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"Race queen" (レースクイーン rēsu kuīn ) is a Japanese term for a type of promotional model found as part of a pit crew in certain kinds of motor racing, such as F1 races. The equivalent British term is "pit babe".
The first usage of promotional models in motor races was during the late 1960s when model Rosa Ogawa (小川ローザ) was brought in to represent the race winners. It was then that the term race queen was coined. Prior to that, women in motor races were mostly wives and girlfriends of drivers and staff, with the exception of some who were drivers. In 1983, the sun tan lotion company Hawaiian Tropic sponsored the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The company brought its models over from the United States to appear on the racetrack before the race began. These models wore bikinis bearing the company's name. A year later, that practice was imported over to Japan for the Suzuka 8 Hours motorcycle race.
The official job of a race queen is to hold an umbrella over the driver while his car is being worked on. They generally wear some sort of revealing costume. Campaign girls in other countries are generally looked down upon as the occupation is regarded as "low profile" or disgraceful. However, in Japan, race queens have a higher profile and are regarded as idols varying only by the motor sport event they appear in.
The average age for these girls is late teens to early twenties and demand for them wanes with age. Some go on to become models or even actresses but those who are unable to leverage their career into something larger. It is not unusual for some of them to have a background in or a sideline career as a gravure idol.
Race queens who operate in prestigious events and with a large fanbase can also be found at automobile shows purely to draw crowds where they are nearly as important an attraction as the cars or electronics products that they are promoting. There is a magazine dedicated to them called Gals Paradise.
In other countries
The models, referred as "grid/pit girls" in Europe, are very common in many series worldwide, but are mostly banned in the United States due to being associated with sexism. Furthermore, because of the manner of dress of these models, insurance companies regard the models as a safety hazard because of stringent dress codes imposed in the garage and pit areas by many sanctioning bodies; in New Jersey, the stringent dress codes effectively ban the models. In DTM and some other events, organizers have started to recruit male models as in startlines, mostly on female drivers' cars.
The Korean term for a race queen is a "racing model" (레이싱모델). Racing models appear in motor shows and racing events. In Thailand, "pretties" and they are used extensively at events ranging from the Bangkok International Motor Shows to minor events such as openings of shopping centers. There are businesses dedicated to recruiting and providing pretties for events, classifying them into several categories according to skills and experience.
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