Friday, 27 August 2010

Circuit Racers from Southeast Asia



The countries of Southeast Asia - Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines particularly - have their fair share of female racers on their tracks. Some, such as Keiko Ihara, Tomiko Yoshikawa and Takeda Kanami, have travelled extensively and raced in Europe, making them much more visible, but many more race at home. Leona Chin now has her own post.

Red Bull's female driver search, based in Malaysia, has added to this tally recently, with its rotating squad of female touring car drivers, some of whom have gone on to further motorsport careers. The 2009 "Red Bull Rookies" are pictured here.

Even more female drivers are active in drifting, which is currently outside the scope of this site.

Single-seater drivers from this region now have their own post.

Below are some short profiles.

Kwon Bo Mi – Korean driver who races saloons in her home country. She began senior competition in 2011, after some years of karting. She only started karting to get herself out of depression due to her music career faltering. Her first season was interrupted by her car catching on fire during her first race, and broken ribs from a crash in a subsequent one. In 2014, she raced in the Veloster Turbo Cup in Korea, as well as acting as a coach to younger drivers. This is a Hyundai one-make series. As well as racing, she is a motoring TV presenter.

Jacquelin Ch’ng – Malaysian-born driver who raced in the Chinese Clio Cup in 2014. She performed quite well in the B class with some runner-up spots, but she was not able to challenge effectively for overall honours. Before the Clio Cup, her first motorsport experience was a ride in a celebrity race for charity, organised by the One Foundation. She was second in the Ladies’ category. She is better-known as an actress in the Hong Kong film industry.

Menchie Francisco – Filipina driver who was part of the first all-female team to compete at Subic Raceway. She and Michelle Pritchard raced a Nissan Sentra in the four-hour race at the 2000 Philippine Motorsports Festival. In 2001, she raced a Honda Civic in the SVI Challenge Cup, and was one of the leading drivers in the Rookie class. She carried on racing for the next ten years or so, finishing fourth in the Philippine Touring Car Championship in 2005, making another appearance in the Subic enduro in 2007, and winning Class C of the Super Saloon championship in 2008. In 2010, she was one of the drivers invited to take part in a one-make race for Chevrolet Cruzes, the final race ever to be held at Subic. Menchie got into motorsport through her husband, Kookie Ramirez, and first competed in club races in 1999.

Alinka Hardianti – Indonesian driver who races a Toyota. She usually competes in slalom and drifting, but has done some circuit racing. In 2013, she took part in the Indonesian Super Touring championship and won two of her three races, finishing second in another. In 2016, she returned to the circuits, in Japan this time, and raced at the Fuji track, in the Gazoo Racing Netz Cup. She was 24th in her race, from 36th on the grid. She was the first non-Japanese female driver to race in the series. She is supported by Toyota Team Indonesia.

Puteri Ayu Jasmin - Malaysian driver with the Red Bull Rookies team. She joined the team in 2007 and raced at the 2008 Merdeka Millennium races and the Sepang 1000km. She was retained as a “senior rookie” in 2009. In 2008, she was sixth in class B at the MME event, with Leona Chin, Norlina Johor and Norbaizura Ruslan. In 2009, she ran in the same events, and was 21st overall, fourteenth in class at the Sepang 1000km. She stayed on as a Senior Rookie in 2010, acting as a driver mentor as well as a team member for the Sepang 1000km. Her car was a Honda Integra DC2. She returned as a senior Rookie in 2011 for the Sepang race.

Claire Jedrek – British-born Singaporean driver. She began racing in the 2014 Malaysian Super Series, and was eighth overall at the end of the season. The same year, she took part in the support race for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.  Her car was a Honda. She continued to race in the Super Series, now the Championship Series, in 2015, including the Grand Prix support race. This year, she was second, her first podium finish. Away from racing, she works as a live MC and TV presenter for motorsports and fitness in Asia.

Mika Kagoshima – Japanese driver who has raced on and off since 2008. That year, she took part in Formula Challenge in her home country, and had a best finish of 16th, achieved at Motegi and Suzuka. In 2013, she partnered Rally Marina Sa for the Sepang rounds of the Lamborghini Trofeo Asia, driving a Gallardo. They were fourteenth and thirteenth. Mika is better known as a media personality in Japan, who has been a model, actress and pop singer.

“Kiki” (Nurul Alis Aidil Akhbar) – Malaysian TV personality who has raced in several editions of the Merdeka Millennium Endurance race (now known as the Sepang 12 Hours), often as part of Red Bull-sponsored female teams. She first raced for the Red Bull X-1R team in 2006, replacing Deanna Yusoff, although she had previously done some racing for a Lotus team. She raced a Proton Satria alongside Hiroki Nakamura and Kazumi Mikami. They did not finish. She stayed with the team for 2007, when she was also part of the mentoring team for the “Red Bull Rookies” female driver search. In 2008, she entered the Merdeka Millennium event again, in a Suzuki Swift, with Hiroko Nakamura. In 2009, she raced in the Sepang 1000km for the Televas team, driving a Honda Integra DC2. At other times, she has competed in the Proton 300km Endurance race, a celebrity Grand Prix support race, and grass-track autocross.

Kiki Kung – races a Caterham in Taiwan, after competing in karts since 2013. She ran well in both the Chinese and Taiwanese championships. In the Asian motorsport world, she is more known as a broadcaster, both in front of and behind the camera. In 2016, she also tested a Formula Renault, as well as racing a Caterham in at least one round of the Taiwan championship. She is from a motorsport family; her father raced, and now runs his own team.

Carmen Lim - Singaporean driver selected for the Red Bull Rookies team in Malaysia, in 2010. She took part in the Sepang 1000km and Merdeka Millennium Endurance race for the team, in a Honda DC2. They were 28th at Sepang. This was her second attempt at the 1000km event; in 2009, she drove a Proton Satria with Akina Teo and Amir. They did not finish. That year, she also competed in a rally at Sepang, in a modified CLK. She was second in the ladies’ class. She also appears to have done some drifting, and possibly rallycross, in 2009, as well as karting. She does not appear to have competed since 2010. 

Junko Mihara - Japanese actress and media personality, who raced quite extensively in the 1990s. She started in touring cars, in 1990, and drove in some races of the Japanese championship then and in 1991, in a TOMS Toyota Corolla. Both times, she shared a car with Masahiro Matsunaga. In 1992, she changed teams, driving for the Kawasho set-up, but her car was the same. Although she scored a few points, she did not enter enough races to make an impact on the championship. Between 1992 and 1995, she also raced a little in Europe, entering the Spa 24 Hours each year. She was always in a Toyota, either and MR2 or a Corolla, and usually with Matsunaga. She was 16th in 1994 and 19th in 1995, and did not finish the other races. For the latter race, she was part of an all-female team with Michiko Okuyama and Kumi Sato. In 1996 and 1997, she raced sportscars in Japan, alongside Matsunaga, in an MR2. She was not among the front-runners, although the Japanese Super GT championship, at the time, was quite competitive. Her best finish was 20th, at the Fuji Special GT Cup in 1996. In 1998, she made one appearance at the Fuji GT round, in a Toyota Cavalier, but was unclassified. She does not appear to have raced since then.

Kazumi Mikami – Japanese driver active around Southeast Asia, often as part of all-female teams, including the early incarnations of the Red Bull Rookies in Malaysia. In 2002, she was racing sportscars in Japan, and entered the Suzuka 1000km in an Oscar SK5.2. She and her team-mates were unclassified. She also travelled to Australia for the Targa Tasmania historic rally, in which she drove a Toyota Sprinter. In 2005, she raced in Formula Toyota in Japan, and joined the Red Bull Rookies for the first time. She drove a Proton Satria in the Merdeka Millennium race at Sepang, with Philippa Yoong and Deanna Yusoff. They were sixth in class B. The three were set to team up again for the Sepang event in 2006, but Philippa Yoong was replaced by Hiroko Nakamura, due to pregnancy.  

Hyemin Moon – South Korean driver who is competing in the TCSA (Touring Car Series Asia). 2016 was her first season in the championship. Her car was a Honda CL7, and she did a full season, with at least one ninth place, at Motegi. Unfortunately, language barriers have prevented any further effective research into Hyemin’s activities.

Hiroko Nakamura – Japanese driver who raced in the Merdeka Millennium Endurance Race and Sepang 1000km on at least five occasions, initially as part of what would become the Red Bull Rookies team. She and Philippa Yoong raced a Honda X1-R together in 2005 and 2007, then in a Proton Satria sponsored by Alex Yoong, Philippa’s brother, in 2010. In between, she teamed up with “Kiki”, another Red Bull Rookies graduate, in a Suzuki Swift, in 2008. Hiroko raced another Satria in 2011, as part of the Thunder Asia Racing Team, with Melvin Choo and Eric Yeo. Earlier, she raced in the Toyota Vitz championship in Japan, and worked at racetracks as a promotional model.

Kaori Okamoto - Japanese driver, who raced touring cars in the 1980s and 1990s. She was strongly associated with Toyota cars, and often drove for the TOMS team. In 1986, she drove a Toyota in the Japanese championship. By 1987, she was competing in the World Touring Car Championship, for TOMS, in a Corolla, with Hideshi Matsuda. They did not finish the Spa 24 Hours, but were 30th in the Fuji 500km. In 1988, she raced  a similar car in some European and Asia-Pacific championship events. After her best finish of twelfth, in 1989, driving a Toyota Corolla, Kaori returned to the Spa 24 Hours every year until 1994, often with Keiichi Suzuki and Morio Nitta. Other than that, she mainly concentrated on the Japanese touring car championship, completing most of the season in 1990 and 1991, driving a Corolla for the TOMS/Fujitsu Ten team, and later the FET team. In 1991, she also entered the Dakar Rally, in a Toyota.

Michiko Okuyama - Japanese driver who raced in Japan and Europe, in the 1980s and 1990s. Her earliest big race was the Suzuka 1000km, in 1985, in which she drove a Mazda-engine West 85S. She and her team-mates, Masako Fujikawa and Hideki Ogawa, did not finish. In 1989, she took part in one round of the Japanese touring car championship, at Fuji, and did not finish again, in an Isuzu Gemini. The following year, she did some more rounds of the JTCC, in a Fujitsu-sponsored TOMS Toyota Levin, with different team-mates. They were not often on the pace. Another outing in the Gemini gave another DNF. By 1995, she was racing in Europe, as part of an all-female team, with Kumi Sato and Junko Mihara. They competed in the Spa 24 Hours in 1995, and were 19th overall in a Toyota Corolla. In 1997, she tried GT racing in Japan, the dominant form of Japanese domestic motorsport, but a Renault Spider drive in the Super GT Championship did not materialise.

Michelle Pritchard – British-Filipina racer who competed in the Philippines. Her first race was the four-hour enduro held at the Subic Motorsports Festival in 2000. She shared a Nissan Sentra with Menchie Francisco, and was third. In 2001, she raced in the SVI Challenge Cup, racing against her erstwhile team-mate. She was competitive, and did well in qualifying. Her first motorsport experiences came from dirt track racing, and rallycross. Later, she worked as a motoring journalist in the Philippines. She is probably best known as a violinist with the band Imago.

Geraldine Read – Malaysian driver who races saloons in Southeast Asia. She got her start in motorsport through the Red Bull Rookies driver talent search, in 2014. She was selected for the Red Bull team for that year’s Sepang 1000km, alongside Siti Shahkirah Shaharul and Illy Aquila Fateen Ismail. Their car was a Proton Satria, and they were twelfth overall. Driving for a different team, Geraldine returned to the Sepang 1000km in 2015, in a Suzuki Swift. She did not finish. Since then, her opportunities to race have been limited, due to finances, but she spent the spring of 2016 testing, and competed again later in the year. She raced a Proton for the Dreamchaser team in the Malaysian Championship Series. 

Rally Marina Sa – Indonesian driver who currently races sports and touring cars. In 2013, she took part in the Sepang rounds of the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia, with Mika Kagashima of Japan. They were thirteenth and fourteenth in the two races. In 2014, she raced in the Audi Race Indonesia one-make series, and won at least one race. She was third in the championship. Previously, she competed on and off in single-seaters from the age of fourteen, in 1994, when she won a national championship. In 1996, she won the Asian Formula championship at Gudang Garam. After that, she did quite a lot of drag racing in southeast Asia, as well as working as a TV presenter for MotoGP and NASCAR.

Kumi Sato - well-travelled Japanese driver. Between 1997 and 2001, she raced GTs in the B class of the Japanese championship. Her best overall finish seems to have been 17th. Her cars included a Tom's Spirit Toyota MR-S, which she used in 2001, a Toyota Cavalier and a Celica. Her best finish in 2001 was 19th, at Suzuka. In 1994, she spent some time in the UK, racing a Honda Civic in the Snetterton 24 Hour race for Mardi Gras Motorsport. More recently, she has driven a Subaru Impreza in Germany, coming 14th overall and second in class at the 2005 Nürburgring 24 Hours. Her co-drivers were Stephane Sarrazin, Kazuo Shimizu and Toshihiro Yoshida. She returned to the 24 Hours in 2008 and 2011, driving a hybrid-technology Lexus for Gazoo Racing. In 2012 and 2013, she drove for the team in some rounds of the VLN, in preparation for the Nürburgring 24 Hours. In 2014, she raced in the 24 Hours again, in a Toyota GT86. She was 54th, with an all-Japanese team. In 2015, she was part of another Japanese Gazoo team, in a Lexus RC this time. They were 39th. In 2016, she raced another Gazoo Toyota at the 24 Hours, the new C-HR. She is better-known as a motoring journalist.

Siti Shakirah – one of the winners of the Red Bull Rookies driver search in 2011, aged just seventeen. That year, the competition had both male and female winners. Her prize drive was a seat in a Red Bull Proton Satria for the Sepang 1000km. She also took part in a Malaysian Grand Prix support race, in the same car, which was a round of the Malaysian Super Series. After 2011, she was retained as a driver by the red Bull Rookies team, and did at least two more Sepang 1000km races, in 2013 and 2014. In 2014, she was twelfth overall, with Geraldine Read and Illy Aquila. Prior to her Rookies debut, she competed in international karting from the age of nine.

Anne Wong - Singaporean driver best known as the winner of the 1970 Macau Grand Prix race, in a Mini. She started from last on the grid, having only just qualified. She tried again in 1971, and was seventh, in the Mini. As well as Macau, Anne raced her Mini in the Philippines and Australia in the early 1970s, including a 6-hour race in Australia in 1971, alongside Rick Lisle. Her first big race was the Singapore Grand Prix in 1969, which she did not finish. This followed a spell at the driving school at Brands Hatch, shortly after she left school. According to contemporary news articles, she did most of her racing in Malaysia, including the Malaysian Grand Prix (for touring cars), plus rallies and hillclimbs. By 1979, she had retired from the tracks, although she was that year’s official starter for the Malaysian Grand Prix. She also worked as a motoring journalist.

Denise Yeung – Hong Kong driver who raced in the Asian Renault Clio Cup in 2016. This was her sixth year of competition. In 2015, she represented Hong Kong in the China Racing Cup, in a standard Senova D70, and took part in the Macau Grand Prix, finishing fifth. Previously, in 2014 and 2015, she raced in the touring car championships of Hong Kong, Korea, Macau and Taiwan, winning ladies’ awards for all of them. She first raced in the HKTCC in 2012. Her 2015 HKTCC season was a particularly good one, with a win, plus a second and a third. In 2012, she took part in one Asian Touring Car Championship race in a Honda Integra. 

Rose Tan Ying - Chinese racer who mainly drives a Porsche. She began racing in the Porsche Carrera Cup in China in 2004, and competed on and off in it until 2006. In 2011 and 2012, she contested the whole championship, with a best result of 16th, in 2011. In the Porsche, a 997 GT3, she has also appeared in the Asian GT Championship, winning her class on several occasions, and the Macau GT Cup. Away from the Porsche, she has scored race wins in a Lotus Exige, in the Pan Delta Super Racing Festival, and also drove the Exige in the Lotus Cup. In 2009, she also tried touring car racing in a Citroen, in the Chinese championship, driving for the Dong Feng team. 


Joanna Yoong – British-born Malaysian driver. She was active for three seasons in the 1980s, and was the first female driver to win a race in Malaysia. She won the Harvey Yap School of Driving race, supporting the 1984 Selangor Grand Prix, in a JPS-sponsored BMW. In 1987, she also tried her hand at rallying, in a Daihatsu Charmante. She drove in the Rally of Malaysia, but did not finish, due to engine trouble. Her children are Alex Yoong, former Formula One driver, and Philippa Yoong, Red Bull endurance racer. 

Philippa Yoong - Malaysian driver who competes in endurance races in Asia. She drove a Proton saloon for the X1-R Red Bull Racing team. In 2008, she scored second and eighth places at Sepang, assisted by Leona Chin and Puteri Ayu Jasmin. This was the team and Philippa’s best result. She was one of the professional members of the team, which was made up of a rotating squad of female drivers. She first drove for the team in 2003. In addition to endurance events, she has also taken part in some drifting competitions in Southeast Asia, as well as competitive water-skiing. Her brother is ex-Formula One driver, Alex Yoong. She returned to endurance racing in 2010, at Sepang, and was 15th in the 1000km race. She has been active in motorsport since 2003, when she drove a Proton at the Merdeka race, as part of a different all-female team.

Deanna Yusoff – Malaysian-Swiss driver who was one of the earliest members of the Red Bull X-1R racing team, which became the Red Bull Rookies. She entered her first Merdeka Millennium Endurance race in 2004, driving a Proton with Philippa Yoong and Maznah Zolfikli. They were 38th overall, and the first all-female team to finish the race. Deanna and Philippa raced in the event again in 2005, with Hiroko Nakamura. In 2006, she was set to join the team again, but work commitments forced her to pull out. The same trio from 2005 were reunited in 2007, with their Proton Satria, and were seventh in class.  As well as the twelve-hour Merdeka Millenium race at Sepang, Deanna did some saloon racing, and karting, in Malaysia. She is better known as an actress.

Naomi Ran Zhang - Chinese driver, active since at least 2009. She has been versatile since her first year, when she raced in the Clio Cup and Asian GT Masters. Driving a Ferrari 360 Modena, she won Class B, with one win. The following year, she tried single-seaters, in the form of Asian Formula Renault, but was not as fast , and only finished 17th at the end of the season. Her best finishes were two eighth places, at Zhuhai. In 2011, she kept her options open, with guest appearances in the China GT Challenge, in the Ferrari, and the Volkswagen Scirocco-R Cup. However, her main focus was Formula Pilota in China. She was 24th overall. Since 2012, she has concentrated on the Audi R8 LMS Cup in China. In 2013, she got into the top ten once - a ninth place at Ordos. She was 20th overall, after finishing 25th in 2012.

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