Gear shifts: Alumna follows her heart and chases down a life-long dream
By Audrey Webb
A study abroad program changed Brianne Corn’s life in ways she had never intended. In her final semester at Texas State, Corn enrolled in two courses in Italy: Italian art history and street photography. At that point, her plan was to graduate, then travel to Greece to photograph the 2004 Summer Olympics. But after a daring drive up a mountain in a rental car, Corn steered her life in a whole new direction.
On a day off from class, Corn started racing Italian drivers up a curvy mountain road — “misbehaving,” she admits with a grin — and when she finally pulled over, her heart still racing, she had what she can only refer to as an epiphany, “literally in the shadow of a castle,” she recalls.
“I asked myself a question: ‘If you won the lottery, and money was no object, what would you do?’ My answer was that I would become a rally car driver,” says Corn.
She completed her degree — a B.S. in digital and photographic imagery with an art/design minor — ditched her plans for Greece and set out full throttle to fulfill a dream that had begun when she was growing up in Victoria, Texas.
Corn had always been interested in cars, and jokes that her mechanic ability “is directly proportional to my father’s mechanic inability.” Without the money to buy a ready-made race-worthy vehicle, she built her own cars to prepare for races. “If you can follow a recipe in a cookbook, you can learn to build and repair engines from a manual,” she says. A few years after she came back from Italy, Corn drove in a two-day rally race — her very first — and beat the pack by 15 minutes.
“They started me in last place,” she says. “I had to pass everyone to do it.”
It was not the first time Corn had faced a disadvantage and come out favorably. During her undergrad years, Corn was placed on academic probation with a 1.85 GPA. “I came back with a new perspective,” says Corn, who laughs now about the simplicity of her solution: “I just went to class. Every class. The only thing I changed was that I read every assignment at least once and never missed a class. I was determined to prove to the world and myself that I could do this,” says Corn, who had been diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia as a child. “It was a gift I wanted to give to my parents especially.” She graduated with a 3.5 GPA.
Corn has competed in motorsports events all over North America and has gathered a long list of titles along the way, including 2011 SCCA Driver of the Year. Now 44, she recently finished in the top 10 in her first professional road race — the Pirelli World Challenge at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin. Corn is excited about upcoming opportunities, such as going to Colorado to be fitted for a new race car, races to be held at her own rally course in San Marcos, taking on the Global RallyCross and, she hopes, eventually racing in the X Games.
What makes her achievements even more impressive is that Corn has done all this while working full-time at Texas State as a media technician with IT Support. “I figured out that I don’t need nine hours of sleep every night. I can function pretty effectively on four or five,” she says, and adds a few words of inspiration that may help others to go for their dream: “If you truly apply yourself wholly to something and have a never-give-up attitude, it’s amazing what you can accomplish,” she says.
Keep up with Brianne (if you can!). Like her Facebook fan page — facebook.com/BrianneCornRacing — or visit her site at briannecorn.com. And be sure to watch her televised race on June 16 on NBC Sports, 5 p.m. Eastern time.