KUALA LUMPUR: Maznah Zulkifli does not hit the panic button even when she is pushed into a tight spot on the racetrack.
I am fast but always in control. Sometimes, during practice sessions, you feel squeezed in with the other cars but I just stick to my line, she said.
Maznah together with Deanna Yusoff, Phillipa Yoong and Maya Karin are the Projet Women in Motorsport racing team that has set tongues wagging in a sport that men have always guarded jealously.
The four brought together by team manager Shazlifa Arbee have been practising at the Sepang F1 Circuit for next months race.
The girls are trained by racer Hafizi Hafiz who is also the team principal. They will be racing a Satria GTi 1.8 in the Class-B category.
I have always enjoyed the thrill and challenge of racing, said Maznah. Im just out there to give my best and finish the race,
She finds Turns 1 and 2 of the racetrack the most challenging because they are very tight and the chicane makes driving more difficult.
The winner of the Young Ambassador Award 2003, Maznah is also the first woman in Asia to fly a motorised paraglider. She received her motor paragliding licence in 1991.
She is no stranger to racing, having taken part in the 300k Proton Merdeka Race in 1999. She also likes bungee jumping, mountain climbing and scuba diving.
I hope that racing in the MME (Merdeka Millennium Endurance) will open the eyes of women; we want to give our best, said the 29-year-old host of the new TV3 programme X-treme Sport.
Declaring that she wants to fly a helicopter next, Maznah said: I want to explore as much as possible. It can be scary but I like to push myself to the limit.
Yoong, 24, is very excited about the MME race although racing is more of a hobby for her.
We want to win if possible. Whatever happens, it will still be an experience, said the Malaysian Water Ski Federation chief coach.
Yoong, an events management company executive, said it would be her first race at the Sepang circuit although she had driven on other tracks. Well be putting in lots of practice at the circuit over the next few weeks.
The younger sibling of former Formula One driver Alexander Yoong said her brother gave her some tips on controlling the car and taking the line.
Next on the list is actress-singer-model Deanna Yusoff, 36.
Few people know that Ill be racing. Im not out to prove anything only to explore an area that is not much known to women.
Guys can be quite prejudiced about women in racing.
What would she think if people say it was easier for her team of celebrities to get sponsorship and attention?
Thats part and parcel of being a celebrity, said Deanna. People are always going to scrutinise and criticise you. But in racing, everyone is equal and people should look at it that way.
Host of the TV3 programme The Brand, Deanna is currently shooting a commercial.
In 1997, Deanna took part in the Proton Putra Celebrity Demonstration Race. She also loves to go-kart.
In preparing for the MME race, Deanna said she had to work on her stamina and build up her upper body.
Driving on the track is more like a hobby for me, to lepas geram (get rid of frustration). And when Im done, it feels like Ive completed a massive workout, she added.
Calling herself the car preserver of the team because she does not rank herself highly in the speed department, Maya is preparing herself mentally for the race.
Someone has to drive slowly to preserve the car, she joked.
But she added: I had been debating whether I should take part. I contacted Fizi (Hafizi) and he told me to go for it.
I enjoy driving and go-karting, so I decided to try this out. Ive learned a lot about handling speed and taking corners.
The 22-year-old of Malay-German parentage is busy with her new movie Pontianak Harum Sedap Malam.
Starting out as one of the hosts in Wavelength, Maya also went into singing.
According to team manager Shazlifa, the idea of an all-women team came up about a year ago when she was chatting with Hafizi.
I didnt expect him to take it seriously. He did, and the discussions began.
She said the practice sessions had been going well and the drivers were clocking good times.
The MME is an endurance race. The girls have to learn to relax and not overstrain themselves or the car.
Most women dont know they have avenues to race. So we hope more women will participate after this, she added.
Projet is the teams title sponsor while the main sponsor is X1R. The co-sponsors are Proton Edar, Morac, Telawi Street Bistro and Ozmosis Health and Day Spa.
International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz will attend the team launch at the Telawi Street Bistro in Bangsar on Tuesday.
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