This week we are featuring Geraldine Read as our Woman of the Week. A long-time motorsport fan, Geraldine discovered the joys of circuit racing after university. She was later selected for an all-girl Red Bull Rookies team for the Sepang 1000, placing a very respectable 12th. You can find her on facebook and Instagram. She also has a web series called Girl Torque.
Bridget Schuil: What is your first memory of motorsport?
Geraldine Read: I remember seeing a go kart in our car porch when I was a little girl. My dad was racing in a go kart race series in my hometown Kuching, Sarawak. I don’t remember what year it was, but it was 8 rounds around Kuching that was held as part of the Sarawak Championships. They closed the streets, and had the course run through the city and the entire town would come and watch and cheer. At the time, there weren’t any proper go kart tracks and the only place for them to practice was in an empty parking lot. I remember following my dad to practice and after he was done, he’d put me on his lap and let me “drive” the go kart – while his feet were operating the pedals.
I also remember watching the MotoGP and F1 on TV as a child. I was much more interested in bikes when I was younger, but never allowed to learn how to ride one because of my petite frame of 5’2” and also because I am a girl. Girls on bikes was unheard of and considered dangerous. I was determined to ride one but my first attempt nearly ended up in a drain so I stopped there. Learning how to drive a car was much easier and I didn’t have much problems picking it up. By my first official driving lesson, I was already driving on the main road (and in heels no doubt – but I highly discourage driving in high heels, I didn’t know it was dangerous then!).
My interest in cars grew when I was studying in Australia. The car modification scene there at the time was huge and I would be at every Autosalon that was held, even the drag meets that were insanely popular. I remember once I saw a girl driving and it peaked my interest even more.
Fast forward many years, I moved back to Malaysia and then was introduced to the Red Bull Rookie search in 2014. They were looking for female drivers to make up a full female team to race at the Sepang 1000km Endurance Race. At the time, the idea of me racing was far-fetched. By then, I had been to the race track with my cousins who tracked regularly but still, it had never crossed my mind to get behind the wheel at the track. I had never seen a female racer and had never even heard of Susie Wolff!
S What made you decide to pursue racing as a career?
GR Racing is my passion. I have a day job in an oil and gas services company still but hopefully I will be able to have the means to pursue this full-time. I fell in love with racing in 2014, when I joined the Red Bull Rookie search and made the full female team, earning my seat to race at the Sepang 1000km Endurance Race. Together with 2 other girls, we were given intensive training to prepare us for the gruelling 9 hour race. Up against factory teams and privateers alike, the race went well and we finished a commendable 12th place, and I was hooked.
BS What do you love about racing?
GR The feeling when I’m out there on the track, you’re forced to focus and concentrate 110%. Your day to day worries disappear and nothing else but driving in that moment matters, targeting to improve your timing one corner at a time. It’s also the challenge, the journey of getting myself onto the grid, it’s not as simple or straightforward as one would imagine. It makes you appreciate it even more when you finally get to the fun part - racing.
BS How do you support your racing habit?
GR Racing is expensive so I’ve had to look for funding and sponsorship to support my races. Currently I have a few sponsors that are supportive of my race journey - Lufter Cleanroom Builders, Auto Spahaus and Momentum Autoparts have been extremely supportive and I am very grateful for their support. I have also had help via Dream Chaser Malaysia which is a racing development program that also part funds my racing. I’m very thankful, because without all these sponsors, I would not be talking to you about racing today.
BS What are the highlights of your career thus far?
GR I haven’t been racing for very long so every race has been an achievement for me in its own way. From finishing my first race with the Red Bull Rookies to racing on my own in the local series, every race has had its ups and downs but most importantly are the lessons that I take away from it. I am happy that this year I am racing the full season of the Malaysia Championship Series. This is my first season racing in the MCS. It was a goal that I set for myself and it is what I am currently racing in, so I’m very happy that it’s come to life. We’re halfway through the season. I’ve learned so much along the way and looking forward to learning even more.
BS Who have you found to be the most supportive of your career?
GR I would have to say my partner is the most supportive of my racing. He himself is a racer too so he understands the challenges that I face and the industry that we are in. I’ve also had two special people who believed in me and encouraged me to dream bigger and they are the team that manage and provide the extra support to make racing happen. Thank you Alan, Sarah and Pete! <3 All that you see, would not be possible without them.
BS What biggest challenges have you faced in racing?
GR Funding. Funding is the single biggest challenge when it comes to racing. Racing is an expensive sport, and everything costs a lot of money. There’s just no way around it. You’d either have to be able to pay from your own pocket, or be able to raise the funds to pay for it. Balancing time away from work is also a challenge for me. I am lucky that my employer is supportive and understanding but, race weeks do take up a lot of time and I have to be careful not to abuse the privilege.
BS Have you experienced any sexism in motorsport? If so, how do you deal with it?
GR Yes, I think any female in motorsport is not spared from sexism, regardless of the role you play in the industry. Personally, the one that stuck out the most was when I was talking about my race with some friends and a guy exclaimed loudly that females can’t drive (let alone race) and all they know is how to crash cars. How did I deal with it? I just ignored him. There will be plenty of sexist comments that would come from many different kinds of people. Don’t think there is much point arguing with someone that doesn’t know what he is talking about.