October 11, 2014 08:33
Women make up just four percent of all car racers in Korea, and although the sport requires great physical strength, men and women compete in the same events.
Female racers have to train hard to acquire nerves of steel and endurance.
It was exactly the challenge of competing with men on the same terms that drew Kwon Bom-ee to the sport.
She used to dislike traveling in car when she was little because of severe motion sickness. But that did not dampen her interest in cars, and she knew the names of all the different cars. Now, driving a car makes her "the happiest person in the world," she says.
Kwon used to work in IT, and her hobby was to go karting. The head coach of a racing team, Team Champions, took notice of her driving skills and led her into the world of car racing. It was unfamiliar territory for a woman, but she decided to embrace the challenge.
Her debut was rather dramatic. The coach thought Kwon had natural knack and signed her up for 3,800-cc category race. But her car burst into flames on the track, and she tried to put out the fire with the extinguisher on the circuit and barely managed to get out of the car.
That was not her last brush with disaster. In August 2011, on a rainy day, she crashed into the guard rails in Taebaek, Gangwon Province. Trying to get out she had to let the door handle go to protect her hands, but the door then slammed on her hand and she had to take eight months off to have the fractures treated.
She also had a broken rib and neck trauma.
Kwon admits getting introduced to the world of car racing may have been her biggest mistake.
"It's like a drug, I can't get out of it," she said. "I get such a thrill from racing and a tremendous sense of achievement from the struggle against myself. The mechanics work really hard to prepare the car ahead of a race, and I try to do my best to give a maximum performance. Such well-executed partnership gives both sides a lot of pleasure."
Her ultimate goal is to be the first female racing coach.
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