9tro issue #5
Text and photos by Cheryl Tay
There is no denying that driving is not a woman’s best ability. The age-old stereotype about women being bad drivers is here to stay, but there are definitely exceptions to the rule as there are women out there who are a natural behind the wheel.
After bringing in Asia Pacific Rally Championship’s first female rally driver Emma Gilmour to their now-defunct Motor Image Racing Team, Subaru decided to hold a search for Singapore’s female stunt driver a week after Russ Swift was performing stunts in Subaru cars at Mettle Games, a mega sports event.
10 ladies signed up for the challenge, but only six showed up on the actual day. The six of them were put through two rounds of competition in a Subaru Impreza 1.5R automatic – a gymkhana to test their driving skills and an obstacle course of forward and reverse slaloms, reverse parking, lane changing and U-turns to be completed in the fastest time. Judged by Kenvin Low – who is also the instructor for Malaysian all-female endurance race team Red Bull Rookies – the judging criteria included precision, accuracy, control of car, judgment and driving aptitude.
There was quite a clear winner after the first segment. Su-Anne Tan, 30, mother of one, had ardent support from her 22-month-old daughter and her husband as she took on the course bravely and was later declared winner.
“My hubby was the one who read about this challenge and asked me to take part. He knows I love driving and to him, I’m the best driver in the world. I think I am a good driver and I’m happy to have won,” said Su-Anne, who will undergo stunt driver training and potentially earn a chance to represent Subaru at events as their female stunt driver.
Coming in second and third respectively were Jean Tan, a 21-year-old customer service officer who was very reluctant to participate in this when her boyfriend signed up for her, and Angelique Lim, a 32-year-old marketing manager whose husband feels drives better than him.
9tro speaks to all six participants to learn a bit more about them…
1st – Su-Anne Tan, 30, homemaker
Her husband thinks she’s the best driver in the world. Equally confident of her own driving skills, Su-Anne was keen to try out this challenge when her husband told her about it. In her 11 years of driving, Su-Anne has only owned and driven cars with manual gearboxes. Citing reasons such as having more control of the car, Su-Anne coincidentally drives a Subaru Impreza 1.6 manual.
Two years ago, she participated in a Mitsubishi defensive driving event at Turf City and was eager to try more of such. Su-Anne was a clear winner from the start, displaying excellent judgment, steady control of the car and of course, the absolute confidence of a winner. She did very well in the reverse slalom, going around the cones backwards in the shortest time without knocking down any cones. Her little girl seems to be just as enthusiastic about cars and driving; looks like there might be two female stunt drivers in the family some day!
2nd – Jean Tan, 21, customer service officer
It was Jean’s boyfriend who signed her up for the challenge, in an attempt to help her improve her driving skills. She was reluctant to participate as she was unconfident of her driving skills, only driving once or twice a month after getting her licence three years ago. After coming in second for the challenge, it seems like Jean will be doing more driving than usual!
3rd – Angelique Lim, 32, marketing manager
Feeling that her driving skills could do with more precision and accuracy, Angelique registered herself for the challenge after reading about it in an email. With her husband there to lend moral support, Angelique took the course calmly and coolly. Driving an MPV (Multi-Purpose Vehicle) on a day-to-day basis, Angelique has 10 years of driving experience. When asked if she asked her husband for any tips, he replied before she could, “Nope, I think she’s a better driver than I am!”
Christine Leong, 38, account director
Automotive magazines are usually not part of Christine’s monthly reading needs. But for some reason, she picked up a local car magazine and chanced upon the call for Subaru’s female stunt driver. With an aim to pick up more tips from the experts, Christine decided to give it a try, thinking that it should not be too tough since it was meant for ladies. Like all the other contestants, Christine found the reverse segments of the challenge the most difficult.
Desiree Pang, 33, fitness instructor
After attending a basic defensive driving course by Mitsubishi last year, Desiree was curious to know what other types of stunts you can do with a car. Hence when she saw the ad for Subaru’s female stunt driver search in a local automotive magazine, she decided to sign up for it, especially when Subaru cars are all rear-wheel driven, unlike her ride – the Mitsubishi Colt Version-R (automatic transmission). Donning her black bodycombat gloves, the toughie found the left-right-left-right meandering of the course the most challenging.
Aldrina Thirunagaran, 32, journalist
Programmes like Top Gear interest Aldrina, who loves driving and the chance to test out cars. When she first read about this event on Twitter, Aldrina went to find out more about it so she could sign up. Although she has 13 years of driving experience under her belt, Aldrina has never attended any driving courses before. Driving a Subaru Legacy daily, Aldrina is not new to Subaru cars, but the reverse slalom proved to be too tough for her.