THIS MONTH WE COVER THE FASTEST FOLKS IN TOWN. WITH RACING OFTEN CALLED THE GREATEST LIFESTYLE ON EARTH, WE ASK IF THERE’S A PRICE TO PAY
THE ARTIFICE OF familiarity, thanks to social media, has created much enthusiasm for the sport and Geraldine’s racing ambitions.
“I get people asking me how to get started in racing. But there’s no secret formula. Just get onto a track and race,” she says without fuss. Currently driving for team Dream Chaser Malaysia, she’s just completed Round 3 of the Malaysia Speed Festival, and in the middle of her second full season of the Malaysia Championship Series.
“I’m not saying it’s an easy task. Sponsorship is a never ending battle, especially when you’re struggling to establish any kind of credentials. But you need to take that first step. A lot of people dream about racing but the reality is that dreams don’t work unless you do,” she continues.
But for a girl who still holds down a desk job, how exactly did she do it?
“Back in 2014, Red Bull was looking to establish an all female racing team. I jumped on the opportunity and once that concluded, I kept hitting the pavement looking for sponsors and getting as much seat-time as I can.
Some people think it’s easier because you’re a girl and somewhat of a novelty. But if people are investing in you, all they want to see are results. And you have to keep delivering,” she says.
Currently leading in the Race 1600 category at the Malaysia Speed Festival, Geraldine says her whole schedule revolves around racing.
“Opportunities like the ones I have now don’t come every day, so I have to seize it while it’s here. And when I set my mind on something, I do everything I can to achieve it. People know me as a girly girl who loves pink. But I can be absolutely ruthless when it comes to achieving my goals. I don’t need sympathy and I don’t want it.” she says resolutely.
WHEN HE TRAINED for the Merdeka endurance race in 2014, Ashraff used lunch hour to run five clicks in midday sun to get used to the draining heat of a race car. He shows me his helmet, embellished with tyre marks, chips and cracks. He tells me about a fire in the paddocks that ripped the skin off his ankles. Then there’s the passion that can sometimes over take your priorities, pulling you away from the rest of life.
“I’m recently married, but for a short while I toyed with the idea of racing in a series that would conclude just two weeks before my wedding. Thankfully I decided
to drop it. It just wouldn’t have been fair. But I would say the biggest sacrifice is the beating your body takes. I mean, just get into a go-kart and run some fast laps. You’ll feel the fatigue after just 10 minutes,” he explains.
Before cars, there was horse power. The former ‘98 Asian Games and national equestrian used to train every day after work, come rain or hail.
“I’ve had horses fall on me, trample on me, I’ve been thrown off a few. And no matter what, you have to develop that single minded focus and get back on. It’s tenacity in the extreme, which is something I picked up from my father as well. No matter how the chips are down, you don’t ever give up.”
Having raced with Lotus, Audi and recently completed a Le Mans test in Europe, look out for Ashraff as he makes a comeback to competitive trackwork next year.
THINKING AND VISUALISING ourselves capable of achieving goals that require hard work and perseverance is essential to achieving them. This is the story of The Little Engine That Could. Self-belief, as Daniel tells us, is the cornerstone that gets him to the finishing line.
“You have to be your own biggest fan to be in this industry. It is cut throat and you have to believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, you won’t win. Drivers have their own sports psychologists that get them into the zone. The moment they put on the helmet, their only human purpose is to win. To be the best, you have to believe you’re the best,” he says when I ask about the mental process.
And he would certainly know. Racing has taught him not only to have confidence in his own abilities, but to pursue whatever his dreams. From public speaking to media interviews and even hosting his own TV show about the culture of racing. Aptly called Go Fast or Go Home, he’s been bull racing in Indonesia or tractor racing in Thailand.
“For every hour we spend racing round a track, we’ve spent two in a small room with an engineer, working out exactly where we can extract another 1,000th of a second,” he tells me.
“But that’s not even the toughest part. To race at the higher levels, you need an incredible amount of funding. The biggest stress is outside the car. So much of whether you make it or break it depends on who you know and being the right place at the right time. Even in F1, only the top eight drivers get to race for free. Everyone else is paying their own way,” he says with honesty.
“It’s a great experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s taught me so much about life and the grit you need to get where you want to be. But it does push your limits, sometimes more so off the tarmac,” he says with a smile. Daniel has raced in the Formula Master Series, the highest ranked formula car championship in Asia. He hopes to return to karting in the future for the purity it offers.
WHAT ARE LEONA’S limits? Her commercial mug has adorned countless adverts and launched numerous products. She is still the most recognisable face in motorsport, especially among those who aren’t even remotely invested in the sport. While she’s best remembered for being Malaysia’s number one drift queen, she’s a competent racer, competing on circuits, gymkhana (similar to autocross), time-attack and even rally. Racing at a recent Clio Cup Series in China, team technicians hilariously explained why the Renault Clio had three pedals instead of two. Other racers asked that she stay safely out of their way, because racing can be vicious. She came in second overall in that championship, dropping jaws and bruising egos.
“They were trying to teach me how to drive, because they see me as this little girl. Plus it took me a while getting used to the clutch, so I killed the engine a couple of times,” she says gaily.
“The Clio Cup could be a stepping stone to competing in more prestigious overseas championships. Previously I’d only raced at the national level. My aim is to one day pilot supercars or GT cars,” she gushes guilelessly.
And when the boys realised she was giving them a run for their money, they ganged up on her and started bumping her off the track. Nothing she’s never experienced before of course.
“Back when I decided to take up drifting, my mother bought me my first Nissan 180SX for RM40,000. And I made a deal with my first sifu. He would organise these car shows, and I would sit in a booth outside selling tickets. When the show was over, I got a few free laps. Nowadays I spend up to 12 hours a day editing videos, working on corporate proposals, updating my social media. It’s hard work, but I love the sport, so I don’t complain,” she says.
“People want to see happy photos, they want to see a winner. So I try to brand myself accordingly. Because that’s what you have to do in motorsports without anyone backing you up.”
Azrina Jane Abdullah
IT STARTED FOR her in 2006, anywhere an empty space presented itself.
“That’s part of the appeal, you don’t need a race track for drifting. Sometimes we’d used abandoned car parks, other times we’d rent them and lay out our own track with cones. That’s how it began for me,” says Jane, adding, “plus with drifting, you don’t need a special car with special specs. You can use an everyday car, as long as it’s rear wheel drive. You could even take an old Toyota KE70, throw in about RM5,000 worth of modifications and start burning rubber.”
When the industry got serious, with the big tyre companies bringing over drift competitions like D1GP from Japan, Jane was the only female competitor. In a few years she’d take on Formula Drift, an American series making its rounds in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.
“The strange thing was, a lot of the guys would put a lot of pressure on themselves when they went up against
me. Their buddies would even make it worse because hey, nobody wants to lose to a girl right? Their egos were on the line big time,” she says.
She goes on to tell me how the Internet has revolutionised everything. Back in her first days, along with her drift buddies, they had to get the mechanical know-how from Japanese magazines in Kinokuniya. Now it’s not impossible to push a standard car to an impressive 450 horses.
“Just Google it. Things are so easy now. But cost is still a limiting factor. The more competitive you get, the more expensive it becomes. There are drifters running 800 horsepower cars, decked up with the latest sequential gearboxes. It’s all accessible but it depends on whether you can afford it.”
Apart from the occasional sideways jaunt, Jane now spends her time in driver training and organising driving events for car companies. “I’d never thought I’d be conducting defensive and safe driving for a living. It’s such a joy to teach, train and pass on what I’ve learned and I consider myself incredibly lucky.”
WEIRON’S THE GUY who probably enjoys the biggest head start on anyone on this roster. He’s done Formula Renault, the German Formula 3 and raced with Andretti Autosports in the Pro Mazda. He’s driven cars in the Asian Le Mans Championship, in China’s GT racing series, and tested an LMP2 car at the World Endurance Championship (WEC) round in Bahrain. And yet, there have been times when he’s doubted himself.
“I’ve been worn out. I’ve faced times when I felt the sport was so tough. Everything just wasn’t aligned, my results weren’t great, and my career was taking this massive dip. I asked myself if I’d lost it, that I can’t drive anymore. You end up second guessing your abilities and that puts you in an even worse place,” he explains.
“It’s times like that when you have to take a step back and approach the problem with a fresh mind. Having unwavering discipline helps. You have to be able to push yourself to your breaking point and have the discipline to keep going. If you can’t do that, you can’t be strong. Above all else, don’t doubt yourself.”
“While racing and coaching and sharing has been one of the best experiences of my life, I’ve had to pay a high price to get here. You stop having a social life, you have to keep your fitness 24-7 because it’s part of the game. There’s no such thing as ‘a few days off’ during the season. You can’t slack, not if you want to be great,” he finishes.
While all this sounds severe and dark, Weiron’s relating his story with a million dollar smile. He waits patiently for his turn to pose, politely conversating with the people around him. There’s a bounce in his step and not a weight on his shoulders. I decide there’s no way he’s ever faced a bleak day in his life.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY KIMMUN/HOPSCOTCH STUDIO WORDS BY ZECH PHARAMOND
ART DIRECTION BY JOYCE LIM ASSISTED BY BRYAN KONG
MAKE-UP BY CAT YONG HAIR BY CODY CHUA