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
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Name: Verena Mei
Hometown: Pearl City, Hawaii
Resides in: Los Angeles, CA
Birthday: November 2
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
In 2011, Verena took her
driving skills to the dirt. She moved to New
Hampshire to train with the North American rally
guru, Tim ONeil, at the Team ONeil
Rally School. She completely immersed herself in
the rally world to become a rally champion. Verena
spends everyday at the school
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
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 ONeil and tokidoki. 2012 is
Verenas 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 Winners Circle
event, for being a pioneer and making an impact on
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
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
TrueCar Racing Rally Driver
Verena Mei Finishes the Season 4th in Rally America
2WD National Championship and Unveils
tokidokis Simone Legno Designed Helmet For
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
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 Americas
first female contender for the Rookie of the
Year award, and tied in points with her Team
ONeil 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
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 couldnt have gone to a
better person, as Im 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 ONeil and
my crew to thank for that.
Another first at the event was the unveiling of
Meis new competition helmet designed by
artist and tokidoki co-founder Simone Legno.
Its the first time the artist has applied his
renowned design talents to a helmet for an active
It was a great honor to be asked to design
Verenas 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
ONeil, to prepare for her 2013 Rally America
Season, starting with Sno*Drift, an ice & snow
rally, in January.
Some Girls Chase Boys,
Verena Mei Just Passes Them
Dont underestimate an Asian woman with
mission and a passion. Verena Mei is a member of
True Car Racings Women Empowered
Initiative and a Rally America Driver. Shes
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
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.
Its 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
its 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
Whats it like being a women competing
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 were lighter than other teams
however if our car flips, crashes or breakdowns, we
cant call a crew to help us. Its 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 whats 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,
theres 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.
Continental Drifting: Star
Girl Racer Verena Mei
If there are two things that male racing fans would
love to combine if given the chance, theyd be
drifting and hot chicks. The union of the
worlds 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
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,
theyre so lucky, Id 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
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 theres nothing
holding me back. Just because Im a model, it
doesnt mean I cant 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,
180s, and 90s 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. Its
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 doesnt 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. Ive met so many of my good
friends at these events and have learned so much
about racing and what it takes to be a
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
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
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
Verena Mei: Model and Race
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
(shes done a 7.5 second quarter-mile in a
super-gas Firebird), started out as a tradeshow
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.
Well be watching her in 2005, you can bet on
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