Four girls and a need for speed.
That, in essence, is what made up the Quintessentially Race Team (QRT), an all-female kart racing team formed for the Singapore Karting Enduro (SKE), which was held at Jurong's Kartright Speedway last Saturday.
It wasn’t my first time taking part in a kart endurance race, having formed an all-female karting team back in 2011 for the four-hour OCBC Corporate Karting Challenge 2011.
However, the biggest difference is that a rental kart was used for that, while this time, professional race karts were used. With a lot more horsepower, a race kart is much harder to drive than the rental karts with higher speeds and increased G-forces.
Teaming up with new team-mates for the SKE, the QRT line-up consisted of Carrie Choy, Michelle Kuek, Tan Su-Anne and myself.
Carrie, 35, a banker by day, is a regular face in the Singapore Karting Championship where she races under local karting outfit Veritas Racing. She also engages in Muay Thai and golf regularly.
Real estate director Michelle, 32, also has experience in race karts and enjoys shooting, dance and ice-skating.
Mother of one, Su-Anne, 32, the reigning Mrs Singapore Southeast Asia, is sporty by nature and does sports like archery, bowling and rock climbing.
As for me, I like extreme stuff like skydiving and bungee jumping.
Never one to turn away an opportunity for racing, there was no hesitation from us when Lung Nien Lee, partner of the team’s main sponsor Quintessentially Lifestyle, approached us. Team leader Carrie guided us through the training sessions with the team’s technical director Shaun Yip.
Steep learning curve
Su-Anne and I have never driven in race karts before and it was a very steep, three-week learning curve for us. We had just four sessions to learn the way the kart handles and also get familiar with the track and our racing lines.
After each training session, it was normal to ache in the neck and arms the next day, as well as be splattered with bruises all over.
As there was only a very limited time for us to train up to speed, the goal was just to complete the race without any penalties. The other eight teams competing in the four-hour endurance race were experienced karters, some of whom are champions from the Singapore Karting Championship.
“Being up against eight other teams of males, completing the four-hour race would already be an achievement for us and having a good placing would be a bonus. My constant advice to the girls is not to focus on beating their personal best times but instead, to remember that this is an endurance race. Hence, being consistent, finishing the race without incidents and penalties is the main objective,” said Carrie.
Rotating between the four drivers, each of us went out for no longer than 20 minutes a stint. That meant each of us drove at least three times.
To drive at high speed for 20 minutes on a technically challenging track like Kartright’s is no joke. During training, I was already getting breathless while driving, and feeling like my neck and arms were going to fall off.
Come race day, we were greeted with gloomy weather. The rain reduced to a drizzle that never went away and it kept us wet throughout the day from practice to qualifying and the actual race.
Besides Carrie, we were new to driving in the wet so it was like starting all over again. Our training sessions were done in the dry, so as we had to learn as we race. The racing lines were all different as the track conditions kept changing and we had to avoid the puddles on the track, while trying to be fast.
Holding our own ground, we remained calm and we achieved our target of having a clean race. 263 laps later, we finished the race with no penalties and no drama.
I was looking forward to a dry race so I could test my physical limits and it was a bit of a pity that my first race in a race kart took place under wet conditions.
Then again, driving in the wet was a test of true driver skills too. There were a couple of instances where we lost grip and spun, but each time we got the kart back in the right direction an continued racing.
I do hope for the opportunity to go racing again!
Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at www.cheryl-tay.com.