 6.3L V8 naturally aspirated engine. Drivers typically post average lap speeds of around 100 mph at Nürburgring races and top speed of 170 mph.

From the cockpit of the teams incredibly quick Mercedes, Shoffner has repeatedly made a name for herself within the endurance racing world.

“When you move up from a Cup car to a GT3 car, it’s a professional leap,” she says. “There’s 12 mechanics working on it and you can’t operate it without an engineer or two. When you’re in the car it’s like a spaceship, just a whole different ball game, and it’s so much fun to drive. There’s been hurdles, but this last season, everything came together.”

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Having completed that championship achievement, Shoffner and the team have decided to take a break from the Nürburgring.

“We are very happy with our win and now we are going to move on to the GT Open Series, which is another GT3 series that happens all over Europe. We’ll be racing at Monza, Barcelona, Estoril, and Portugal. It’s a great series, but I’ll definitely miss the Nürburgring. We’ll still do a couple of NLS races because this endurance series has been a part of my life for nine years now.”

Shoffner and the J2-Racing team’s championship title win at Nürburgring last year not only cemented the team as a force to be reckoned with, but solidified Shoffner’s name as a racing professional for newcomers to look up to. As a woman competing in a male-dominated sport and someone who entered the competition scene later than most, she has a unique perspective of what it means to be a racer.

Similarly, Shoffner has seen a vast uptick in the number of women starting careers in motorsports and rising to that higher level.

“In 10 years, it’s going to be quite normal to see women in motorsports,” Shoffner says. “There’s not as much misogyny as there used to be. You have to concentrate on cultivating the people with positive attitudes – and the people with a negative attitude – you show them the side door.”

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