Car Girl: Samantha Tan

by Michael Satterfield

Samantha Tan is an automotive enthusiast from Southern California who's passion for cars has led landed her behind the wheel of a BMW M4 GT4 race car in the Pirelli GT4 America series. If that wasn't enough she is a full-time college student, but she might be most known for her Valencia Orange BMW 1M.

TGR: Your passion for motorsports started young, what got you into racing?

ST: I became interested in cars and motorsports at a very young age mostly because of my dad - he's a big car guy and race fan. He used to drive me to school every day in his Eurospec E36 M3, take me to track days and watch Formula One races with me. When I was around 6 years old, he actually got me a Power Wheels Jeep and I used to have so much fun drifting it around my house. Fast forward 8 years later, at 14 years old, I was the youngest person to participate in the Ferrari Driving Experience at Circuit Mont Tremblant, where I got to drive a 458 Italia around the track. At the end of the event, I had the opportunity to go for a ride-along in a 458 Challenge car with a pro driver. That was the first-ever racecar I got to sit in, and I will never forget that rush of adrenaline I got from being right at the limit in every corner. I had the biggest smile on my face when I got out of the car and that was when I made the conscious decision that I wanted to be a racecar driver as well.

TGR: The BMW 1M is what most people on Social Media know you for, how did you settle on that for a first car?

ST: My dad actually lent me the 1M as a first car when I was 15 years old because I had just gotten my learner's permit and I wanted to learn how to drive manual. I remember driving it to school every day and freaking out when I had to start it in 1st gear on a hill. Eventually, when I started getting involved in the car community, I would go on cruises and go to local car meets with the 1M. I went on so many late-night drives and adventures with her over the years as well, so I feel like I've established a special connection with this car. :)

TGR: What racing school did you go to and did you go to racing school before or after you got your California Driver’s License?

ST: I went to the Jim Russell racing school in Mont Tremblant while I still had my learner's permit (from Florida). I actually started racing before I got my full driver's license.

TGR: You got your start in racing behind the wheel of a Honda Civic, what series did you start in?

ST: I completed my first regional races in a 1991 Honda Civic with the National Autosport Association (NASA) at Virginia International Raceway, in March 2014. This was so I could apply for my national racing license (you needed 6 regional races). After receiving that, I ran my first full race season that same year in the Canadian Touring Car Championship. I placed 5th out of 22 in the Touring Class and was awarded Rookie of the Year.

TGR: Currently, you are racing a BMW M4 GT4 car in the Pirelli GT4 America series. What is it like going from hobbyist racer to professional?

ST: Going from club racing to pro racing, as I moved up in classes, I definitely started to race against some of the best drivers in the nation, and it was an honor to be able to compete with and learn from them. I also got to work with some of my favorite brands and manufacturers, such as BMW right now, and it's honestly just a dream come true.

TGR: Who’s your biggest inspiration in motorsports?

ST: Ayrton Senna, and more recently, Christina Nielsen.

TGR: Day job (or school)?

ST: I'm currently a full-time student at the University of California, Irvine. I'm an Economics major with a minor in Humanities & Law.

TGR: Outside of racing what do you do for fun?

ST: Outside of racing, if I have time, I'll probably be playing video games, making artwork, or practicing piano.

TGR: What is your ultimate racing goal? Formula 1? Le Mans?

ST: Since I grew up watching Formula 1, that used to be my ultimate goal. However, as I started racing myself, I've come to realize my strengths, such as my consistency in lap times, and have shifted my goal to Le Mans as I believe I'd be more compatible with endurance racing in closed wheel cars. 

TGR: What is one piece of advice you would give a young racer who wants to be where you are one day?

ST: One of the hardest parts of racing is finding funding. Learn how to market yourself and use it to your advantage. There will also be a lot of people who doubt you or tell you that your dreams are impossible, but don't ever let them tell you who you can or can't be. We are not limited by people'es expectations or stereotypes because only we get to decide whether or not we are successful.

TGR: Anyone you want to thank?

ST: I'd like to thank my dad for being my biggest supporter, I wouldn't be where I am today without him. Thank you to my incredible team, my teammates Jon, Harry, and Jason, my coach Nic, and Sean. Lastly, thank you to Nick Wittmer for always being there for me. :)

Thank you to our sponsors, GPI, Laurel BMW of Westmont, Kappa Foods, and Sabelt America.

Photos by Sean Krinik