Haruka Ayase’s Look-a-like Racer Anna Inozume Reveals “Harsh Reality” Faced by Female Racers | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Haruka Ayase’s Look-a-like Racer Anna Inozume Reveals “Harsh Reality” Faced by Female Racers

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At the “NAPAC Fuji SUPER TEC 24-hour Race” held on June 4-5 (Photo by Hiroto Kato)The “NAPAC Fuji SUPER TEC 24-Hour Race” (hereafter referred to as “S-Tai”) is held seven times a year at circuits around Japan. The race started at 3 p.m. on June 4 and finished 24 hours later at 3 p.m. on June 5. Each team consists of six members, and each member runs for four hours straight. One beautiful racer was scheduled to enter this race.

Anna Inozume, 27 years old. She is much more beautiful, intelligent, and has a prettier smile than she looks in pictures. She was supposed to start the race at 9:00 a.m. on the 5th, but she was forced to retire due to engine trouble that occurred before that and was unable to start the race. She has attempted this 24-hour race four years in a row since 2018, but this was the first time she had the disappointment of not being able to run.


As a teenager, Anna was obsessed with piano and volleyball, not interested in cars

Anna’s father has been a racer, having won the All-Japan Gymkhana Championship. However, after retiring from racing 20 years ago, he worked as an office worker. Anna has a strong impression of her father as a businessman. She only has a faint memory of a noisy car at home when she was a child.

“I was raised under the policy that if a girl was born, she should play the piano, and if a boy was born, he should play the kart. So I continued to play the piano from an early age and won many prizes in competitions. However, I inherited my father’s DNA, who used to be a racer, and I guess I inherited his competitive, active, and dreamy nature, so I loved sports that involved a lot of physical exertion.”

She entered the world of volleyball at the age of 10, and spent her junior high and high school years playing in club activities, leading her to the Department of Exercise Science at the Japan Women’s College of Physical Education. She also took a teaching course and vaguely dreamed of becoming a physical education teacher at a school and an advisor to the volleyball team in the future.

However, after entering the College of Physical Education, all of the volleyball players in the athletic department were over 180 cm tall, and Anna, who was in the 160 cm range, felt limited in her ability to continue to play volleyball at that point.

“I had nothing left to be passionate about, and I had no energy to do anything. I spent all my time working part-time at a cake shop and as a cram school teacher, but I had not found a subject that I could devote myself to. I wondered if I would grow up incompetent.”

So, at the age of 19, she decided to get a car license. However, she was not interested in driving a car; a driver’s license would serve as a form of identification. That’s what she thought.

“When I was talking about getting a driver’s license, my father, who had kept quiet until then, said, ‘If you want to get a driver’s license, you should get a manual license, not an automatic (AT) only license, and I will pay the difference in the lesson fee’ he said. I thought that if he was willing to pay the difference, it was okay, so I got a manual license.”


Her father Toshiyuki and her mother Mitsue. Toshiyuki became the team manager of the Nihon Jidosha Daigaku (Japan Automobile College) after Anna’s full-fledged participation in racing (photo by Hiroto Kato).
Courtesy of Mr. Inozume

First entered in an EV race that her father was participating in for fun

When she obtained her driver’s license, his father, who had retired from racing but was still participating in electric vehicle races as a hobby, offered her an unexpected word. He asked her if she wanted to try racing.

“To be honest, I didn’t really like my father because he was a hothead and a pain in the ass. But when I was 18 years old and didn’t yet have a driver’s license, I started helping my father, who was participating in electric car races, and we had more opportunities to talk. When I was invited to race the Nissan LEAF for the first time, I was a bit intimidated. I decided to take part in the race, thinking, ‘If I can drive it, I might as well try it.’”


A few days later, a number of life-saving equipment for participating in the race surprisingly arrived at her home. Anna’s father must have been happy that she showed interest in the race. And even though it was a grass race, Anna was going to participate in the race for the first time in her life.

She said, “The helmet, the Hans (equipment to protect the neck), everything was painful, hot, and cramped. I could hardly move my body. I didn’t even find it interesting at all. Within one lap I got carsick and I just wanted to get out, it was painful. But if I got out of the car here, I would be laughed at and it wouldn’t look good. So I gritted my teeth and managed to drive the entire time. When I got out of the car, I felt so sick I thought I was going to die.”

Despite the harsh baptism, a dramatic encounter occurred during this EV race: a member of Mazda’s female racer training team was also participating in the EV race. Although they were in different classes, these women, who met each other every time, were much faster than Anna, and Anna was unable to stand a chance against them. The attention of the people around her was focused on the Mazda training team, and Anna felt humiliated.

“I was so disappointed to lose,” she said. “I couldn’t run well, and my father kept telling me, ‘If you’re not going to do it, go home!’ What drove me just as much as this “desire not to lose” was the intense stimulation given to my five senses, which I could never experience in ordinary life.”

“The sound of the engine cutting through the air, the smell of burning gasoline, and the sound of a machine racing past at the speed of 200 km/h or more. Above all, it is a world where human lives are at stake, so not only the drivers, but also the mechanics and the entire team, are always seriously engaged in their work. I want to give it my all and become the best driver in this world,” she said.

“With that in mind, I thought, “I definitely want to be on this team next year.” I started racing after I got my driver’s license, and I felt that even I could become a female racer, and I saw the potential of the project. It was a very narrow gate, but I was able to become a “Mazda Women in Motorsport 2nd year student,” and I was able to participate in an official race.”


In order to get her name remembered, she continued to make a desperate appeal to the media and trained hard with her father in a manual car. At her media debut, she even observed herself in a mirror to see which way she looked better when photographed.

At the age of 21, she made her full-fledged racing debut, and since then, she has had a brilliant track record in numerous races. In the Roadster Party Race III, she set a course record by qualifying on pole position. This record remains unbroken as of 2022. In 2017, her second year of racing, she won the series championship in the All Japan Electric Vehicle Race (EV-2 class), the event that inspired her more to become a racer.

Anna Inozume watches the race (photo by Hiroto Kato).

She said, “I’m a wild boar, and if I give up, that’s the end of the game.”

Since 2018, she has also participated in Super Taikyu (ST-5 class Roadster) series, and in 2021, she contributed as a regular driver to the third place finish in the series for the team directed by her father; in MAZDA FUN ENDURANCE RACE, she won the series championship, and in the Competitive Women’s in the MARCH&NOTE Circuit Trial, she won the overall championship for two consecutive years, and in the JAF-F4 Championship and TCR Japan Series, she finished 2nd on the podium in her second race. She has shown steady growth and development.

She has finished all three of the 24 Hours of S-Tai races she has entered since 2018. One would think that with such a record of achievement, her annual income would have jumped up, but the reality for female racers, including Anna, is far harsher than one would imagine.

“No one can make a living purely off of racing (prize money and manufacturer contracts). Most of them work part-time in jobs other than racing. I manage to make a living with the support of my sponsors, while also doing various other jobs that are offered to me as a racer, such as sponsorship, writing, and appearances.”

Despite the huge costs involved in motorsports, the exposure is extremely limited compared to other major sports, and it is difficult to get sponsors because it is positioned as a minor sport. Therefore, most female racers have no annual income and are considered to be on par with ordinary office workers (estimated take-home pay of 150,000 yen). Recently, Ms. Inozume has been expanding her activities by appearing on terrestrial variety shows and contributing articles to magazines, not only because she wants to attract new fans, but also because she realizes that she cannot afford to live a comfortable life if she does not do so.

Anna, who currently lives alone away from her parents, is scheduled to participate in the TCR Japan Series Round 2 (Okayama International Circuit) on June 25-26 and Super Taikyu Round 4 (Autopolis, Hita City, Oita Prefecture) on July 30-31. She is traveling around Japan.

Her future dream is to compete in the SUPER GT, World Touring Car Championship, WEC, and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Beyond that, she hopes to “establish the work of female racers as a path for professional athletes.” Her motto is “Go for it, give up, and the game is over.” Beautiful and fast, Anna’s “game” has just begun.

Driving a car is a one-person job, but motorsports is a team sport. Above all, she is attracted to the tension created by the involvement of human lives (photo by Hiroto Kato).
Eating lunch between races. Since I was not able to race that day, I was able to eat my lunch while savoring it.
Childhood piano recitals (courtesy of Ms. Inozume)
My school days when I was crazy about volleyball (courtesy of Ms. Inozume).
“I want to create an environment where women racers can eat just from their work. The battlefield exists outside the racetrack as well” (Photo by Hiroto Kato)
  • Interview and text Kumiko Kato Photography Hiroto Kato

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