At 200 mph, Alumnus Races on the Edge

By ED CARPENTER, OFFICE OF MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS Posted Thu, 01/14/2016 - 14:17

As someone who races sports cars at nearly 200 mph, Charles Kaki Ng ’06, MA ’07 makes mental calculations almost instinctually. It’s a skill, he says, he honed at USF while studying math and economics.

“Racing is sort of like economics,” Ng says. “It’s all about decision making. I have to manage the limits of the car within thousandths of seconds.” 

Ng, a resident of Hong Kong, started racing on tracks around California when he was an international student at USF.

Racing in Sonoma and Salinas

“I fixed up my Miata and hit the race tracks on weekends, including Sonoma Raceway and Laguna Seca, near Salinas,” says Ng, who came to racing late compared to most pros — many of whom start racing before they’re teenagers.

Ng specializes in drift car racing, a hugely popular sport in Japan and China in which judges score racers as they fishtail their cars around corners. He’s won several top-10 finishes at the international level. His best finish so far came in 2013 at the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile World Touring Car Championship in Japan where he finished third. 

“I like the adventure, the challenge, the adrenaline rush,” says Ng, who, as his own independent race manager, uses his economics background to secure sponsorships and endorsements to pay for his cars, mechanics, travel expenses, and more.

“My education put me ahead of others in terms of negotiating and securing funding,” Ng says. 

He’s done promotional videos and performed at new sports car unveilings for Mercedes Benz and McLaren Automotive as well as worked as a driving instructor at Benz’s elite AMG Driving Academy.

A budding entrepreneur

This off-season, Ng — who seems always to be looking for his next calculated risk — is starting his own driving school in Japan.

“We’ll be teaching people to drive on ice,” Ng says. But he’s not talking about a winter trip to Tahoe. “They’ll drive fast and go sideways,” Ng says of students who take the three-day ice driving class. 

Beyond that, he’s working to line up investors for his own race team.

“Thanks to USF, I became a good public speaker. So much so that I’m asked to speak at conferences,” Ng says. “And my undergraduate math and graduate economics education gave me the ability and confidence to negotiate deals with international corporate executives.”

Another lasting impression from Ng’s time at USF is friendships with students from other cultures on campus. “I like that USF is so international. And the people are so welcoming and friendly,” Ng says.

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