Mechanically Inclined

2/28/2018
15.1

A love for the Impreza inspired Heather Hershkowitz to follow her dreams.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Or, for that matter, an oil change. For Heather Hershkowitz, the simple act of learning some basic maintenance ultimately led her to become the first female technician to land a highly coveted position as a rally mechanic on the Vermont SportsCar (VSC) rally team. 

Hershkowitz got started early. In high school on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, she had a boyfriend with a WRX. He took her to an autocross event, and she beat him in his own STI. From there, she learned to drive a manual transmission – and then started picking off routine maintenance procedures, beginning with fluid changes. Brake upgrades were next. But it was when she bought a 2000 Impreza 2.5 RS that things started to get really interesting.

I’m drawn to the Impreza because I feel like I belong more to the tuner scene.

“I’d blown the motor,” says Hershkowitz, who became increasingly immersed in rally culture after purchasing the vehicle. “And I was freaking out because I was still making payments on it.” Necessity is the mother of invention, and, in six months, she went from oil changes to a complete engine swap. Her passion stoked, she went on to Universal Technical Institute in Sacramento, landing an apprenticeship at Elk Grove Subaru, followed by Lithia Reno Subaru. “When I was at that dealership, I learned about Vermont SportsCar – through Drive Performance, actually.”

A tech from VSC ended up following Hershkowitz on Instagram, and the two started corresponding. When the team was in Los Angeles for a race, she drove the seven-and-a-half hours from Tahoe – just for a chance at a job interview. She could be a good fit, the team said, but her West Coast location was a problem.

Or not. Hershkowitz loaded up her worldly possessions and moved to Vermont, landing a position at Burlington Subaru. All the while, she was keeping up on VSC. Heather took every chance she could to get their attention. It worked. “I’d like to think they hired me just to shut me up,” she laughs.

Heather Hershkowitz working on an STI rally car.
Heather Hershkowitz working on an STI rally car. Photo: © Lars Gange, subaru.com/rally 2017

In 2015 she hit the ground running. “The first day, they told me I was going to build an entire race car,” she says. Eventually, she was assigned to the left rear corner of the car, making her the first female rally tech for VSC. “I also re-prepped cars between events, and worked on/fixed the car during events.”

Following several campaigns, Hershkowitz struck out on her own, and is now a race tech for DirtFish. “I work only at races for DirtFish,” she says. “I’m available for re-prep at the shop if needed, and have stayed after a race for a week to re-prep. In a perfect world, I’d like to be a hired gun. I live out in the country, so I love 
that freedom.”

Heather and her boyfriend have 13 cars at their Vermont home, including three Impreza vehicles. “One is stock, one is WRX-swapped, the third is fully caged – we’re deciding what to do with it.”

For Hershkowitz, the performance lifestyle has always centered around the Impreza. “I’m drawn to the Impreza because I feel like I belong more to the tuner scene,” she says. “Lookswise, it’s eye-grabbing. And I don’t think I could have gotten my dream job without being into the Impreza. The Impreza was used for rally. By initially falling in love with the 2.5 RS Impreza, it brought the sport of rally into my life.”