IndyCar fans last saw Switzerland's Cyndie Allemann in 2008 during her one-and-done Firestone Indy Lights campaign driving for American Spirit Racing:
Cyndie would finish 14th in points with a season-best result of fourth at Mid-Ohio Sports Course.
“I really did like (Firestone Indy Lights),” Allemann said last week. “I love the mix of ovals and (road and street) race tracks. I had good moment like my P4 in Mid Ohio, but of course I was also disappointed in some of the oval races as I did not really have a fast car and could not fight in front. I really wanted to get to IndyCar, but I couldn't find enough sponsors to get in.”
“Being a full-time race car driver is actually not easy because you never know what will happen year after year,” said Allemann, “I have to say that right now, I also have another job besides being a full-time driver. I work in my brother's company www.spirit-karting.ch. It's a go-kart company, we have a store in Zurich and we also have a go-kart racing team. I do lots of coaching as well.”
“I keep believing, never give up, and work hard every year,” said Cyndie, the 23rd Woman of pressdog®. “It has already happened that for one year I didn’t drive (2011) but you keep working for the following year and it might happen. That's why you have to keep studying to have another solution if you cannot race.”
Cyndie has also gotten used to the idea that most drivers today do at least some sponsorship searching on their own.
“Chasing sponsorship is a big part being a racer these days,” she said. “I am really fortunate because I have people that believe in me and help me to find sponsorship. I also look for sponsors myself. It's a shame because now racing is all about money and there are lots of good drivers without any ride due to money.”
Four years after her original “Swiss Miss” moment in Indy Lights, Allemann has a full-time sports car gig with Hitotsuyama Racing in the Japan-based Super GT series 2012. Cyndie looked set to run in the inaugural sports car i1 Super Series in India as a teammate of fellow Woman of pressdog Pippa Mann, but after weeks of rumors, series officials announced in late January 2012 that they were delaying the start of the league until January 2013.
A ride falling through is often disastrous for a driver, but Allemann’s period of grief lasted all of eight days before she was selected to drive in the Super GT series. The series was founded some 20 year ago as the All-Japan Grand Touring Car Championships (JGTC) and today features two classes, GT300 and GT500 with 40 regular entrants. Allemann and her driver partner Akihiro Tsuzuki drive an Audi R8 LMS in the GT300 class.
“Of course, I was very disappointed about the i1 Series,” said Allemann. “It was a great opportunity to drive against big names but maybe I will have another opportunity.”
Testing the Audi R8 LMS
Allemann said her opportunity with Hitosuyama was the product of networking and a test drive she did for them at Fuji Speedway on Feb. 8, just days after the i1 league announced it was canceling its 2012 season. Allemann said she tried not to heap pressure on herself to impress at a track and in a car she’d never driven.
“I tried to stay relax,” she said. “I always told myself ‘I have nothing to lose, it can only be fun’ and usually it goes well. You know, since I am a kid, I have this kind of pressure to always show what I am able to do on a race track so I start to get used to it. You just need to believe in yourself and it usually goes well.”
Allemann’s PR release said Cyndie surprised the team owners and engineers with her immediate on-track speed: in cold weather conditions and with a brand new car for her, she took only 10 laps to be in the fast reference times. Thanks to her performance, she received a contract offer on the spot by the team owners.
“The test went pretty well: it was a first experience for me with the Audi R8 LMS and on a totally new track for me, and I must admit I didn’t have much track time to adapt to all those new changes,” Allemann said in a news release after the test. “I think I did the job right for a first time, but I would have liked to be a bit faster. Nevertheless, it was a very positive first time. The important thing was to realize that we can work together with the Hitotsuyama Racing team members and the communication went super smoothly. Also, my teammate Akihiro Tsuzuki seems like a super nice person and I really think we can work well together. I’m already looking forward to the first test session in one month, on once again a new track for me. After those first pre-season tests, I have the feeling that everything will go very quickly.”
Team owner Mikio Hitotsuyama hired Allemann immediately as she got out of the car after the afternoon test session:
“Cyndie drove our Audi R8 LMS very well and we could watch her become more and more at ease with the car,” Hitotsuyama said in a news release. “She has already made enough lap times for us to make a final decision. I am totally certain that she can succeed in Japan. Not only she is fast, but also she is fan friendly. We want to race with Cyndie.”
The daughter of a well known driver, Kurt Allemann, and the sister of fellow racing driver Ken Allemann. Cyndie at first wanted to drive a motorcycle, but her father, who was already involved in carting with Cyndie’s brother, asked her to try four wheels instead of two.
In 1999 she became Swiss and European junior champion in karting, and repeated as Swiss champion in 2000. She continued to race in Switzerland and Europe until age 16 (2002) when Allemann decided to go to Italy as a professional kart driver. “The time was not so amazing,” said Allemann. She came back to Switzerland and returned to school. After school she moved into open-wheel cars, participating in the Formula Renault and Formula 3 ranks in Europe.
For the 2010 season Allemann teamed up with fellow Swiss driver Natacha Gachnag and raced for the Swiss Matach team in a GT1 class Ford GT. She primarily raced in the FIA GT1 World Championship, her best finish was P3 in the 1000km of Spa-Francorchamps with a Ford GT1. Allemann, Natacha and Rahel Frey formed an all Swiss female team and drove the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans but did not finish after the car caught fire.
Allemann welcomes the duties of a “brand ambassador” so often associated with being a race car driver in today’s reality. While in the Super GT series, Allemann also works with Audi and attends events to promote the civilian version of the Audi R8.
“I really love it. For me it’s really fun to attend event with my Audi R8,” she said. “It's really two different jobs, on track and off track, but I really do love both sides of it.”
As for driving the R8 LMS: “It’s a very smooth car to drive. Not only is it a beautiful car, but also it’s a fast car. I really feel comfortable driving it. It’s very well balanced.”
When her team first announced Allemann’s joining the Super GT series, she said she was eager to explore the Japanese culture. She called the Japanese “very friendly and want to laugh all the time, with a great sense of humor.”
“I enjoy discovering Japanese culture because it's so special and different that our cultures,” said Allemann. “Every little discovery make me realize the beauty of the different culture. About the people, they are so polite and friendly. I really enjoy that.”
So far in Super GT Allemann and partner Akihiro Tsuzuki have finished ninth, fourteenth and fifteenth in the first three rounds.
Coming Back to America?
As to whether she’s sticking with sports cars or would ever contemplate a return to IndyCar in North America, Allemann said she’s taking it one season at a time.
“Right now, I am focused on my 2012 season but I love open-wheel racing so let's see what will come up next year,” Allemann said.