DRIVERS: Samantha Tan and Her 2011 BMW 1M Coupe

DRIVERS is a series highlighting influential individuals in the HYPEBEAST sphere and their passion towards all things automotive. The approach is simple: what is car culture to you, and why do you have a passion for it? Each contributor is given a chance to shine light on their personal vehicle or vehicles, and asked to remark on how they are driving culture forward, both metaphorically and literally.


Our latest feature for DRIVERS highlights Samantha Tan, pro racing driver who not only drives professionally for BMW in the GT4 America class, but owns her own eponymous race team ST Racing. To say Samantha has achieved superlative goals would be an understatement.

Born Chinese in British Columbia, Samantha began professionally driving at the age of 16, cutting her teeth in pro racing divisions in the NASA – short for the National Auto Sport Association. As her seat time extended and her skills progressed, Tan began crossing finishing lines quicker and most consistently than her competitors, garnering accolades most drivers dream of. As such, Tan was the first Asian woman to win the 24H in Dubai earlier this year, while taking home the same title in Barcelona earlier this month. Her wins span years as well: she also took home back-to-back wins in the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX races in 2019 and 2020.

Tan, now 23, continues to hone her skills and defeat stereotypes in racing, as she is currently in contention to win four championships this season. For 2022, Tan is also expected to ascend from GT4 and begin racing in GT3 class.

While she dominates the circuits in her GT4-prepped BMW M4 track monster, on the streets she remains a bit more low key, calling the quirky, unique, and now modern classic BMW 1M Coupe as her “around the town”er. Tan is seen driving the Valencia Orange wide body 1M – which was produced in 2011 for one year only – around Irvine, where she just graduated with a degree in Economics. The 1M is now one of the rarest, most coveted BMWs to date, so for her to gravitate towards it speaks volumes of her interest within the enthusiast car community, but also her tie-back to motorsports and performance driving.

Read the full interview below, and be sure to check out our previous DRIVERS with ILLEST Brand founder Mark Arcenal.1 of 9

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Make, model, year of your car?
2011 BMW 1M.

When did you acquire it?
Technically, my dad did a European delivery in Munich in 2010. I officially received ownership of the car when I was 18, in 2015.

What made you choose this car specifically?
I loved how it felt like a perfect fit for me. It’s small, nimble, and very unique. The 1M was only in production for six months and only 220 were delivered to Canada. The fact that this was a “parts bin special” with a widebody 135i shell and components from the BMW E92 M3 and Z4 sDrive 35iS was just so awesome to me. I loved the colour, Valencia Orange, the M stitching, the sound of its inline 6 twin turbo on a cold start. I absolutely fell in love with it right away.

What is the main purpose for this car for you?
It’s more than just something to use; this is the car that inspired my passion for cars, for BMW, and motorsport. More than anything, it’s the feeling it gives me. There’s the adrenaline, the feeling you get when you perfectly nail a heel-toe into a corner, the chills I get when I kind of mentally step back on a cruise, live in the moment, and realize this car is everything I’ve ever wanted.

What has been done with this car? Where has it gone?
It was the car I learned manual in, the car I went to my first racing school with, the car that introduced me to the automotive community and car culture. I remember when I used to drive to school every morning, there was a stop light with a huge hill and I used to panic every time I had to start the car in first gear.

As I got better and more involved with the Toronto car community, I had the opportunity to take the 1M to track days and car meets. I loved the way it handled, and ended up spending countless hours washing and detailing my car to make sure she always looked perfect. Over time, we had a lot of late night drives and unforgettable experiences together, so the 1M grew to become like one of my best friends. I’m never going to get rid of it.

Since I moved to Irvine to attend UCI, the 1M followed me here in 2016. It’s been here ever since.

Any details? Modifications? Changes?
My car is mostly Dinan tuned. It has an upgraded oil cooler, intercooler, cold air intake, racing coilovers, software tune, Brembo BBK, Revozsport carbon fiber pieces, Motorsport Hardware stud kit, deleted muffler and custom X-pipe exhaust.

“Motorsport is a tough and brutal business that requires lots of funding and connections, on top of the driving skills required to move up in classes. It requires dedication, discipline, and sacrifice.”

What is a car to you: aspirational achievement, functional tool, stress-reliever, etc?
For me, a car is all of the above.

It can take me from point A to point B but also make that experience enjoyable.

When I am able to purchase my dream car, it’s also an aspirational achievement because it’s something I worked towards for a long time.

I can’t count the amount of times I went for a drive in order to relieve stress! Whether it’s blasting music with the windows down, singing my heart out and cruising down PCH, zoning out on the highway on a late night drive, or flying through some canyon roads, it’s something that is always able to take my mind off reality and the never-ending to-do lists. It allows me to take a moment, enjoy life, and breathe.

What was your dream car growing up?
My dream car was definitely the Ferrari F40.

What have you owned before? What would you like to have?
I used to have a 2016 Honda Civic Si with the plate “RACECAT”. It was a manual 6-speed with a half roll cage and straight pipe, with a set of slicks in the trunk. It was my track car.

I have so many cars I’d like to have… [BMW] E36 M3, E92 M3 DTM, [Nissan] R34 Skyline, Ferrari FXX K, Ferrari F40, McLaren F1…

What is the future of the automotive industry? Car culture?
The future of the automotive industry is electric. With the Paris Agreement being implemented worldwide to combat climate change, many nations are slowly trying to replace combustion engines in favour of electric. As gas prices rise and people become more environmentally aware, they will opt for electric vehicles when making the decision on their next car. Combustion engine cars will slowly rise in price and become more rare. I think that this will make the automotive community more tight-knit and concentrated, if that makes sense.

With the high prices of gasoline-powered cars, it’s no question that only car enthusiasts would be the ones purchasing them. I think that the rise of social media has also helped the automotive community connect with one another and it will continue to do so.1 of 6

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What advice would you give aspiring drivers out there who are also looking to compete?
Seize every opportunity you can, learn how to market yourself effectively and build a unique brand. Motorsport is a tough and brutal business that requires lots of funding and connections, on top of the driving skills required to move up in classes. It requires dedication, discipline, and sacrifice. It will be very difficult at times, but I think the rewards are always worth it.

The journey can be daunting, but as I’ve said in the past, whenever you try anything new, you’re going to fail a lot of times and you’re going to make mistakes. You have to learn to be okay with that. Failure just means that you’re trying. You fail and you eliminate a method that won’t work. From failure, we learn, grow, and succeed.
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