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Making the choice to compete in off-road motorsports — to race some of the most powerful vehicles on the planet, far from the comforts of home, through the middle of actual nowhere — requires a very specific kind of crazy.
You have to have the itch. It’s the stuntman’s bottomless thirst for risk, paired with the mad scientist’s drive to become its master. To win is to out-crazy the rest, building and becoming an unsinkable machine of raw, rugged performance.
Rolling up to the starting line for your shot at glory is one thing. Signing your child up to join in the fray — now, that’s something else entirely.
As it turns out, this special kind of crazy tends to run in the family. And in tandem with the extensive level of insider knowledge and specialized equipment required to get started in the sport, off-road racing family legacies abound. Many of the brightest off-road rising stars come from families well-versed in what it takes to be a competitive racer.
In this sense, Eva Star is no exception.
A regular contender in UTV classes at races like the Best in the Desert Parker 250, San Felipe Desert Mayhem, and more, Eva Star is a third-generation competitor with passionate off-road drivers, fabricators, and mechanics on several branches of her family tree.
Her father and navigator Sean Malabanan grew up working on and racing in Baja Bugs with his father and several uncles, picking up the experience and wisdom of a seasoned, top-tier navigator and mechanic over years of supporting family racing efforts. Experience and wisdom that today, he shares with his daughter Eva.
Like many of his peers in the off-road scene, Sean was excited to share his life-long passion for motorsports with his kids — two boys and two girls. Growing up in El Cajon, CA, the family spent lots of time in the desert landscapes of southern California and Baja — surfing, riding dirt bikes, and hitting the dunes in UTVs. It was always a family affair.
But Eva was the one with the itch.
Eva Star is an exceptional off-road racer for several reasons. The most obvious is her gender. Eva is a girl — A girly girl who loves Snapchat filters, her cat Lily, and has long shiny manicured nails. In her sparkly hot pink BFGoodrich Tires® Baja T/A® KR2 UTV tire-clad Polaris RZR (with rainbow tiger stripes down the side), Eva is easy to spot in the starting lineup at any off-road race.
There are no good statistics available around the gender breakdown in off-road motorsports right now. But attend any event and look around. Plenty of women are there, but they’re almost all playing a supportive role. But not Eva. She’s the star of the show.
Eva Star is proof that serious female driving talent is out there. And when it receives the same levels of mentorship often reserved for sons and nephews in this sport, it can go just as far.
Under the guidance of her father Sean, Eva has become a driver who competes at a maturity level above her peers. Aside from one outlier, the last year of Eva’s career shows her finishing in the top five of every event she competed in. If she’s not on the podium, she’s at its doorstep, hungrily inching her way in.
It’s a level of consistency that professionals enjoy. And it tells a unique story for her age group — Eva’s rise is not a boom and bust sprint to success, but a slow, methodical walk towards it. Eva’s not interested in getting lucky. She’s interested in getting smart.
“Eva’s driving style is very level-headed. Smart, smooth, and aggressive. She never lets a heated moment result in a stupid mistake, and she knows how to protect the car.” – Tracy, Eva’s Mom and Manager
While motorsports is made up of many big-name families, the racing community itself is also one big family. It’s a competitive atmosphere where one racer stopping to help another out of a sticky situation is not unheard of in the slightest. When asked about her career and goals, Eva and her family put that community at the forefront.
“Everyone wants their kid to be the next Rob Mac. But I think of Kristin Matlock and the way she’s paving the way for women. Kristin is a good ambassador for the sport, a good mom, a good person, and a part of the community who’s always giving back. If I can just get a little bit of that spirit into Eva, I’ll feel like I’ve built something real.” – Sean, Eva’s Dad and Navigator
Eva is a big fangirl of the female racers who have come before her. Mention Hallie Deegan and she freezes up in a grin of admiration. A mention of Eva can do that too, for other young girls. At events down in Baja, where races and culture are even more male-dominated, she is regularly swarmed with little female fans who are thrilled to see a bit of their sparkly selves flash by on the way to greatness.
Girls like Eva. Smart, swift, and hungry for action.
The next generation to inherit the itch.
To keep up with Eva and her team, follow them on Instagram @EvaStarRacing or visit evastarracing.com.
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