Keiko Ihara: More Than a Pretty Face

Keiko Ihara first got a taste of racing when she worked as a promotional model at race tracks in Japan. It reminds me of the beginning of the famous and infamous female racer Helle Nice who also worked as a model/dancer before racing. Both women were beauties but wanted something more than to be a pretty face. Keiko’s work as a promotional model led her to work at a Formula 1 event, and it’s reported that at one of those races she was hooked.

One way, no pedestrians, flat out in a racing car…me too!

Keiko tried to start her racing career in her home country, like a lot of racers do, but she ran into some problems. She made multiple attempts to race at Japanese circuits, but found a lot of pushback on a cultural and societal level ( sounds familiar). She then left Japan for Europe and began racing in the Great Britain starting in 2000 in the Formula Renault series. The next year was Formula 3 in France, and then a gap year to prepare to leap into British Formula 3. However, during that gap year she ended up third overall in the Macau Asian Formula 300 Challenge. This is quite a historic and unique race for anyone to win; the race features one of the most demanding course and is also one of the few street courses where both cars and motorcycles participate. She competed in multiple Formula 1 ladder series in the years from 2003 to 2010 including the Asian Formula 3; Formula BMW Asia; and British Formula 3 with Carlin Racing. Her first year in Formula BMW Asia she finished third overall in the series.

Keiko was also starting her career in the endurance series in this time. There were a few attempts in the years 2003 thru 2010 including the Formula Le Mans cup and the Aston Martin Asia Cup. She then took another gap year in 2010-2011. Following her gap year she competed multiple times in the Le Mans 24 race, and was actually the first woman to compete in the race. She also attempted the Dubai 24 hours, Formula Le Mans Cup, and participated in the FIA World Endurance Championship. In 2013 she was the highest-ranking woman in the FIA WEC. She’s a very methodical driver. Keiko learned to overcome issues using a very step-by-step method. In races she can be seen to overcome the issues she faced and pick up spots she lost.

Off the track Keiko is a member of the FIA Women in Motorsports. She obtained a Bachelors degree in Economics and also works as an English teacher.

I’ve never met Keiko, but I feel she would have the same spunk as Helle.

I’ve accomplished as much as I have by putting myself in situations that demanded passion and ambition. I think today’s young women need to place themselves in those situations and build up experience in order to reach their full potential.

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