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Women in Wheels | 25 years and counting: Tasmin Pepper's awe-inspiring motorsport career

2020-08-22 11:30

Charlen Raymond

Tasmin Pepper

Tasmin Pepper (tjp31 / Instagram)

• Tasmin Pepper has been racing since the age of four.

• Her father instilled a love for motorsport in her.

• Pepper has competed in numerous international events.

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It's already been 25 years since Tasmin Pepper began karting.

At the tender age of four, she got behind the wheel of her first go-kart and has not looked back ever since. The bug bit her hard, and she has made quite a career after that very first outing.

However, barely two weeks after coming into this world, Pepper has been visiting racetracks with her father. Coming from a racing family, it was a given that she'd tag along to events, but the passion has been instilled from an extremely young age.

She says: "Racing has always been a part of the equation. If we not at the racetrack competing, we are watching some form of motorsport on TV. To become a professional racing driver is and always has been the ultimate goal."

It's in her DNA

Pepper recalls growing up, she always only had a dream of becoming a racing driver. The passion her father had for motorsport spilt over to her and her younger brother, Jordan - who is currently competing in Endurance racing for Bentley.

But for Tasmin, being a woman in this highly male-dominated industry was never going to fly. And her resume only tells half the story.

In the earlier parts of her career, Pepper raced in the Formula BMW Asia series where she formed part of the grid who acted as curtain-raisers for three Formula 1 events (Malaysia, China, and Singapore). She says that Singapore was particularly special because it was the first time the city staged the race. In addition, her karting career saw her compete in world championship events in Italy, Portugal, and France.

READ: Women in Wheels | Meet Natalie Weston, one of the most skillful drivers in SA

Locally, Pepper became the first female racer to win a Polo Cup race at a national championship main circuit event, and finished her final season, in 2018, in second place. That year, she also won the Masters' Championship.

Tasmin Pepper

Image: Wheels24 / Reynard Gelderblom

Though all of these were definite highlights, the biggest was to come in 2019. Pepper recalls: "Being chosen as one of the top 18 women around the world to compete in the W Series was the most memorable highlight of my career. I finished the season 10th overall in the championship."

The competitors in the W Series raced in cars that were mechanically identical to Formula 3 cars.


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Staying fit during lockdown

Lockdown has been hard of many, and racing drivers felt the pinch too as they had to find ways to stay fit. Not only physically, but racing fit. For Pepper, she spent a lot of time of race simulator. This helped her keep her skills sharp; even if it was through online competition.

But with lockdown restrictions being eased, she, too, could ease back into a routine and get back on track through karting. She notes: "It (karting) helps me to keep driving fit, seeing as it's extremely physical. In the end, nothing quite compares to the real thing though, and I can't wait to go back real Racing again."

READ: Women in Wheels | Three amazing racers who paved the way for others in local motorsport

Pepper says she hopes local motorsport will grow again, both after lockdown and post-Covid-19. Or at least reach pre-Covid levels. But like many who love the game, she realizes that it will not be an easy road ahead, but how everything progresses over the next few years will be interesting.

Pepper is an avid supporter and activist for women in motorsport and would like to see more female racing drivers make it in this cut-throat industry. But while in support of this, her biggest dream is to see South African youngsters make it, to ensure the growth and survival of motorsport locally.

She concludes: "Don't let anyone tell you, you can't do it. If it's something you want to do and pursue, don't stop until you have reached your full potential. It takes a lot of hard work and determination to make your way up the ladder, so never give up."

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