Samantha Tan, with co-driver Neil Verhagen, in the No. 38 ST Racing BMW M4 GT3 took home the win in the PRO-AM Class of the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS series at Road America. It was the first for the team this season after collecting three consecutive runner-up positions.
The Canadian driver is one of two women on the Fanatec GT World Challenge America grid. Ashton Harrison runs the No. 93 Racers Edge Motorsports Acura NSX GT3 with Mario Farnbacher in the PRO Class. They make up a handful of women who pave the way as superstars and champions at the top level of GT racing. Tan holds championship titles in the 24H Series powered by Hankook and was the first Asian woman to with the Indy 8 Hour event.
Tan has earned those titles, having graduated through the ranks since beginning her SRO Motorsports America era in the TC America powered by Skip Barber series. In that time, she’s grown her racing team alongside her own racecraft. ST Racing includes STR38, which races in the Pirelli GT4 America series. Going into the Road America weekend, the team sat in second in the AM Class.
Along with championships and team ownership, she took on the title of BMW Ambassador. Her nomination would have been an easy decision after she debuted in the GT3 competition, she brought the brand-new BMW M4 GT3 to a first worldwide victory at the 12H of Mugello.
At 25-ears-old Tan is well rounded and, on her way, to becoming a force majeure in racing. However, she doesn’t shy away from being open about the additional hurdles of being an Asian woman on a world stage traditionally dominated by white men.
“Securing a place in motorsport, for anyone, is more of a herculean task than it may initially seem,” Tan said. “The financial requirements are steep and the demand for skill, precision, and experience can often be overwhelming. It is no secret that motorsport is one of the most expensive sports to compete in. Our greatest challenge has always been funding because it grants access to track time, better equipment, more resources, and more opportunities.
“Additionally, as a woman, my introduction to motorsport came with unique obstacles. The industry is still primarily male-dominated and breaking through these conventional barriers has been an arduous journey, but thankfully, I have an incredible support system and amazing partners who have invested in my growth as a driver and helped my journey to the top.”
Her team works tirelessly to continue to secure funding and set up her BMW to ensure she can get the best performance out of it on any track. In turn, Tan is always working on being more competitive. She notes that, much like many other women, one of her biggest obstacles to overcome is time.
“On top of the financial constraints, I was up against competitors who had spent years gaining experience and honing their craft on the track,” Tan said. “In contrast, I started pretty late as a racecar driver at the age of 16 and later balanced a full-time college career while also racing full-time. This meant that I would never get test days and sometimes have to miss sessions to make my exams. This stark difference in seat time initially put me at a disadvantage. However, it also fueled my passion and determination to learn faster and perform better.”
As the landscape of the motorsport community rearranges to be more inclusive, Tan is working to champion the change people have invested in through her.
“Through the years, I have had the privilege of collaborating with sponsors who understood the stakes of motorsport and appreciated the journey of a woman making her way in this challenging arena,” said Tan. “Their faith in my potential and their willingness to invest in my growth has been a monumental driving force in my career. Their support meant access to more track time and created more opportunities for me to showcase my abilities and establish my presence in the racing world.”
Tan and the Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS series return to work Sept. 22-24 at the historic Sebring International Raceway. Tickets are now on sale. Fans can partake in autograph sessions, and grid walks with a general admission ticket or make Sebring home with a camping pass. For those watching from home, join the over half a million fans by subscribing to the GT World YouTube page or enter in the conversation on Twitch where Ash Vandelay hosts.