Samantha Tan is a stand-out driver as half of the ST Racing PRO-AM Class pairing in the premier Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS series. She climbed the SRO Motorsports America ladder to now be on a global stage competing at some of motorsports' largest events.
A season of multiple series across continents is crowned with Tan's participation in the CrowdStrike 24 Hours of Spa at the Circuit of Spa Francorchamps. Tan, a BMW Brand Ambassador, will showcase her versatility by driving a Ferrari 296 GT3 before returning to the United States and her BMW for the closing rounds of Fanatec GT World Challenge America competition and the Indianapolis 8 Hour.
Tan represents so much to so many. Her competitiveness is celebrated by those who also hope to follow their dream of a racing career and may not be on the typical go-kart-to-car trajectory. As an Asian-American woman, Tan also represents two marginalized groups inside the motorsport community. She brings hope that change and representation are not just approaching but are in process.
Adversity aside, Tan took to cars and championships straight away.
“I didn’t start in karting,” Tan said. “I got my start quite late at the age of 16, in comparison to drivers who started in karting as young kids. I had no prior racing experience, only a few BMW performance driving schools and track days under my belt.
“My first race car was a 1991 Honda Civic, which I raced in NASA (National AutoSport Association) in 2014 to get my license. I completed six races before competing in my first national series, the Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC), that same year in a Mini Cooper S JCW and was crowned Rookie of the Year.”
The newly crowned Rookie of the Year was a standout talent anywhere she raced but specifically caught the eye of Kinetic Motorsports. The team introduced Tan to her next career step in touring car racing with SRO America. The natural progression felt like a no-brainer to Tan who took a pragmatic understanding of the general ladder system laid out in sports car racing.
“I was actually scouted by a racing driver from Kinetic Motorsports while I was at a Mosport track day in 2014, which led to me racing their Kia Forte in the TCA class in Pirelli World Challenge in 2015,” Tan said. “At the time, I was still trying to learn as much about racing as possible, so the jump into the TCA class just made sense.
“Touring car racing is typically seen as an entry-level category in motorsports. The vehicles are based on production models, and thus have less aerodynamic grip and power than GT cars. This requires drivers to master the basic skills of driving, including handling, braking, and racecraft, such as overtaking and defending positions. The competition was also very tight due to the specification regulations, which keep the cars' performance levels relatively equal. This environment allowed me to hone my skills, competitive edge, and racing strategy.”
Once in the SRO system, Tan used the series to build her career and continue to learn her craft as she moved from touring to GT cars. Each SRO series includes multiple classes determined either by car classification or driver rating to create a balanced field of competitiveness. This system allows each driver to be amongst their peers, one of the many reasons Tan chose to stay with SRO.
“SRO has the entire sports car ladder system built into the series,” Tan said. “From TCA all the way to GT3, the series offers a great platform to learn everything there is to know about the sports car world. I have competed in every class, and each year got progressively more competitive. I’m privileged to have been able to learn and hone my skills alongside some of the best drivers the world has to offer.
“GT races tend to be endurance races, requiring drivers to manage their tires, brakes, fuel, and their physical and mental stamina over long periods. This adds a new level of strategic depth to racing and is a critical skill for professional racers. Once I moved up to GT4, I had to learn about what it takes to conduct a perfect pit stop, from the driver change to managing the launch of the car out of the pit lane. Stepping into the one-hour format with GT4 America was a great stepping-stone for GT World Challenge — a one-and-a-half-hour sprint race with one driver change.”
In 2023, Tan and co-driver John Edwards, BMW Factory Driver, take on the challenges of the PRO-AM Class. The No. 38 ST Racing BMW M4 GT3 has had a podium and wins within its grasp but bouts of bad luck and rough racing have pushed the team and Tan out of contention. She and Edwards continue the hunt for the podium while building toward Tan’s ultimate goal.
“My ultimate goal is to compete at Le Mans and to be the first Asian woman to win,” Tan said. “And in turn, continue breaking barriers, redefining stereotypes, and help pave the way for those who are denied opportunity based on their gender or ethnicity.”
Samantha Tan’s next challenge comes in the form of VIRginia International Raceway. The three-day event takes place Friday, June 16, through Sunday, June 18. Fans can purchase single-day tickets or three-day ticket packages. Nissan owners can join the Nissan exclusive car corral. At the same time, the Patriot Car Corral is open to vehicles of all kinds, with proceeds going to helping veterans of the United States and Canadian military. Tickets are on sale here.
For fans unable to attend the event in person, the GT World YouTube page may do just the trick. The live stream covers all series races over the weekend, including Fanatec GT World Challenge America qualifying rounds. For those wanting to get to know the community a little better, join DJ Clark, Kyle Heyer and Daniel Gilligan on the SROMotorsports Twitch stream, where the trio interacts with fans and interviews drivers while covering on-track activity.