There’s a fresh face in the local motorsports community who turned quite a number of heads at the recent Rotax Max Challenge Philippines’ season opener. Her name is Seira Kojima, who despite being a relative newcomer in karting, managed to pull off an impressive Junior Class win at the Palawan International Circuit (PIC).
Daughter to a Japanese father and Filipino mother, this lady driver barely has a year’s worth of experience under the belt after taking up the sport back in June of 2022. She’s only had a few competitive outings so far in her home country of Japan, Singapore, and now her mother’s birthplace the Philippines. Seira made her local debut at the Rok GP Cup curtain raiser at the Carmona Race Track (CRT) last March and finished in a respectable 4th despite having limited track time leading up to the event. She then returned at the end of April for a chance to race at the 1.300 km track in Puerto Princesa, which only comes up in the racing calendar once a year.
Seira arrived at the circuit on Wednesday in order to have enough practice before the double-header race weekend. This allowed her to build up speed and confidence at a comfortable pace. Although nothing really extraordinary happened over the course of several days, what’s interesting was her choice to switch teams at the very last minute.
The 12-year-old only had Friday to settle in with Mercedes Young Driver Development Philippines and familiarize herself with how things were run. Similarly, the team had to make the most out of the day to fix her kart and get to know their new driver. WSK international tuner Richard Peek listened to her inputs and adjusted the setup as best as he could in spite of the language barrier as English was not Seira’s first language. Team coach Oliver Aquino, who new a bit of Nihongo, then filled in the gaps and provided some driving pointers along the way.
Whatever they did seemed to have worked after Seira set the 3rd fastest time during Time Trials on Saturday and was only 0.331 secs off from the fastest driver on track. She then made steady progress in Qualifying, finishing 4th in both sessions and clocking in the fastest lap in Heat 2. But her talent truly shined during the all-important Finals.
Starting from P5, she got caught behind the mid-pack battle as the race leader sped away and opened up a gap. Eventually, the lady karter found a way past what essentially was a moving chicane and proceeded to pick off the other drivers one by one. Seira drove brilliantly to cut down a 10 secs advantage to just 0.531 secs when the chequered flag dropped, earning her a spot on the podium with 2nd while setting the fastest lap of the race.
The following round, however, didn’t begin as well as they had hoped. Seira was caught out by the wet conditions and went off track, dropping her down to 5th in the Time Trial. But did this did little to dampen her sprits and finished 2nd in both Qualifying Heats again setting the fastest laps. Seira would then save her best performance of the weekend for the Finals on Sunday.
She momentarily dropped to P3 at the start and immediately chased after front-runners Arion Crosby and Ryan Sy. There was nothing much the boys could do to stop Seira from getting past, overtaking Arion first followed by Ryan. It was then all smooth sailing to the finish line, securing Seira Kojima her first race victory in Rotax Max Challenge Philippines and her fourth fastest lap of the race for the weekend.
It’s just unfortunate that, because Seira holds a Japanese racing license, she isn’t eligible to score points towards the overall championship. But if she did, the lady karter would currently be 2nd on the points table.
[Photos by Bong Boado]