If you meet Leona Chin outside of a racetrack, you probably wouldn’t have guessed she’s Malaysia’s drift queen, much less a professional race driver who’s been racing for 5 years. Behind the youthful exuberance and bubbly demeanour is a seasoned racer who goes up against the pros, sometimes even on a weekly basis! Don’t let her demure looks fool you, Leona’s quite the gear head, and personally tinkers with her racing machines!
Meet Leona Chin, Malaysia’s drift queen.
The Otomotif College catches up with Leona Chin at Sepang International Circuit during the Japan Super GT weekend in a candid interview as she talks about entering the sport, the challenges, and herself!
Did you always want to be in motorsports?
Back in school my friends were nuts for cars. They’d quiz each other about the specs of a car, and eventually I joined in too. Pretty soon, I could name car models and engine types just looking at the picture! All those rounds of playing Gran Turismo 2 back on the PlayStation 2 helped too!
How did you get into drifting in the first place?
It all started when I brought my 1989 Nissan Silvia (my pride and joy!) to the workshop. The mechanic remarked that the car is pretty good for drifting, and I should give it a spin. So one day I drove to an empty parking lot and he taught me basic drift maneuvers like the donut and figure of eight. Before long, I was practicing them regularly and wearing out a lot of tyres!
How did you turn those practices into a professional career?
I signed up for a time trial, and didn’t do too bad in my debut (laughs). But eventually I was headhunted by Red Bull to learn track driving. It was a two-year stint, so between that and other gymkhana events, I was building up my experiences in different racing types from circuit, to rallying to time trials and drag races.
What’s your favourite kind of motorsport events?
Definitely drift racing. It’s fun, relaxing, and you’re doing it at your own pace, so you’re challenging yourself first.
What’s the challenge of being a professional race driver?
Every event, every car is an unfamiliar challenge. It’s all about getting used to the car handling, track and driving conditions, and often in a short time. Sometimes you have a week, sometimes you have only the day itself to prepare! Motorsports can also get expensive. Tyres and spare parts get worn out quickly, so having sponsors can really take a lot of pressure of your mind and let you concentrate on the drive.
And the best part about being in motorsports?
Motorsports is very big industry and the best part being in it is the thrill and excitement I get when drifting in drift car. Besides that, I also get more exposure compared to male counterparts because of the comparatively small percentage of females in motorsports.
Do tell about the person behind the wheel. What are the things you like outside of the racetrack? What do you do on a day off?
On my day off, I would be busy blogging. I also love Domo-kun items (I have a Domo-kun plush in my car!), and Korean food.!
And here’s the question guys have been begging to ask. Are you single and available?
Haha.. i’m single
So if a guy were to ask you out, what qualities and interests would he possess?
The qualities of a guy must be trustworthy, loyal, outgoing, extrovert, smart and family oriented. Of course, he has to be supportive in my motorsports career too!
Leona personally attending to her modified BMW 5 Series at the Ultra Racing Gymkhana Trials 2012.
You’re driving one mean machine for this event (a custom BMW 5 Series sporting an Infiniti VH45DE V8 engine). What’s the dream machine that’s in your ‘must drive’ list?
Dream Machine would be BMW M5, Lotus Exige S, and last but not least Lamborghini Reventon.
Thanks very much! So what’s next for you in the coming weeks and months?
I’ve just gotten back from a drift event at Surabaya, Indonesia, After that, it’s more race events until the Raya holidays.
Meet Leona Chin in person at The Otomotif College’s (TOC) Otto Carnival on 30 June from 10am onwards where she will be delivering a career talk. Follow Leona on Twitter at @leonachin and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/GirlDrifterLeonaChin.