She has heart set on racing

SINGAPORE - "She is rich, that's why she can go racing."

"Did she go into racing to get banged?"

These are just a few of the negative comments that British-Chinese model and television host Claire-Louise Jedrek has seen online after becoming a motorsports driver last December.

The pretty 31-year-old will be representing Singapore in her debut race in the Malaysian Super Series (MSS) next week.

She will be driving a manual-transmission Honda Civic on the Sepang circuit in Malaysia.

The MSS is a support race for the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix, and will take place over the same weekend as the Grand Prix there.

Jedrek, who has turned a blind eye to the vile online remarks, told The New Paper: "They are there to rile me up, and people who wrote them want me to react.

"But I don't take it to heart. I laugh over it and don't care about them. I am not from a rich family, I come from a middle-class family."

Instead, the former TV presenter - she hosted shows like Super Sports 360 and online reality show Asian Poker Showdown - wants to focus on her upcoming race.

She said: "Racing requires a lot of concentration. I want to be very focused, keep an open mind, listen to the instructors, get more lap time on the tracks and gain more experience."

Jedrek used to spend an hour each day practising on a driving simulator.

In the run-up to the race, she is looking through videos from her training on the circuit in Malaysia to learn from her mistakes.

She started karting at the temporary Changi Karting Circuit last year before working as a team manager at the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia (PCCA).

Her Singaporean race driver boyfriend, Yuey Tan, 32, competes in the PCCA.

They have been dating for more than a year now, and got to know each other through mutual friends several years ago.

Boyfriend is her coach

Tan also acts as her coach, giving her advice on driving techniques and helping her prepare for the race.

But it was her love for the sport that led her to race competitively.

One of the few women racers in the region, Jedrek said her good looks don't give her an advantage on the track.

Neither has she faced any discrimination from her male counterparts.

She said: "Once the helmet is on, it's a level playing field.

"I don't see it as a gender thing, and I don't care about the stereotypes against me.

"I agree that there are many more men in this industry, but anyone can be taught to drive, and I took it a step further by learning how to race."

At this, Tan chipped in: "Well, if I see a lady like her on the track, I probably don't want to lose to her."

Having hosted F1-related events for Red Bull TV, Jedrek is no stranger to the glamour of racing.

She said: "I've seen the girls, the parties, the luxurious things, and the exclusive lifestyle of the racing scene. Now I am learning the technical side of how to race."

And as she steps into the spotlight, her understanding of how the motor­sport industry works has come in handy.

She said: "Having seen the marketing aspect of this industry while I was hosting F1-related stuff, I understand how to market myself as a racer now.

"But it's a lot of hard work and I did everything on my own, ranging from coming up with the business proposals to meeting the sponsors."

Sponsorships

Within just three months, she managed to clinch five sponsorships - from sponsors including Tintin Shop, Edutorque and Exquisite Marques - which range from $15,000 to $50,000 in cash.

"I appreciate how the sponsors are coming on board, and I admit it's slightly easier for a female racer to get sponsors," she said.

As for her day-to-day ride, Jedrek alternates between public transport and driving a Porsche 911 GT3 that she shares with Tan.

She said: "I am a normal and courteous driver on the road, and I don't feel the need to speed when I am not racing.

"But I love driving on the track because it is under controlled conditions with experienced drivers, so I am not worried nor fearful."

Five things to know about Claire-Louise Jedrek

1 Born to a British father and a Singaporean-Chinese mother, she has lived in Singapore since she was small.

2 Studied at Cedar Girls' Secondary School and Temasek Polytechnic.

3 Competed in aggressive in-line skating in global extreme sports event X-Games and used to breakdance.

4 Was a "briefcase babe" on local game show Deal Or No Deal in 2007 and starred in the Channel 5 drama series Polo Boys .

5 A fitness junkie who works out five times a week, she was a cross-country and track-and-field athlete in school.

Other women race car drivers

Danica Patrick, 32

This US brunette bombshell is the most famous female driver on the race tracks.

Her memorable wins include coming in first at the 2008 Indy Japan 300, where she is the only woman to win an IndyCar Series race, and finishing third in the 2009 Indianapolis 500, the best results ever for a woman.

Patrick's girl-next-door looks has also helped clinch commercial and acting deals.

She appeared in an episode of CSI: NY playing a racing driver suspected of murder, and in US rapper Jay-Z's music video Show Me What You Got.

Shannon Mcintosh, 24

One of the younger racers around, McIntosh started racing when she was five, in the Quarter Midget Series.

She made her official debut in 2011 and finished eighth in the 2011 US F2000 National Championship and 18th in the 2012 US F2000 National Championship.

The American recently signed up to compete in the ARCA Racing Series with Cunningham Motorsports and will compete in six to seven races for the 2014 season.

Ashley Force Hood, 31

The daughter of famous drag racer John Force, Hood has consistently won races since 2004.

In 2008, the American earned her first NHRA (National Hot Rod Association) Professional-category win, becoming the first woman to win in a Top Fuel Funny Car (TF/FC) drag race.

Hood took a break from racing in 2011 when she was expecting her first child and retired from competitive racing after the boy, Jacob, was born.


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