Courtesy of Charles Breidinger
Toni Breidinger at the wheel of her midget car on Western Pavement Series.
Just down the hill from the Breidingers’ Hillsborough home, there is a radar speed indicator sign meant to detour drivers from speeding through the quiet suburban streets.
Even though twin sisters Toni and Annie Breidinger are accustomed to driving at speeds of 100-plus mph, local law enforcement need not worry about the sisters speeding around the neighborhood. With the two just having turned 15 in July, neither is even licensed to drive yet.
That hasn’t stopped the sister duo from emerging as contenders on the junior racecar circuit with the United States Auto Club. Both are currently ranked in the top five of the Honda Performance Development Western Pavement Series. Just past the midway point of their first full season on the circuit, Toni Breidinger is ranked No. 2 with 430 points and Annie Breidinger is ranked No. 5 with 331 points.
With racing in their blood — their uncle, John Breidinger, raced Formula Ford cars as a hobby in the 1970s — the Breidinger girls were behind the wheel since their father Charles Breidinger enlisted them in a Micro Max go-kart league as 9-year-olds.
“Our uncle used to race, and our dad used to mechanic for him, so our dad took us to a karting school in Sonoma,” Toni Breidinger said. “We did that a couple of times and we liked it, so he bought us our own karts.”
Now some six years later, Charles Breidinger serves as the chief mechanic for his daughters’ midget cars in the Western Pavement Series. As with all cars currently on the circuit, the Breidingers’ cars use 2000 cc Ford Focus engines with 170 horsepower. Each car costs approximately $20,000 used. And maintenance consists of 16 hours of work for every hour on the track.
The end result is a thrill ride, whipping around a circular track at average speeds of 70-80 mph, with top speeds of 110 mph. There was a time the idea of such speeds seemed rather intimidating to the Breidinger girls. Now, it’s just a day in the life.
“You get used to it,” Annie Breidinger said. “Now it doesn’t feel that fast.”
The Breidingers have grown accustomed to their mile-a-minute lifestyles. In addition to competing on the Western Pavement Series, they each rank in the top five of the Junior Rotax circuit in the Red Line Oil Karting Championships. And as they return to school for their sophomore year at Mercy-Burlingame, they return to the varsity cheerleader squad. They are super competitive on the cheerleading circuit as well, as the Crusaders captured third place in the large-novice division at the United Spirit Association Spirit Nationals in Anaheim, March 28-30.
Yet their home away from home has swiftly become the Sonoma Raceway. The two will be competing at Sonoma’s Simraceway Performance Karting Center Sunday in Round 6 of the Red Line Championships; but not before they spend Saturday evening behind the wheels of their respective midget cars as they compete at the Madera Speedway at the 13th race of the season in the Western Pavement Series.
While the two each race their midget cars for the same team with Valverde Racing Performance, there are no team standings in the Western Pavement Series. So, the two ultimately compete against one another.
“We usually try to help each other out, because we have the advantage of being on a team together,” Toni Breidinger said. “But we’re still competitive with each other.”
Racing cars provides the adrenaline and excitement to keep the sister tandem competitive. Before discovering the sport, they dabbled in gymnastics and soccer. Neither of them held much appeal. Dawning their respective racecar numbers is another story though, with Toni Breidinger sporting her No. 80 midget car, and Annie Breidinger throttling behind the wheel of her No. 75.
Through six years of competitive racing, however, the two have experienced few crashes. The only serious wreck either have been through came three years ago in a go-kart race when Toni Breidinger suffered a broken arm after having her kart flipped over. A competing kart racer, Logan Sargeant, was trying to pass when his front end scooped Toni Breidinger’s kart. Once their tires collided, she went airborne. And since there are no seatbelts in go-karts, Toni Breidinger was thrown from her car and pinned under it until medics pulled her from the crash.
According to Toni Breidinger, the crash wasn’t all too traumatic.
“My first thoughts, I was hoping I would stay away from the other cars because I didn’t want anyone else hitting me,” Toni Breidinger said. “But it wasn’t that scary. … It looked worse than it was.”
Six weeks later, Toni Breidinger was back in action. And now the Breidingers are setting their sights high.
“If everything goes our way, we’ll be on Team U.S.A. and go to Spain,” Toni Breidinger said. “That’s kind of everybody’s goal.”
As lofty an ambition as that may be, the sister tandem is growing accustomed to travelling. To compete, they’ve ventured as far as North Carolina domestically, and Jamaica internationally. And next weekend, they will journey north of the border to race in Chilliwack, British Columbia.
Still, nothing seems to excite them as much as the nearing date — Jan. 22, 2015 — when they turn 15-and-a-half, at which point they can receive their learner’s permits. Until then, they will have to settle for 100-plus mph raceway speeds of the competitive midget and go-kart tracks.