Samantha Tan

Tan: "I want women to be respected and seen as equal competitors."

Samantha, how did you become a racing driver?

Samantha Tan: “My love of cars and racing began when I was really little, maybe around the age of four or five. My dad owned a BMW eurospec E36 M3 that he used to drive me to school in, and I fell in love with the feeling of speed and going fast. He was definitely a big influence because he used to take me to track days with him and watch Formula 1 races with me when BMW Sauber was still active. Fast forward a few years, I got to sit in my first race car at the age of 14 at the Ferrari Driving Experience in Mont Tremblant, Quebec. A pro driver took me around the track in a 458 Challenge car, braking extremely late and throwing the car into the corners with intense G-forces and speeds that I had never felt before. I was strapped into a 5-point harness, but being so little, my legs were still flailing around and I had to brace myself by gripping onto the belts. Although some people may find this terrifying, I remember having the biggest smile on my face. It was an incredible, unforgettable experience that ultimately motivated me to become a race car driver myself. I ended up participating in my very first race in March 2014 at the age of 16.”

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Please explain your role as a female racing driver. Tell us about the opinions of your competitors, sponsors, fans and media.

Tan: “I think that by participating in this male dominated sport, I am a role model to girls and women who aspire to break gender barriers, challenge preconceived ideas, and succeed in achieving their goals. In general, my competitors, sponsors such as Liquimoly and Piloti, fans, and media have all been supportive of me. During driver autograph sessions, I always hear the phrase, ‘we need more female drivers in this sport’. Since the beginning of my career, I have seen more women steadily entering the sport and it makes me really happy. The only negative opinions I’ve encountered from my competitors involve some misogyny, not being taken seriously, and misconceptions that ‘I’m more of a model than a race car driver’. I think that’s disrespectful because the male drivers that take photos during events don’t get questioned. There is no correlation between being a model and lacking the skill you need to be a successful race car driver; they are not mutually exclusive. I think that sometimes female drivers are only judged by their appearances and how ‘attractive’ they are rather than their achievements. By continuing to push myself and develop my skills, I think I’ve been able to prove them all wrong.”

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Are there difficulties as a female driver competing against male drivers?

Tan: “I think the only difficulty I have encountered as a female driver is that some of my male competitors think I’m a pushover, so they become overly aggressive and sometimes end up taking us both out of the race. Other than that, I think we all face the same struggles and hardships, such as having to prioritise physical training and race events over school or our social lives, waking up before dawn to catch flights, or battling sleep deprivation for 24 hour races. Although it can be extremely hard at times, I think we all share the same, intense passion for racing that makes all the sacrifices worth it.”

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I’ve been a BMW fangirl for as long as I can remember.
Samantha Tan

Would you say that you could be in the same position that you are right now as a male driver?

Tan: “I think that there are definitely some advantages of being a female driver, some of them being marketability and sponsorships. Being female, it’s easier to be identified within the field. If I were male, I don’t think I’d be in the same position because there are so many male drivers in the industry, it’s harder to distinguish yourself even if you are performing well.”  

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What are your wishes for the future of “Women in Motorsport”?

Tan: “As stated earlier, I hope to see many more women entering the racing industry. I think that this would solve most of the gender issues within motorsports. I want women to be respected and seen as equal competitors; it is unnecessary for us to be segregated into a whole other series. Racing is 85% mental and I believe we can definitely hold our own. Furthermore, I hope that our efforts for equality will shatter stereotypes, inspire and motivate other women in male dominated industries, and empower minorities to achieve their goals.”

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What does it mean to you to drive a BMW Motorsport racing car and being part of the BMW Sports Trophy?

Tan: “I’ve been a BMW fangirl for as long as I can remember. Some of my very first memories were driving around with my dad in his M3, and I even learned how to drive in my BMW 1M. For me, being able to drive a BMW Motorsport race car is an honour and a dream come true. I also think it’s incredible to be a part of the BMW Sports Trophy and compete with other extraordinary drivers that not only represent the brand but also really love BMW cars. It would be an even bigger honour if I made it to the top ten this year.”

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Samantha Tan

How is it to be the daughter of the Team Principal? Does your father often haven’t fears?

Tan: “My dad is pretty chilled, at least that’s how he is during race weekends.  Because of that, I don’t feel it makes a difference because he tends to manage the team like he does his own companies: he lets people do what they feel is best and does not interfere.  He only tends to give suggestions/instructions when he’s specifically asked by a crew or driver. What’s important to him is that the team is cohesive and works together. That’s really his main job, the team cheerleader, and through that, we carry out our responsibilities as a family and as a team.  Does he have fears when I race? I’m sure he does, but he tries not to show it. He focuses on our performance but I’m sure it’s at the back of his mind.”

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Your team has already ordered one of the first BMW M2 CS Racings. How big is the excitement?

Tan: “I am so excited. I can't wait to go to Laurel BMW of Westmont and pick up the BMW M2 CS Racing. We were planning to race the new car at the upcoming Canadian Touring Car Championship Victoria Day race weekend at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Toronto this May. However, with the COVID-19 situation, I think that weekend will be cancelled as the mayor of Toronto already cancelled all public events through to the end of June. I hope to race the car at the Summer Classics in Mont Tremblant this July, if the event is not cancelled. I heard the car does not just handle well, it’s also the most fun race car ever. I just can’t wait.”

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Which race or series is P1 of the your personal bucket list?

Tan: “The race at the top of my personal bucket list would be the 24 Hours of Le Mans and my top series would be the FIA WEC.”

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