If you don’t know 18-year-old Koyama Miki (小山美姫), you’re far from alone, but it’s definitely ignorance you should correct. She’s in the Japanese Formula Four Championships and, like a lot of young racers, she’s gunning for a slot in F1. She’s good enough that Honda just let her thrash an S660 in a brand new commercial.
Despite describing herself as an “oddball” or “totally crazy,” Koyama’s story is one that I think we can all understand—she’s had a need for speed since she was a small child. According to an interview she gave to Shueisha in February (in Japanese, of course), it all started when she was five years old and fell in love with her father’s motorcycle as well as the adrenaline rush it represented.
So why not a become a motorcycle racer? Because mothers. Koyama said her mom decided that two wheels were just too dangerous for girls (BOO! HISS!), and instead ended up getting her a karting kit to build instead. As much as I would have been angry at the gender stereotyping, to little Miki it was an opportunity to get really, really fast, really really soon.
It wasn’t long before her talent was readily apparent, and she started placing against her male opponents. As an example, you can see one of her races in the 2010 Haruna Cup Junior Max Class Final, where she came in second place at the ripe old age of 12:
If you are surprised that Miki’s parents were so supportive, in truth, they were a lot like my parents (shout out!): they let her try to do just about anything she thought she might be interested in.
By the time she started carting, she was already acting, practicing martial arts, and playing tennis. But in the end, she chose driving above everything else because of a very feminist thought process.
I didn’t want to do any of those things, because in most sports, like baseball or soccer, aren’t women and men usually separated? But in racing, it isn’t so, we can be on an equal footing and there is no difference between men and women.
Through her hard work (and a lot of pushups, apparently she’s been doing 200 a day since kindergarten, what?!), she earned a spot in the Formula Toyota Racing School and subsequently as a member of the Toyota/Lexus SARD Racing F4 “miNami aoYama Project.”
All before she’s even finished high school, apparently. It’s not hard to believe she’ll go all the way, given how much time she has already had in the racing seat, and how much youth she still has left to go.
Look out F1 dudes, Koyama Miki is an opponent in your mirror who just might be closer than she appears. And if her recently released Honda commercial is anything to go by, she’s already racking up endorsement deals faster than you, too.