29 June 2011
By Cheryl Tay
SINGAPORE – Both of them have little interest in motor sports and watch Formula One only occasionally.
Yet, Ms Emmiline Ang (above, left) and Ms Melissa Huang (above, right) found themselves the last two standing for the sole Singaporean representation spot in the four-person Red Bull Rookies motor-racing team.
While Ms Ang eventually took the coveted spot after a final time trial at the Sepang International Circuit on Monday, the two had become good friends in the course of the selection process and were supportive of each other.
Said Ms Huang, a 27-year-old nurse: “I had great fun, and that’s most important. I’d not driven on the track under competitive conditions before, and I was trying to apply all that I’d learnt from the defensive- and advanced-driving courses.
“My mum has been nagging me to pull out of the competition since I joined, as she thinks it is dangerous. Well, she should be happy that I didn’t win.”
Red Bull Rookies, which started in 2007, is a search for an all-female racing team to compete in endurance races, such as the Sepang 1,000km Race.
After two years of success in Malaysia, the search was expanded to Brunei last year and Singapore this year, with just one of the four seats being offered to a Singaporean woman.
Of the 528 applicants who signed up, 24 were picked for a go-karting race, after which the field was narrowed down to 12. Another selection round was then held at Sepang, with six moving on to the next round, where Ms Ang and Ms Huang were chosen as the final two contestants.
During Monday’s final time trial, Ms Ang – a 23-year-old research officer at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research – was worried about the slippery track conditions following heavy morning showers.
“It was very cold when I woke up. I was worried that I would lose control of the car, so I knew I had to be more careful,” she said.
Indeed, she spun and ended up on the gravel on one occasion. The session was red-flagged and restarted, so her chances were not ruined.
“I couldn’t get (back) onto the track and had to wait to be rescued. That was our first time driving in the wet, and we were not familiar with such conditions,” she said.
While Ms Ang’s father gave her a good scolding when she first broke the news to him about joining the talent search, her boyfriend is fully supportive of her foray into the male-dominated world of fast cars and high speeds.
Ms Ang, along with her Red Bull teammates, will be gearing up and gaining race experience at the Malaysian Super Series before their ultimate goal, which is to complete at the Sepang 1,000km Race in December with a Proton Satria Neo.
Said Lynn Tan, chairman of the Singapore Motor Sports Association’s Women and Motor Sport Commission, who was present at the search finals: “We are very proud to be part of this Red Bull Rookies search.
“I’m sure there will be more of such opportunities in future to promote motor sports for females, and this shows other women out there that this is a possibility and not intimidating at all.”
*This was first published in My Paper.