RACING FAMILY – Ria Sungkar and sons

HOURS after Ria Sungkar was crowned the drift queen in a national competition in Indonesia, she gave birth to her third child, Rizal. That was in 1981. Today, when Ria looks at her pregnant daughter-in-law, Reyka Febrika, 23, who is married to her son, Rizal, she would be reminded of her own crazy act.

The 54-year-old grandmother of two, who was once called the Rally Queen of Indonesia, recalled: ‘I was about the same age as my daughter-in-law and I was eight or nine months pregnant. My stomach was very big. I still remember I wore a size 44 pair of jeans and an oversized T-shirt for the competition. ‘People told me that I was crazy to compete, but I didn’t think that much back then.

Now if my daughter-in-law tells me that she is going to drift in a competition, just like what I had done, I would be so worried and probably object to it. ‘I was young and very passionate about motorsports. After getting the trophy, I went out to celebrate with my team-mates. It was only when I reached home that I felt some movement in my stomach and rushed to hospital.’ At 3am the next day, she gave birth to her youngest son, Rizal.

Ria is married to race driver Helmy Sungkar, 56, and they have three children. Their eldest son, Rifat, 30, who is with Singapore-based Motor Image Rally Team, made it to podium, claiming third place in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) in Malaysia earlier this month. Next weekend, he will be racing in the final leg of the APRC in China.

Ria manages the racing careers of her two sons and she is often seen taking photos of them at the races. She told The New Paper that she too was born to a family of race drivers. When she was young, she would follow her mother to her races and her three younger brother would follow their father to his races. When she was 17, she was already the co-driver for her mother in car rallies.

Three years after being her mother’s navigator, Ria, started participating in races as driver. She raced for the first time in 1974. She met her husband the following year. And in 1976, she started pairing up with her husband in car rallies – she drove while her husband navigated. The couple took part in numerous rallies within Indonesia. The longest was a seven-day rally between Jakarta and Bali, where the couple came in second place for five consecutive years between 1976 and 1981.

In her last attempt in 1981, Ria and her husband finally managed to finish in first position. She said: ‘We’ve won six cars for all the years we took part in the Jakarta-Bali rally. Of course we also participated in other rallies. In 1976, I won three more cars in other rallies.’ And she gave one of her cars to Rifat when she lost to him in a race in 2000. That was also the year that Ria decided to retire from racing. And one thing she often tells her sons: ‘Racing is an expensive sport. If you are really passionate about it, you must win. Then, you will be able to get sponsors to pay for you to continue racing.’


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