By Cheryl Tay
Above: Anchor drivers (centre) Melissa Huang and Mark Darwin with Singaporeans Andrea Tay (third from left), Matthew Ng (second from right) and Amrit Mirchandani Changaroth (far right).
One of the requirements of entering the Red Bull Rookies Driver Search is that participants must have a manual-car driving licence.
Although participant Andrea Tay attained one in 2007, she was not confident of her manual-driving skills, and had to rent a manual car for practice.
Her efforts paid off, as the 25-year-old university graduate was one of the three amateur drivers selected last week for the four-person female Red Bull Rookies team to partner anchor driver Melissa Huang, also a Singaporean.
Together with a male Red Bull Rookies team - the first time the driver-search contest is open to males since 2007 - the teams will race in the Sepang 1,000km (S1K) endurance race in December.
Said Tay: "I actually knew about Red Bull Rookies last year, but I missed the deadline then so, this year, I was determined to sign up.
"This is a great opportunity to improve my defensive driving and I am also keen on getting a sense of what racing is like.
"I rented a manual car to practise, as I've driven a manual car only once or twice after getting my driving licence. I stalled on the first few tries but, after that, it was very helpful in refreshing my manual-driving skills."
Siti Zirwatul of Brunei and Taryn Lim from Malaysia round off the team. The three were selected after four months of elimination rounds.
Competition was tougher for the male team, with 10 finalists fighting for three spaces to join anchor driver Mark Darwin from Malaysia.
Of the five Singaporean finalists, 20-year-old accountant Matthew Ng and 21-year-old full-time national serviceman Amrit Mirchandani Changaroth were selected.
Ng's regular tracking experience on the Pasir Gudang circuit in Johor proved to be an advantage. To prepare for this competition, he spent time drawing out the Sepang track repeatedly, as well as watching videos online to study the racing lines.
He said: "I head to the Pasir Gudang track quite often, sometimes to the extent of twice a week.
The key is not about just trying to beat your lap time, but being smooth and consistent with your racing lines and techniques, then your timings will naturally improve."
As for Amrit, he was influenced by his father, Mr Shreejit Changaroth, an engineer and a motoring journalist. Amrit used to spend weekends at the carpark rallies which his father was involved in.
Said Jyn Wee, regional sales and marketing director of Allswell Trading, which distributes the Red Bull gold can in Singapore: "We have an internal competition between both Red Bull Rookies teams, with a prize of RM10,000 (S$4,000), so whichever team finish higher up in S1K win.
"However, we have put up a quick proposal that, if the winning team decide to donate this prize to charity, we will match it dollar for dollar, and donate an additional RM10,000."
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