Courtsey of AllVoices.com
Zhang Yan, China’s only qualified professional female race car and drifting driver, is determined to prove , people wrong who think this is only a sport men can be successful in achieving.She is just 26 and there are just about 10 other women besides her.She feels elated and proud to have excelled in car racing with a total of just 2000 racers in this field in China.
With a flick of the steering wheel and timely application of brakes, Zhang burns rubber, skidding and turning across a parking lot in the outskirts of Beijing, which is used as a practice arena for the sport.
Drifting gets its name from the driving technique that features in the motor sport where the driver intentionally over steers, causing a loss of traction in the back wheels while turning. The driver is in full control of the vehicle and maintains a high exit speed.
The sport started about 30 years ago in Japan and has since evolved into a competitive sport with tournaments held in a number of countries.
In China, drifting is a relatively new sport, but it is gaining popularity among car enthusiasts who have money and tyres to burn.
Zhang who used to be the anchor on a local TV channel, began her career in racing four years ago and became the first professional female drifting racer in China last year.
Thus in her late 20s, Zhang has already won a number of awards in other types of motor acing. Two years ago, she came in first in the Formula Ford Championship at Donington Park U.K.
“I am a different person when I drive a race car. When I am in the car, I feel like I have detached myself from the real me. I feel like driving is my biggest mission and an important part of my life. I cannot live without racing anymore,” she said.
Zhang says even as a child she preferred guns and toy cars to dolls, car racing competitions to romantic TV shows and decided to take up racing as a hobby to challenge the wide perception in China that women can’t drive.
Spectators are sometimes amazed to discover that she is behind the wheel of the car that screeches around the track, executing hairpin turns.
“When a woman drives in a car wearing a helmet, nobody is able to tell whether the driver is a man or a woman. Racing is a fair competition for both sexes and winners will be judged by the movement, the accuracy and your experience in drifting. I don’t believe women lose out to men in this competition,” said Zhang who is also a manager at an advertising company.
On the track, she drives a Mitsubishi Lancer and burns up at least four tyres a day. She spends about 2.5 million yuan ($ 365,000 US Dollar) per year for training and participating in racing competitions around the world.
Zhang lost her sponsor three months ago as the company struggled with the worst economic downturn in decades and was forced to cut costs.
But she says she hopes to continue with her profession and one day become an international racing star.