Verena
Mei

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Mei and Leanne Junnila won the B-Spec National Championship in 2011, becoming the first all-female team to win a Rally America National Championship. They won in 2012 as well.

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Profile

Name: Verena Mei
Hieght: 5'4"
Measurements: 36-25-36
Eyes: Hazel
Hair: Black
Dress: 4/5
Shoe: 7
Hometown: Pearl City, Hawaii
Resides in: Los Angeles, CA
Birthday: November 2
Sign: Scorpio
Daily Driver: 1996 Acura Integra
Currently: Drifter And Model

Verena has been involved in the automotive industry for over 10 years. She was first introduced to racing while modeling for Toyo Tires from 2000 – 2002, at the height of Sport Compact Drag Racing. During these years, she grew a passion for racing. In 2002, on recommendation of Indy Car legend Bobby Unser Jr., she sent herself to stunt driving school to test her driving skill, and she loved it. A month later, she sent herself to the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School, and ran a 9.46 second quarter-mile, at 144 mph, earning her Pro Competition Drag Racing License, making her the fastest Asian -American female in the US.

In 2004, the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, trained her to become a racecar driver. It was there, that she got her start in drifting while training in 300 HP Roush Mustangs, and made her debut into the drifting world in a Bondurant Roush Crown Victoria. That year, she bought her own car, and built it up on the G4 TV show, Street Fury. She was then chosen by Nissan Motorsports who built her a 484 HP, twin turbo, 350Z for her to run in the Formula Drift series. In her first season Verena was one of the first, and top-female drifter in the North America. After 5-years of Formula Drift, she competed in the Redline Time Attack series, winning a class championship in her first year, placing podium at every event and becoming the first female to win a championship in the series. She also converted her custom 350Z to run on E85 fuel (again, in a TV show, Racing Greener) and was the first driver to win a championship in an alternative-fuel race car.

In 2011, Verena took her driving skills to the dirt. She moved to New Hampshire to train with the North American rally guru, Tim O’Neil, at the Team O’Neil Rally School. She completely immersed herself in the rally world to become a rally champion. Verena spends everyday at the school… learning and training, and helped build her own rally car. She has co-driven for the 2011 Rally America 2WD Champion, and raced in her first rally last year.

In December 2011, Verena signed with TrueCar, as one of six female race car drivers that make up the TrueCar Racing Women Empowered Initiative. Verena races in the Rally America series in TrueCar Fiesta #335 with her co-driver Leanne Junnila of Calgary, and partners Virgin, Team O’Neil and tokidoki. 2012 is Verena’s first year in the Rally America National Championship, and has finished 5 out of 5 races, with one race remaining. Verena & Leanne won the B-Spec National Championship, becoming the first all-female team to win a Rally America National Championship. They are currently 5th in 2-wheel drive class.

Verena has been recognized four years in a row by the Lyn St. James Foundation at their annual, Women in the Winner’s Circle event, for being a pioneer and making an impact on motorsports.

She has hosted and starred in automotive TV shows, appeared in the blockbuster movies “Fast and Furious Toky o Drift”, and Rush Hour 2, and attracts a lot of media attention when she races. She has a degree in marketing, has worked in advertising, has trained at the Groundlings School, and has extensive knowledge of the automotive industry and motorsports in particular.

Verena has worked with most of the automotive manufacturers for the past six years. She has been involved in numerous consumer ride-and-drives, dealer training, and press launches as a Pro-Driver, Product Specialist, Vehicle Production Manager, Facilitator, and Driving Instructor. She has also been a Brand Ambassador for companies such as BFGoodrich, testing tires, doing commercials, speaking at national/regional sales meetings and product launches.

Verena’s personal goals, through her accomplishments, are to be a positive role model, empower women, and to educate teens about car control and the importance of safe driving.

Snippets

 

News

TrueCar Racing Rally Driver Verena Mei Finishes the Season 4th in Rally America 2WD National Championship and Unveils tokidoki’s Simone Legno Designed Helmet For 2013 Season


TrueCar Racing rally driver Verena Mei and her co-driver Leanne Junnila raced in the 2012 Olympus Rally in Olympia, WA on September 22-23, closing out a successful 2012 season that saw the pair win the first ever Rally America B-Spec National Championship and become the first all-female team in Rally America History to win any national championship.

Dry conditions and the risk of forest fires added new challenges to the event as competition took place early morning with a mid-day break and continued late into the night with low visibility on stages, ending after midnight. Going into the Olympus Rally, Verena was the Rally America’s first female contender for the “Rookie of the Year” award, and tied in points with her Team O’Neil teammate, Ed McNelly. It came down to the last stage of rally, when it was given to McNelly, who took 3rd and Mei 4th in 2WD.

Mei competed for the first time in her Group 2 upgraded TrueCar #335 Ford Fiesta, with increased braking ability from the stock B-Spec. She finished the final event of the season with the stock Fiesta 120 HP engine. Verena and Junnila finished 4th in the Rally America Overall 2WD National Championship.

Mei added, “After winning the B-Spec Championship at New England Forest Rally, and going into Olympus tied for “Rookie of the Year”, I was more confident than ever and focused on pushing harder, and picking up speed in the corners. The award couldn’t have gone to a better person, as I’m truly happy for Ed, who has always been supportive of my racing. Finishing off the season 4th in Overall 2WD, is a huge accomplishment for my first year in rally! I have TrueCar, my co-driver Leanne, Team O’Neil and my crew to thank for that.”

Another first at the event was the unveiling of Mei’s new competition helmet designed by artist and tokidoki co-founder Simone Legno. It’s the first time the artist has applied his renowned design talents to a helmet for an active race driver.

“It was a great honor to be asked to design Verena’s helmet” said tokidoki co-founder and Creative Director Simone Legno. Simone added, “Verena is a great driver, and she embodies the tokidoki spirit. She is very tough and aggressive behind the wheel, while still being feminine and fashionable out of the car. I hope you all enjoy the design.”

In the coming months, Verena will be taking her rally training to the next level with Team O’Neil, to prepare for her 2013 Rally America Season, starting with Sno*Drift, an ice & snow rally, in January.
Source: verenamei.com/news

Some Girls Chase Boys, Verena Mei Just Passes Them


Don’t underestimate an Asian woman with mission and a passion. Verena Mei is a member of True Car Racing’s “Women Empowered” Initiative and a Rally America Driver. She’s appeared in the blockbuster movies “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” and “Rush Hour 2.” I got a chance to meet and talk with the beautiful and affable “fastest Asian-American female in the US” at the Indy Grand Prix Sonoma races this past Saturday.

How did you get into this business?

I started as a model for the automobile industry and wanted to get behind the wheel. So I put myself through stunt driving school, built my first Drift car in 2004 and spent 5 years competing in Formula Drift and transitioned into Time Attack which led me to my dream of participating in Rally Racing.

What is Rally Racing?

Rally Racing is a two person “survivor” type race where we drive through rough conditions, mud, water, snow, rain. Each race has 60-70 cars at the start and the race is about time and crossing the finish line. Each race course (and conditions) is different. It’s normally a 2-3 day race where my co driver and I spend 8-10 hours per day in the car. There can be between 11-24 stages and we are timed for each stage and the total quickest time in all stages wins. We get “Stage Notes” for each race, which is thick spiral bound book describing the conditions of the course. The only time we do a run-through of the course is the day before the race where we drive about 15-35 miles/hour and edit the Stage Notes based on our perspective. On race day, I must trust and depend on my co driver Leanne Munilla and just “go for it.” Compared to other types of races, we only “see 1, 000 corners once” so it’s very challenging.

Which championship did you just win?

In mid July, my co-driver and I won the Rally America National Championship in the “B Spec” class. This was the first time an all female American team won this race. Since this is my first year, I really want to learn to be the best driver I can be. I drive a 2011 Ford Fiesta which is a “slower” car, relatively speaking, but I believe if I can learn to drive a slow car fast, then I will be able to drive a fast car faster.

What’s it like being a women competing Rally racing?

First off, I want to thank True Car for giving me this amazing opportunity to have all the tools (a car) to compete. Perhaps an advantage for Leanne and I is that we’re lighter than other teams however if our car flips, crashes or breakdowns, we can’t call a crew to help us. It’s up to us to lift our car out of the mud or turn it over so that could be a difficult. This sport also requires mental strength however in Rally, men and women can compete on a level playing field.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now and what’s your training like?

I grew up in Pearl City, Hawaii and ethnically Chinese. I live in Littleton, New Hampshire now which is close to the best top Rally race school in the U.S. I am a pescatarean, eat well and work out a lot. When not racing, I practice on different types of tracks but spend most of my time editing Stage Notes so when it comes to race day, there’s no thinking twice when my co driver calls out a command.

What are your goals?

I want to be a positive role model, empower women, and to educate teens about car control and the importance of safe driving.

In December 2011, Verena signed with TrueCar, as one of six female race car drivers that make up the TrueCar Racing Women Empowered Initiative. 2012 is her first year in the Rally America National Championship, and has finished 5 out of 5 races, with one more to go. Verena is currently 1st in the B-Spec National Championship, and 5th in 2-wheel drive. Check out the other female speed enthusiasts: Katherine Legge and Shea Holbrook racing at Indy Grand Prix Sonoma; Ashley Freiberg, Shannon McIntosh, and Emilee Tominovich.
Source: verenamei.com/press/some-girls-chase-boys-verena-mei-just-passes-them/

Continental Drifting: Star Girl Racer Verena Mei


If there are two things that male racing fans would love to combine if given the chance, they’d be drifting and hot chicks. The union of the world’s hottest new style of racing and sexy, action-ready gorgeous girl is a dream come true to red-blooded American young men everywhere, right? Well, Verena Mei and her Star Girl Racing site is just what the doctor ordered!

This Asian bombshell is one of the most recognized models in the Sport Compact Racing industry. Mei has been an International Toyo Tires Poster Model for 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2003. During 2002 and 2003, she she also represented the Import Drag Racing Circuit (IDRC) as a Starter Girl. As a full-time model and actress, Verena is constantly on the go, traveling to Pro Sport Compact events throughout the year, signing autographs for fans throughout the nation. She has also graced the pages of Super Street, Turbo Magazine, Sport Compact Car, Modified Magazine, Drag Sport and many other popular industry magazines and Web sites. Best of all, in April 2002, Verena became the first model in the sport compact industry to earn a NHRA Pro Competition Drag Racing License.

How did she get into racing, you wonder?

In 1999, she modeled at SEMA , the largest automotive tradeshow, and remembers seeing the Toyo Tires models and the line of men waiting for their autographs. She looked at them and thought, “Wow, I wonder how you get that job, they’re so lucky, I’d love to do that one day.” In 2000, she signed with Toyo Tires, which introduced Verena to the Sport Compact scene. Appearing at race after race, show after show, throughout the nation, Verena became friends with many racers, crews and other people in the industry.

“From one city to the next, from one event to another. I traveled with the same people all the time,” she once said. “They became my closest friends, people who would always look out for me. After a while they just considered me as one of the guys.”

The more she learned about racing, the more interested she became in the sport. “I always said that I wanted to race too. One day it occurred to me that I CAN race – there’s nothing holding me back. Just because I’m a model, it doesn’t mean I can’t race.”

With Bobby Unser Jr.’s recommendation, Verena attended and graduated from The Motion Picture Stunt Driving School in Palmdale, CA in January 2002. She learned how to control a car in extreme situations and perform cool stunts including drifting, reverse driving at 55 mph, 180’s, and 90’s into a parking space - just to name a few.

Verena attended the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School in Pomona, California. On April 9, 2002, Verena earned her NHRA Professional Competition Drag Racing License. On her seventh run in her life, she made her best elapsed-time running a 9.46 second mile at 143.81 mph in a Super Gas Firebird. This 9.46 seconds of her life, made her the Fastest Asian-American Woman in the World and the First Asian-American Woman to earn a NHRA Professional Drag Racing License.

Once she got her footing in the racing community, she decided it was time to package herself and her skills via a Web site. Hence, the birth of www.StarGirlRacing.com. The site is “where model and racer becomes one,” she says. Fans can get “updates on my race car, post messages on my forum, and best of all, you can go to my store to purchase personally autographed photos and Star Girl Racing merchandise.”

“I miss being at the track so much during the off-season,” she admits. “It’s become a large part of my life.”

And life just gets wilder and more exhilarating for this gal on the run, as her love of sports and the great outdoors doesn’t stop at racing. She also gets wet and wild via bodyboarding, snowboarding, racing, rollerblading, skateboarding and surfing. But nothing will ever replace her love for racing, her #1 passion.

“I love the Sport Compact scene,” she gushes. “I’ve met so many of my good friends at these events and have learned so much about racing and what it takes to be a racer.”

We recently had a chance to chat one-on-one with Verena about her love of racing, drifting and getting hot under the hood.

How often do you race professionally?

This is the first year that I've competed in a Professional Race. It's so exciting to be a part of the first year of Professional Drifting in the US, and being the first girl to run in a series. I've competed at two Formula-D events, one U.S. Drift, and the Hankook Drift Nationals, where I took third place while blowing my engine. I'm really looking forward to competing at different venues as more pop-up next year. You'll definitely see me sideways on the track!

Tell us about your love of Drifting?

I have a NHRA Pro Drag Racing License to go as quick as a 7.5 second quarter-mile, but my front-wheel drive, pro-stock drag race car is still being built. I'm currently training diligently perfecting my drifting skills to become a fierce competitor in 2005. I've been fortunate to have formed a wonderful partnership with Motegi, Rotora, Nissan Motorsports, Yokohama, Twins Turbo Motorsports, Tein and all the rest of my sponsors!

What is your favorite video game?

I like playing Halo and any other shoot-em-up video games like House of the Dead. I'd really like to be a character in a racing game one day -- that would be fun! Everyone would get a chance to push my buttons.

Does your website get you in closer contact with your fans?

Definitely! When someone see me at an event, on TV or in a magazine and want to find out who I am, they just visit my site. Some people post on my forum to chat with me and other people. It's just a place where you can talk to others about what's going on, and share a common interest. Most of them send me e-mails, and I respond to each of them personally. It's a way for me to reach all my fans from all over the world, even if they don't have a chance to come to my events. I get a lot of e-mails from kids who ask me for advice on how to get started racing, modeling, or how to get sponsors. It's really great being a positive role model and I hope to make a difference in their lives!

What is your goal as a racer?

1) As the first girl to compete in a U.S. Drift Series, my goal is to be the first girl to qualify in the Top 16.
2) Be a positive role model.
3) Educate young adults about racing responsibly -- keeping it "On the Track." 4) Gain maximum media coverage representing my sponsors.
5) Become a versatile driver in various types of motorsports.

Verena Mei: Model and Race Driver


If Jalopnik had a cable talk show, actress, model and Pro Sport Compact driver, Verena Mei would feature prominently on the “Women We Love” segment. Mei, a Hawaii native, who recently became the first Asian-American woman to earn an NHRA Pro Competition Drag Racing license (she’s done a 7.5 second quarter-mile in a super-gas Firebird), started out as a tradeshow model.

Not content to stand around while the guys got all the glory, she enrolled in The Motion Picture Stunt Driving School in Palmdale, CA, and, subsequently, the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School in Pomona. Recently, she turned pro, competing in two Formula-D drifting events, with sponsors such as Nissan Motorsports and Yokohama tires. We’ll be watching her in 2005, you can bet on it.

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