Singapore Karting Enduro
After just four training sessions and learning how to handle a race kart, it was time to go racing in the Singapore Karting Enduro with the all-girl Quintessentially Race Team.
This is the first time that the four of us are teaming up together and it is my first time, as well as Su-Anne’s first time, driving in a race kart competitively. Prior to this, I’ve only gone on a race kart once.
The all-female CTMC2! Racing Angels team I formed in 2011 for the OCBC Corporate Karting Challenge was also for a four-hour endurance race, but we were using rental karts for that. Driving race karts is a totally different story from driving rental karts.
Oops, excuse the Power Ranger-like photo, though I think we look pretty darn cool.
We each have different backgrounds but united with the same passion for speed. Hence it was really difficult not to say no when Lung Nien Lee, chief executive officer of Veritas Racing and partner of our sponsor Quintessentially Lifestyle, approached us with this offer. That makes the Quintessentially Race Team the sister team of Veritas Racing, or rather, the ladies’ arm of Veritas Racing!
Let’s get to know the girls better, shall we?
Carrie Choy, 35, banker and captain of Quintessentially Race Team (pictured below)
A banker by profession with Citibank, Carrie was at the Sepang International Circuit one day to try and put into practice what she learnt from Levels 4 and 5 of the Porsche Driving School training that she had in Brisbane. It was at Sepang that she bumped into Shaun Yip, who is currently the technical director of Veritas Racing. Shaun offered Carrie to try driving a race kart at Kartright, confident that she will not need to drive to Sepang anymore to fulfil her need for speed. True enough, Carrie got hooked on karting and started racing in them since July 2011. She competes in the Singapore Karting Championship with Veritas Racing and does Muay Thai as well as golf regularly. Last year, Carrie also raced in the iFAST Corporate Karting Challenge and the KF1 Corporate Challenge.
Michelle Kuek, 32, real estate director and design & branding consultant (right in picture below)
One look at her and you may not think that she is the racing kind. Always with make-up on (even when we are karting) and the one that changes into high heels after we are done with training, Michelle’s foray into racing started when she took part in a friendly go-kart race in Thailand with Porsche Club and got into the top 10. She then came to audition for my all-female team in 2011 and made it to the top five. Since then, she has been karting regularly in her own race kart in Malaysia and also took part in a few races last year. Awarded the New Woman of the Year by NewMan magazine in 2006, Michelle also enjoys ice skating, skiing, golf, inline skating, deep-sea fishing, shooting and dance.
Tan Su-Anne, 32, homemaker and beauty queen (left in picture above)
Mother of a four-year-old daughter, Su-Anne is always eager to get involved in driving of any form. She won the Subaru Female Stunt Driver Search in 2010 and took part in the Red Bull Rookies Search 2011. Sporty by nature, Su-Anne engages in inline skating, archery, table tennis, bowling, rock climbing, scuba diving and boating, but her main source of fitness is taking care of her little one. There’s another side to Su-Anne too – the beauty queen is the reigning Mrs Singapore Southeast Asia and winner of Glamourous Mum and Gorgeous Mum. She is also the Corporate Ambassador for the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre.
Cheryl Tay, 26, motorsport/motoring photojournalist (pictured below and everywhere else on this website)
If you are reading this, then you most probably know who I am and what I do already. I’m a journalist/blogger/photographer and slash many more. As part of my job, I am immersed in the world of motorsports all the time. Once in a while I get opportunities like this to go racing and experience a different perspective. My work has everything to do with racing. I practically live and breathe motorsports, travelling abroad to cover various types of racing. I do enjoy extreme activities like skydiving and bungee jumping, so racing is another form of extreme sport that I would love to be more involved in as a driver… if only I can afford it.
Shaun guided us through the training, which was a really steep learning curve, especially for Su-Anne and I. In four sessions over three weeks, we had to learn the way the kart handles and also get familiar with the track and our racing lines. I have driven on Kartright before in the rental kart for the Corporate Karting Challenge in 2011, but rental karts and race karts have different handling and different lines.
After each training session, I would go home with a really sore neck and arms that felt like they were going to fall off any moment. I also earned a myriad of bruises all over. Besides, driving a race kart requires a much higher level of fitness and I found myself out of breath at the end of each training.
We only had a really limited time to train up to speed, so the target was just to complete the race without any penalties. We were up against eight other teams who were way more experienced than us, some of whom are champions from the Singapore Karting Championship such as Jon Lee, Anthony Seow and Opai Naufal.
In addition, both our Zanardi karts – one shared between Michelle and Su-Anne, another between Carrie and I – had to have an additional 25kg of weights so that our lightest driver (definitely not me!) and the kart would meet the minimum weight requirements. We also chose to use the Rotax engine, which has less power than the KF2 engine which most of the teams were using, as it was more reliable.
Bearing all the constraints we had, Carrie kept reminding us not to get caught up on beating our personal best times but to instead remember that it is an endurance race, hence the key is just to be consistent and finish the race without incidents and penalties.
Each driver was to go out for at least three 20-minute stints during the four-hour race and I tell you, driving for 20 minutes at high speeds on that technically challenging Kartright track is a killer. The endurance race would really test one’s physical limits and stamina.
I was feeling a little nervous before the race and hoping that I will last through my stints. Those initial fears were replaced by another set of fears when I woke up on race day to a super wet morning. The rain did not cease and it was drizzling the whole of last Saturday, keeping all of us soaked inside and out.
Michelle, Su-Anne and I have never driven in the wet before so it was a new learning curve for us right there and then. You could say we were practically learning as we raced. Essentially, whatever we have learnt in the past three weeks at training all went out the window because they were all done in the dry. 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.
We qualified eighth out of nine teams and the strategy was just to complete the race with no drama, no penalties and no incidents. In the wet, control of the pedals becomes very important as you have to be gradual and smooth with the brake and accelerator. Any sudden stomping on any pedal would send you spinning.
There were a couple (several actually) of times when I lost grip and ended up spinning. Thankfully no one came barrelling into me and I could straighten my kart back to the right direction and continue driving. It does get pretty demoralising when there are people constantly zipping past you and overtaking you, but I just tried to ignore them and just hold my own.
Four hours and 263 laps later, we successfully finished the race with no mishap. It wasn’t as tiring as it would have been if it were dry, but it was tiring in another way trying to be fast in the wet and it didn’t help that my kart was suffering from understeer in the right-handed corners (which the track had a lot of).
Happy that we achieved our target and completed the race, we were even given finisher medals for our efforts.
I am feeling post-race withdrawal symptoms and am itching to get back behind the wheel soon. Hopefully there will be another chance to go racing again. I really want to experience the point of sheer exhaustion from driving the race kart in a four-hour endurance race.
Nonetheless, driving in the wet is a true test of driver skill too and look how fresh we still are after the race!
It has been quite an adventure and I liked how we gelled as a team. I hope I can say this isn’t the last you will hear/see of the all-female Quintessentially Race Team! Veritas Racing has been extremely helpful in coaching us girls in such a short period of time and the mechanics Mohan and Saravanan, under the direction of Shaun, worked hard to set up our karts. Thank you to the two people who made this happen – Lung and Carrie!
View here for more photos of the Quintessentially Race Team at the Singapore Karting Enduro.