“Remember not to too be hard on yourself and there is always time to make a change and take a risk.”Claire Jedrek
Claire Jedrek is a 35-year-old British born emcee & writer, with a keen interest in the Lifestyle, Automotive and Motorsport industry. Claire’s commitment to Motorsport has flown her across Asia to interview past and present F1 drivers such as Mika Hakkinen, Lewis hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Jenson Button and Daniel Ricciardo to name a few. She has also commentated at the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia races during the Singapore Grand Prix support races in 2015 and 2016.
When she’s not hosting events, Claire Jedrek is Singapore’s only female race car driver, winning her first podium placing of 2nd at the 2015 Malaysian F1 support race, followed by her second placed podium in 2016 , placing 4th overall in the 2015 and 2016 Malaysia Championships Series. Appearing in numerous publications and campaigns involving her love for fitness and motorsport, she is an avid competitor in Duathlons and Triathlons throughout the year. Claire also lends her time as Marketing Director of the electric, karting facility – The Karting Arena – situated in Bukit Timah, set up with her husband Yuey Tan, a well known Singaporean professional race driver in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia.
In conversation with Claire Jedrek, Singapore’s first female race car driver and how she broke stereotypes.
Maisha: You are a semi-professional race car driver; please share with us your journey and how you made the decision to take up race car driving as part of career.
Claire: If you had asked me 5 years ago how things would pan out, I wouldn’t have expected myself in the world of automotive and motorsport. With a background in media as a host/presenter, I moved back to Singapore and was offered to commentate a karting event. To commentate, you need to know the ins and outs of the sport, what each driver is experiencing, why they are making a certain move and of course the different characters involved. A year after I took part in karting leagues, I put a package together and used my knowledge of media and marketing to search for sponsorship. The rest, as they say, is history and the industry saw me move to hosting events in lifestyle, fitness and automotive.
Maisha: Who or what is your biggest inspiration in becoming a race car driver?
Claire: There was a significant brain retrain when I started race driving. Coming from a non-scientific background, I had to learn the science of driving. It’s such a forward moving and positive sport. You have to think about how you are going to reach your goals without focusing so much on the end result. Rather, you should be focusing on the process.
I’ve surprisingly never felt as passionate about something in my life as racing. Even though I’ve never really had much structure in my life, I felt compelled to focus and take the time to learn something completely out of my realm of comfort. There was something about being around other drivers and athletes that drew me in. There was a pureness in their beliefs; they spoke the truth and were completely realistic, straightforward and without ego.
“However, 4 years on in racing, I’m seen as a driver first and female second.” Claire Jedrek
Maisha: Has your career as a race car driver shaped your life in a positive way?
Claire: With sport, the highs and lows are quite an immense feeling and to keep yourself going takes a lot mentally. When the mind goes, so does the body, not the other way around.
Racing teaches you to focus on commitment, time and on your skill set. The results will follow. You learn that you can’t command your surroundings – like hardware, other drivers, the weather, the condition of the circuit – but you can control everything linked to yourself.
I feel the process is like a purification of yourself, because once you are stripped of ego and you let go, only then can you see improvement and results. Working in a team is humbling. You are just the driver, but it takes numerous people whom you need to trust and have a good relationship with to get you out on the circuit.
I live my life by all the rules above; it is my religion and it makes my life better.
Maisha: Have you encountered gender stereotypes, where it is said that race car driving is a sport for men? Do you find it challenging to find yourself a space in a field dominated with men? How did you overcome this?
Claire: Initially, people said quite stereotypical things about a female in the sport. However, 4 years on in racing, I’m seen as a driver first and female second. I think it’s understandable why there are less females in the sport as women tend not to have as much interest as men in cars. Likewise, although I love racing, I don’t spend all day talking about cars in general, unlike my husband.
As a teenager, I have always veered towards more “masculine” sports. I believe my upbringing was as such that I didn’t notice a difference in performance between males and females. My parents never told me I couldn’t do things because they were “for boys”; they just let me go ahead and build my personality.
I also believe that being open-minded and outgoing, it wasn’t as scary being surrounded by males. Car racing is one sport where, at my level of racing, when the visor goes down, we are all equal.
“Car racing is one sport where, at my level of racing, when the visor goes down, we are all equal.” Claire Jedrek
Maisha: What do you feel are the obstacles for other girls or women who would want to take up race car driving as a profession?
Claire: I think it’s the general obstacles most people face. Finances can be challenging as it is a sport which requires sponsorship or funding. The barriers of entry are high, and in Singapore we don’t have a Motorsport foundation where people can find a team or local body who will point you in the right direction. You need to take initiative and realise that the amount of seat time you have in the car will exponentially lead you closer to the top of the grid. It took me 3 years to really grasp certain racing concepts starting so late in life. As I‘ve heard, you can teach anyone to drive, but you need talent to race.
Maisha: Gender roles in this sport have been very traditional. You are the only female race car driver in Singapore. What more do you feel needs to be done to allow greater inclusivity in this sport?
Claire: I feel that there it is important that parents and society don’t feed children stereotypes and gender role assignments. There are countries like Sweden who include every child in kindergarten and don’t assign job scopes, skin colour or gender and speak to every individual.
I also believe that we should be taught not to peg our lives and abilities to a timeline. I believe I flourished in all aspects of my life at a later age, at 30 because of maturity and my own assurance of who I am.
Through experience, sport is a grey area and I’ve succeeded in sponsorship and making a career out of it by moving beyond standards and rules set by people. Rules are made to be broken, don’t let anyone set your standard.
Maisha: Claire, thank you for taking time out to share your story. What would be your final message to an aspiring race car driver?
Claire: Remember not to too be hard on yourself and there is always time to make a change and take a risk.
My deepest appreciation to the members of my team, Alia Binte Mohamed Mustafa (chief editor), Mahir Murtaza and Rifat Mahjabeeen for all the support and help for this project. Thank you to Claire Jedrek’s team for providing us with the in-action videos.