Rinus VeeKay: “We are ready for the 500”

Rinus VeeKay image courtesy of IndyCar

The first time I took notice of this young Dutchman, he was leading the F3 Asian Winter Series competing with the likes of Williams test driver Dan Ticktum and F3 heavy-hitters David Schumacher and Ye Yifea. I didn’t know much about him at the time, but I was mightily impressed with his performances ultimately dominating the championship twenty nine points ahead of his nearest rival.

Now, he is starting fourth in the Indianapolis 500, the highest placed rookie.

It has been a whirlwind twelve months for Rinus VeeKay to say the least, a name he adopted after coming to compete in the US, his real name: Rinus Van Kalmthout. Since his incredible performance in the Indy Lights series he has been catapulted into motorsport stardom with the Ed Carpenter Racing team for the NTT IndyCar series for the 2020 season.

For the Netherlands, it is a seismic moment. The first Dutch driver in top tier American Open wheel racing since Robert Doornbos in 2009. Doornbos and only four other Dutchman have ever raced in IndyCar including two time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyundyk Sr, his son Arie Luyundyk Jr, Cornelius Euser and Jan Lammers.

Having waited so long for another star in the IndyCar series, they were treated to a miraculous sight last Sunday, seeing Rinus blasting through turn one of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway clocking in at just over 240mph. One of the fastest unofficial speeds ever recorded at the Indy 500.

The previous day he knocked many big names out of the ‘Fast Nine’ shootout, including the likes of Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves and Fernando Alonso to name but a few. This is no mean feat. However, rather than let the pressure get to him, he put in a fantastic four-lap average (230.704mph) during the ‘Fast Nine’ to start on the fourth row alongside Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchliffe.

I was fortunate to sit down with Rinus on Wednesday 19th August, four days before he is due to take the starting grid in ‘The Greatest Spectacle in the World’. The aim: to get an insight into the nineteen-year-old Dutchman, to reflect on his fantastic performance so far.

Adam (Q):

Hi Rinus! How are you feeling? Are you OK?

Rinus VeeKay (R):

Yeah, I’m feeling great. It’s been a crazy few days, but I’m very happy with the result and it’s been a crazy weekend, but it’s also been the best weekend.

 Q:

So Rinus, first of all, congratulations on such a magnificent performance at your first Indy 500. Through to the ‘Fast Nine’, starting fourth, the highest placed rookie. That is the highest starting position for a Dutchman in 21 years since the 1999 Indy 500, which was your mentor, Arie Luyendyk, who started on pole that day.

That must be something you are immensely proud of. How do you reflect on such a fantastic debut performance?

R:

Yeah, I’m really proud of it. Of course, I did not really expect it. Of course, I knew we had a good car, but the Hondas were looking strong and I was really happy to make the ‘Fast Nine’. But then, yeah, having such a good qualifying run; that almost front row was possible was amazing.

Q:

Absolutely and you’re the only Chevrolet powered car through to the ‘Fast Nine’, which is incredible as well. Many have commented on the lack of speed by Chevy and that you guys were running a low downforce set up in order to negate the power of the Hondas. However, you hit 240 miles an hour going through into turn one.

My question has two parts here. One, what was it like running at such an incredible speed? Have you experienced anything like that ever in your career?

And secondly, would you be running a similar low downforce set up during the race? And what can you expect to get out of the race with that?

R:

Well, it was amazing touching 240 miles per hour, that’s kind of a dream come true. It’s amazing speed, of course, I had a bit of a tailwind. It was cool, turning in to turn one staying flat to 240 miles an hour. Never experienced that before, but this definitely is my land speed record.

For the race, you need more downforce to run in traffic in the race, and the tyres will not last if we keep it on that low downforce. So yeah, we will go for more downforce on a kind of race trim that everyone will be on. And yeah, we have a really strong race car. I know that. And we are ready for the 500.

Q:

Fantastic. You seem to have had quite a lot of success at the Motor Speedway. You came third here at the Freedom 100 in Indy Lights and you seem to done well at the road course in both Indy lights and IndyCar. What is there about the Motor Speedway you find so special?

R:

It’s super special, it’s like the racing mecca. The feeling driving here, if you just drive through the gates, it’s just like heaven.

It’s amazing and I really enjoy driving here. Of course, you need a bit of luck to be successful, but I love the speedway and of course, also the IMS road course has been amazing this year with my highest IndyCar finish so far.

Q:

Some of our readers may be hearing about you for the first time, but they will be eager to learn a little bit about your amazing journey into IndyCar. So, you know, I’ve got a list here of some of your accolades.

  • Second in US F2000 National Championship (2017),
  • Second in the BOSS GP series (2017),
  • Third in  the MRF Challenge Formula (2017),
  • First in the Pro Mazda Championship (2018),
  • First in the F3 Asian Winter Series (2019),
  • Second  in the Indy Lights Series (2019).

Some may be wanting to know why you chose to go round the US motorsport route rather than the European circuit and follow people such as Max Verstappen going to Formula One.

What was it that drew you to America? And I have heard that there are some perceptions that it’s more down to talent in the US. Is that a fair assumption?

R:

Yes, that’s quite fair to say. The Road to Indy is known for their scholarship program and I won the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship and because of that I had the funding to go to Indy Lights. Then it just all happened from there on. So actually that win in 2018, made possible, by The Road to Indy, just made it possible for me to drive in my car eventually.

it’s been tough to go this way. It’s not always been easy but it’s been a great few years and to make it to IndyCar in this rapid way is great.

 Q:

One question I had from one of our contributors was about your time in the BOSS GP Open series. He wanted to ask. It’s one of the more lesser known categories, one could say, but it hosts so many historical sports cars. It sounds like such an amazing series to be a part of. Did you learn anything in particular in your time in that series? And what benefits did you find in doing it?

R:

Yeah, my goal to do that was, I was 16 years old, when I did that. I did a few races there I didn’t do the full season. But to get experience at that young age with, well, I had 680 horsepower. Wow. That’s something very educational. And it’s something important to master when you’re younger. And I think that’s really helped me getting used to high power, high breaks, high downforce when I was only 16 years old.

Q:

Fantastic. Do the likes of people like Max Verstappen, Robin Frinjs in Formula E, Nick de Vries who is F2 Champion, and of course yourself. Does that give you hope that motorsport in the Netherlands is on the rise? It seems like Dutch motorsport is in a really good place right now.

R:

Yeah, it really is. We have some great drivers. Robin Frinjs who is a great driver in DTM and Formula E. Nyck De Vries who is a great driver in Formula E. Max Verstappen of course and then on the other side of the ocean, it’s me in IndyCar. It’s great to have so many drivers in the top categories of open wheel racing, and it’s just great to be part of it.

Q:


It’s like you said, you don’t get many Dutchmen in IndyCar. What is it like trying to get the attention of motorsport fans from the Netherlands to watch you in IndyCar? Do you think that you have a lot of attention right now from the Netherlands?

R:

Yeah, the attention is really getting better and better. Of course, it’s been a little tough because everyone was super ‘Formula One minded’. Now they’ve seen my qualifying performance and of course now with the internet, Twitter, everything, it rolls like a snowball. Everyone starts to get really excited. I think most of the country is going to watch the 500 next weekend, so it’s going to be really cool. I think especially the attention towards IndyCar is really on the rise now.

Q:

It certainly has been with my family we’ve been sat around the whole sofa watching it for the past few weeks. So you’ve provided some fantastic entertainment, especially during lockdown.

In the lower categories, you had a competitive rivalry with the likes of fellow rookie Oliver Askew. You two alongside Alex Palou and Dalton and Pato will be going for the Rookie of the Year title on Sunday. Do those sorts of things motivate you as a driver? And will competing well against the likes of Oliver be an extra bit of motivation for you come the race on Sunday?

R:

I’ve had a long rivalry with Oliver. He’s a great driver and he’s always been a benchmark whenever you go to the track. We have a lot of quick drivers in IndyCar now so Oliver is a quick rookie but also Alex, Patricio, Dalton Kellet, they are super quick here. We’ve got some really strong rookies this year and it feels good to be kind of the best rookie and so that gives me a huge amount of confidence.

Q:

How would you rate your IndyCar season so far? You’ve had a few unfortunate accidents here and there but on the whole your performances have been really positive and certainly the qualifying here at Indy 500 surely should give you confidence for the rest of the full IndyCar season. So how would you reflect on the season so far and your hopes for the future? 

R:

Yeah it’s been a weird season. Of course with COVID to start off with and then my first race at Texas was very immature, very rookie, but I really learned from that. It was one of my biggest lessons in my career. And then from then on, as a driver I made huge steps.

Of course after that we had Indy IMS Road Course where I had my first top five finish. That was great with a great strategy. And then at Road America we struggled a little, I also had some engine issues in the race so that was unfortunate. And in Iowa we were on our way possibly to a victory in race 1 until, well you know what happened with Colton. That was very unfortunate. In race 2 we had some pit lane issues so it’s not been the luckiest year. But, well let’s hope we can make a turnaround from here.

 Q:

For all your prospective fans out there as I am sure after this weekend you will have many. What can we expect from you come this Sunday?

R:

I’m gonna just give it my all. I know we have a great race car. Of course a lot of the race is about strategy, so that will be important, a lot of thinking. But I think we can make the people at home, make then sit at the top of their seats and enjoy the race. I really want to make sure that this year, when there are no fans, they still really enjoy it.

Q:

And that’s another good point that there will be no fans this year at the 500. Does that feel a little bit strange do you think that’s going to be weird come Sunday?

R:

It feels a little strange yeah. You are so used to having so many fans here at Indy. The fans make the event what it is and you miss that. You can feel that the atmosphere is not like that. Of course, it’s still the 500, you still have the speed and the sensation but yeah the fans are a gift when they are here.

Q:

I mean I’m sure that even though they are not going to be there there’s going to be thousands more at home tuning in watching at home live so don’t worry there’s going to be lots of people supporting you back at home.

I think that’s pretty much all we have time for that’s the fifteen minutes. So thank you so much Rinus it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you for giving up some of your time to speak to us. We wish you so much luck for the race on Sunday and we really hope you have a good turnout and a good result come this Sunday?.

R:

Thank you very much. I’ll make sure everyone will enjoy the race, and me too and hopefully drink the bottle of milk at the end!

 

 

International Women’s Day 2020: Interview with Sophia Flörsch

  Sophia Flörsch has what promises to be an exciting season ahead of her. The German racer is making the step up to FIA Formula 3 with Campos Racing, as well as entering several races in the European Le Mans series, including the 24h of Le Mans. She’ll be part of an all-female line-up, sharing the car with Katherine Legge and Tatiana Calderon. We asked Sophia her views on the season ahead, as well as talking budgets and her aims for the future.

Alison Finlay: An exciting year ahead for you Sophia, with an all-female Le Mans entry and Formula 3. What are you most looking forward to this season?
Sophia Flörsch: I’m looking forward to each single race I am able to do to be honest. There is no difference for me between a FIA Formula 3 race or an ELMS race. For me it was really important to be racing FIA F3 this year. The F3 car is great and all 30 drivers are one of the best in junior formula classes. The complete starting grid is very close together. It will be a great season with a lot of learning and fighting for me. Each race weekend has something special. It’s always on F1 weekends which is something new to me. The tracks are great and some are even new to me, like Bahrain or Sochi, for example. As the Red Bull Ring is one of my favourite tracks, I am looking forward to that one in particular. The atmosphere in Austria is one of the best. On the other hand I am going to do ELMS in an LMP2 with Richard Mille Racing and 24h of LE MANS! It will be a new and different challenge for me as it’s endurance racing but it’s going to be great. Of course Le Mans will be amazing. I am really thankful to be able to race there this year. That’s definitely a dream come true. 100 million TV viewers worldwide – wow. This one week will for sure be one which I will never forget.

AF: You’ve tweeted recently about the costs of the junior series. Can you describe the barrier this creates for young drivers?
SF: Well, I think everyone knows that motorsport is really expensive. Even in F1 you see teams having different budgets performing differently just because they do not have the same possibilities. That’s pretty much the same in junior classes. If you are lucky, and your parents can afford the yearly budgets between 1-2m, without any problems, and even pay for you to go testing or keep racing during the winter period, then that’s amazing. You are a privileged driver because of more and better testing and possibilities. But if your family is not able to afford it, you need people to believe in you and support you. Already when you start with F4 people spend up to 800k per year. That’s a big bunch of money. The higher you get, the more expensive it gets. F2 is more than 2m a year, F3 in a top team more than 1.3 to 1.5m. The most expensive cockpit I heard this year is 1.9m – don’t know if it’s true. The [team’s] experience, their race engineers and so on – the better it is, the more expensive it is. So there is a reason why parents are paying the highest price. The struggle is that not having the money you need to perform well [means having] to find people to give you money to race. But to perform well you should be able to go testing as much as the others, or at least drive in a team where you can do good races just because the car is quick enough. But for that you need money… so it’s kind of a circle which you need to try to get out of by having good races, fighting, showing people that it really is your dream and that they are the ones making it possible to live my dream and achieve my goal.

credit © Dutch Photo Agency

AF: How are you preparing for the 24 hours of Le Mans? And how exciting is it to be part of an all-female entry?
SF: Well, we are racing the ELMS as well which will be two race weekends before Le Mans already. It’s just going to be 4h races but of course that’s already going to help to get a feeling for endurance racing. I will for sure do a lot of simulator preparation to get into the rhythm and focus on long stints. Watching videos and some 24h races from the years before to learn. A lot of contact with the team and the other two women. It’s an huge honour to be racing 24h of Le Mans and also with an all women line up is super cool. We want to perform – that’s our goal to 100%! To get the possibility thanks to Richard Mille and FIA Women In Motorsport is amazing and we will make the best out of it. Of course in an endurance race everything can happen and there are more things you have to take in account, but the luck will be on our side.

AF: Are you happy with your performance in the F3 test? What are your aims for the season?
SF: I am only happy when I am winning a race or I am P1. That’s 100% sure. But to be realistic it was the first time for me back in a formula car again since Macau 2019. Not a single test day during the winter season. No experience on new tyres. And to understand the Pirelli tyres is really important. In those three test days at Bahrain my main goal was to develop myself, work together with the team and get in a rhythm with the car again. I think I ticked those boxes in Bahrain. In testing you never know where you really stand because everyone is doing different tyre strategies and everyone tries different stuff. Free practice and quali will be the sessions when we really realise where we are. As it’s my first season in F3 and as I did not prepare during the winter in F3 there are no high expectations. This season will be a year for me to learn, to get used to the car, to enjoy, to get better as a race driver and to have good races. If I am ending the season with Top 10 finishes and also well performing [well in] quali then I think it should be a good starting point on which to build up for 2021.

AF: What does the future hold beyond 2020 for you, and is it dependent on performance this year?
SF: The plan is to do FIA F3 again in 2021, and after that, two years of FIA F2 with strong partners and an equal backing would be great. That’s how my next years should look. I want to sit in a race car as much as possible. When I make it to be highest class of formula racing, either F1 or maybe than Formula E, I want to be a proper racing driver who has had enough preparation and years in the junior classes. Of course performance is always important. I want to show that I am the quickest. In motorsport this key factor does not just depend on talent. Money and the budget you have for every single season is probably even more important as I mentioned before. To be able to go testing during the winter, or maybe even do another series during the winter, and to race with a leading top team, you need money. That’s what I need to be able to perform and to reach my next goals

International Women’s Day 2020: Interview with Juju Noda

   Juju Noda has a lot of pressure riding on her young shoulders.

The Japanese star – who turned 14 last month – has received a lot of international attention over the past few years as a result of driving various single-seaters in her home country despite her young age.

By the age of nine she had already tested F4 cars, holds the F4 lap record at the Okayama International Circuit, drove a Formula 3 car at the age of 12, and competed in a Japanese category called Formula U17, which uses F3-spec cars, when she was 13. Bear in mind, Max Verstappen was 16 when he first drove an open-wheel car.

Unable to progress any further in Japan until she is 16 due to minimum age restrictions, Noda has moved to Europe for the 2020 season, where she will be competing in Danish F4, and was kind enough to speak to us for International Women’s Day here at The Pit Crew Online.

Jenny Rowan: How would you reflect on your 2019 season?

Juju Noda: It was a very good season. I managed to drive F3 hard and I even managed to break lap the lap record of F3N Class (Dallara F312 with Volkswagen Cox engine) at Okayama International Circuit. I also won all four races of the season.

JR: There has been a lot of hype surrounding you and your career – how do you feel about the attention you’ve been getting and how do you deal with it?

JN: I think it is something necessary if you want to be competitive and professional. If you cannot deal with it, that means you are not good enough. To be honest, sometimes it is a bit hard to handle but I always do my best.

JR: Do you see your age as an advantage or a disadvantage when it comes to competing against drivers who are potentially several years older than you?

JN: In the future it will be an advantage but right now it is not. Instead, there are many limitations regarding what to drive and where to drive and it is a bit inconvenient.

JR: Have you already tested the car you’ll be driving in Danish F4 and, if so, how did it feel?

JN: Yes, I drove it in Spain in January and February. The car is quite heavy and not very forgiving but I must get along with it if we want to be competitive. I feel like I want to be friends with it and get along well!

JR: What ambitions do you have for the 2020 season?

JN: I want to learn and enjoy the season as much as possible. Hopefully towards the second half of the season I can be competitive. But I don’t want to be impatient.

JR: What are your ambitions more widely regarding your career?

JN: I want to be one of the best drivers in the world and reach places like Formula 1, Formula E, Le Mans, IndyCar or NASCAR. I will do my best to succeed!

Featured image courtesy of  Sergi Garcia”

Young talents in motorsport – an interview with Emily Linscott

 Teen British driving sensation Emily Linscott has been making waves in the motorsport world since she began karting less than 4 years ago. Fresh from wins in the Britcar GT4 as well as podium finishes in the US Lucas Oil series, she has made bold moves both on and off the track. 

 Speaking to the PitCrew Online earlier this month, Emily described how a trip to a karting session with her father, ignited her passion for motorsport saying, “the adrenaline rush you ger from driving round on the limit is amazing…the feeling I get from the sport is like no other”

 Despite this, every day off track considerations come calling forcing Emily to make difficult decisions to “sacrifice time with family and friends and work harder than anyone else”. The one thing she could not sacrifice however, were her exams which she put ahead of the opportunity she had to race aboard. We asked Emily how tough a decision it was, “obviously turning down racing anywhere is hard as it’s a passion, but I’ve been taught and understand that if you want to play hard you must work hard”. She acknowledged that it is tough for every participant to establish a full-time motorsport career that would be lucrative enough to that they can rely on without a backup qualification and that it was “the right thing to do” to write her exams, which she passed. 

 One of the proudest moments of her flourishing career is the back-to-back wins she took at the hallowed Brands Hatch finale in 2019. Describing it as an “incredible weekend”, Emily said the wins, which were her first in cars, were even more special due to the “toughest conditions” that weekend. They were wins that she credits to her teammate. However much of Emily’s success can be attributed to her off-track training and preparation which allows things a more “natural” feel on the track. 

Credit “Paul Cherry Photography”

 While Emily says that her father is one person that she admires most in motorsport for the advice and support she has been given over her career, she has recently been given the opportunity to work with Indy 500 driver Pippa Mann. Emily describes working with Mann as “…one of the most inspirational times of my career, she’s so forward thinking and positive that some of her personality is rubbing off on me”.

 She credits Mann with changing how she approaches motorsport and life. Their collaboration has extended to their #GetInvolved campaign which has been helping support Emily’s racing in the USA in 2020, “It’s a great way to get my supporters more involved in my racing”. The campaign aims to get Emily on track by supporting her career and in turn, supporters can own her limited-edition merchandise such as her Bell Helmet, Torq race suit and Walero base layers. The campaign launches 1 February 2020. 

 Emily has much in store in 2020 with an exciting special announcement soon involving her new sponsors FASTR, which we are looking out for on their social media channels. 

 Emily ultimately aims to take her racing as far as she can, winning championships and inspiring more females to take up motorsport by overcoming their fear of not being able to achieve success in what has been a traditionally male sport. 

 Emily is currently inspiring her community in Essex who have backed her from day one and whom she hopes will keep backing her as she attempts to fly the Essex flag at F1 or Indy Car someday. 

Make sure that you follow Emily:
Website: emilylinscott.com
Twitter: twitter.com/emily_linscott
Facebook: facebook.com/emilylinscottracing
Instagram: instagram.com/emi_racing_

Jamie Chadwick: W Series Champion 2019 – An Exclusive PitCrew Interview

It has only been a few days since 21-year-old Jamie Chadwick claimed the first ever W Series title, but the notion of being champion is still very surreal for her.

Jamie started karting at 11 years old before competing in the Ginetta Junior Championship in 2013. She then moved into the British GT Championship in 2015 and won the GT4 class, before moving to single-seaters in 2017 racing in BRDC British Formula 3.

2019 has been an incredibly successful year for the young Brit who has won the MRF Challenge, the 24h Nurburgring race and now the W Series title. It seems that nothing can stop her.

After finishing fourth at Brands Hatch and securing enough points to win the championship title, we talked to Jamie about her W Series journey and how much she has achieved this season.

W Series Media

Kirsty Campbell: We’ve reached the finale in the first season of W Series. It’s been thoroughly enjoyable watching you drive this year. How are you feeling about becoming champion?
Jamie Chadwick: Honestly, it’s all a bit overwhelming at the moment. Not sunk in at all. I’m sure it will do soon! But at the moment, I’m just elated, really, really happy. A lot of hard work has gone into this year, so to have it all come together and be crowned as champion is an awesome feeling.

KC: You’ve managed to score three pole positions, five podiums and two wins. You must be proud of what you’ve managed to achieve this season. How has your team and family’s support helped you through the highs and the lows?
JC: It’s been awesome. As the year goes, it’s been a fantastic year. Obviously the championship is the highlight, but the whole build up and the actual season has been incredible. I’ve been really lucky, I’ve had a lot of support this year, a lot of people around me working very hard to help me progress and make the dream a reality. It’s been an incredible year. As the year’s gone on I’ve been lucky to have the introduction of support from Williams, which has made a big difference, and also Aston Martin. I’ve been very, very lucky, so it’s nice to have that rewarded and share it all with them.

KC: What has been the most challenging aspect of your W Series experience, and in contrast, what as been your favourite moment this season?
JC: I’d say the most challenging race was definitely that last Brands Hatch race. The most challenging aspect overall is probably the fact that it’s not like a normal racing environment where you have your own team, your own independence—you’re sharing everything, you’re travelling together, you’re swapping cars each weekend, nothing’s off limits to anyone else. You’re teammates but racing against each other effectively, so I would say that’s definitely made it quite tough. I’d say the highlight was either the Hockenheim pole or the Brands Hatch pole, and I say that because both situations I felt like that was when the pressure was really on, so to deliver pole position both of those times was a big highlight.

KC: You’ve been neck and neck with Beitske Visser all season. Would you say that this rivalry has helped push your driving skills to the limit?
JC: Yeah, 100%. For sure, when you’re working in that close proximity you find yourself pushing each other along quite a lot and definitely she’s pushed me this year to make sure I’m maximising every race, every result. I think the other drivers as well, some of them that came on strong at the end of the year, also kept us honest. But Beitske for the whole year has been the one that’s been pushing me hard, so it’s been a tough year to maintain the lead over her, and fortunately I managed to do it.

W Series Media

KC: Do you feel that W Series is the way forward for female racers in this industry? Do you think it is the right stepping stone for women who want to progress into the more established classes?
JC: Yeah, definitely. What W Series is doing is offering a platform for drivers to progress, a platform that a lot of us wouldn’t have otherwise had. So I think that now we’re seeing 20 female racing drivers, racing in Formula 3 cars at a high level, it’s giving them a much greater opportunity to feed into the higher levels of motorsport later on. For me this provided the perfect platform, the perfect stepping stone, so it hopefully do the same for others.

KC: 2019 has been quite a year for you with winning the MRF Challenge and the 24h Nürburgring win, and of course, winning the W Series title. The dream for you, as stated in a Guardian article earlier this month, is to race in Formula One. How did you feel when you got the call about becoming the developmental driver for Williams? Do you see yourself racing in Formula One in the near future?
JC: Absolutely. It was a huge moment getting that call. I think every driver wants to be into Formula One, so to get that first step on the ladder and the first association as a development driver really is a dream come true. You just have to look at some of the drivers that have come through their young driver programme to know it’s a great place to be for any young driver, and for me I feel very much the same. It’s the first step into what will hopefully be a much bigger step in the future.

KC: Which drivers in Formula One (past or present) have influenced you the most in your racing career?
JC: Good question. I’d say maybe from the past—although not so long ago—Alonso’s definitely influenced me. More because I like the way he wants to go and race in a lot of different things. You know, last year he was racing in Le Mans, Daytona, quite a lot of different championships. The fact that he’s open to doing all sorts of different racing is something that inspires me. And present, I’m not too sure. Definitely Hamilton, the way that he’s driving is incredible at the moment.

KC: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into motor racing?
JC: I would say, just get involved. Don’t let anything stop you. It’s a great sport, I’ve loved every minute of it even though I fell into it by accident. It’s a fantastic sport. I’d say work hard, learn from everyone and anything that you can, go get involved!

KC. Do you think you will be returning to the series next year or do you have other plans?
JC: I’m not 100% too sure yet in terms of next year. But I think it’s a great series, it’s a great opportunity. For sure if I can do another season with them, potentially collect some superlicence points next year and get another season of experience, hopefully that will set me on on my way and in good stead for a few years to come.

Interview conducted by James Matthews.

Vicky Piria: W Series presents drivers with “fair and meritocratic” opportunity

25-year-old Italian racer Vicky Piria is one of eighteen women who recently made the final line-up of the historic W-Series, the first ever all-female racing championship.

Testing at the Lausitzring circuit in eastern Germany concluded on 16th April, with the drivers having gotten their first chance to put the Tatuus T-318 Formula 3 car used in the series through its paces.

Fresh from that test, Vicky was kind enough to speak to us about her career and her hopes for the upcoming season.

Her interest in motorsport was sparked as a young girl, introduced to it through her father.

“I became interested in motorsport in a completely casual way,” Vicky said. “I was always a bit of a tomboy and I loved horse-riding. My dad one day bought a go-kart for my brother – I was very curious and competitive so decided to give it a try… Then it all started.”

Back in 2012, she became the first female driver to compete in GP3 when she raced for the Trident team.

“I believe there are a lot more female drivers today, which is a good thing. When I was racing at the time it was all new so people found it difficult at times to see me as a normal driver. But, with more female examples now, it will become more ‘normal’.”

Fast-forward to 2019 and, as mentioned, Vicky will be competing in W Series. She believes that her participation in the series has re-opened doors that she thought closed to her a while ago.

Credit: Colin McMaster/LAT Images/W Series

“Before the W Series opportunity came along, I was not expecting at all to get back into a single-seater – I was simply hopping in some GT rides and continuing my career in those.

“W Series gave me the opportunity to continue what I started at a younger age: single-seater racing. At the moment I am focusing on the now. I want to do my absolute best this season and see day-by-day what the future will bring.”

Selection for the championship comprised of two sections narrowing the pool of drivers down first from 60 to 28, and then from 28 to the final 18.

“They were both difficult, tiring and the pressure was definitely on,” Vicky said, “but it was also a good opportunity to learn new things. In Melk we were driving often on snow and ice, not quite typical for me. Making it through was my main goal – I knew I could do it and it was very important for me.”

The final 18 drivers recently got their first chance to test the series’ Formula 3-spec car, and Vicky was upbeat about how it felt to drive.

“The car is very cool, as is any single-seater. It is very different to the F3 car I drove back in 2013. It is heavier, bigger, and it requires a different driving style just like its Hankook tyres.

“I am still adapting, but after the first test in Lausitzring we definitely made a step ahead. I must say, it looks amazing!”

Credit: Colin McMaster/LAT Images/W Series

Vicky set herself the target of top-five finishes, but admitted that concrete predictions are somewhat difficult to pin down at the moment.

“There will be a lot of attention on this championship and there are only six races, so it will be a very tough competition – all of us will absolutely go with it. It is very difficult to make expectations as it is all a totally new thing.”

When asked whether it was fair to say there was a lot of camaraderie between the drivers, Vicky said, “It is true – I think that as we are all put constantly in the same identical situation and in a fair and meritocratic system, we all feel in the same boat.

“There is a lot of mutual support and we push each other a lot. But, still, we need to do the first race – maybe things will change?

Finally, Vicky had some advice to give to other women looking for a career in motorsport.

“The series is getting people talking, a lot. This gives much more awareness about female drivers and is a big opportunity for the youngest to look up to.

“The advice I want to give is to work hard but to absolutely not forget to enjoy it along the way – happy drivers are faster drivers. Regarding being a female: it is normal – act like it is normal.”

ThePitCrewOnline Exclusive: Susie Wolff for International Women’s Day 2019

Ask any motorsport fan to name a successful woman within the sport, and usually, Susie Wolff will be amongst the names they provide. The first woman to take part in an F1 weekend in 22 years, Susie is now the team principal of the Venturi Formula E who scored their first podium of the seasion in the Mexican ePrix a few weeks ago, as well as the co-founder of the Dare to Be Different initiative, a non-profit organisation committed to change viewpoints and inspiring young girls and women to participate within the motorsport industry.

Sarah Jarvis: You’ve had time to become much more comfortable within your new role as team principal. Was the transition period as challenging as you thought it would be?
Susie Wolff: Yes, it’s definitely been challenging with plenty of changes and improvements to make, but to be honest I’ve relished the opportunity to get stuck in. We’ve made really great progress after a difficult start to the season. In motorsport, ultimately all that matters is performance and, with our first podium of the season in Mexico, I think we’ve demonstrated that we’re on the right track.

SJ: The FE in-season test featured nine female drivers competing in cars as part of the FIA Women into Motorsports Initiative. Did that feel like a significant step forward in promoting the movement of women into motorsport?
SW: Yes, I do feel like it was a significant step forward. I also think it clearly demonstrated Formula E’s commitments both to the promotion of women in the sport and also their desire for diversity within the series. The all female in-season test also served as a fantastic reminder of the female talent out there – that’s an incredibly positive thing in my book.

Image credit: Sam Bloxham

SJ: With your increased involvement in Formula E, there is an intensity of D2BD initiatives at these events. How important are these events to display at such a vastly popular sport? Are they changing the opinions and viewpoints of young girls?
SW: The D2BD events are really important and now that we have the official collaboration with the FIA’s Girls On Track initiative, we’re widening our reach even further to a bigger, global audience. Having our launch event in Mexico at the ePrix was a major milestone for the initiative, it also clearly demonstrated Formula E’s commitment to the promotion of grassroots activity for young women. The launch was met with great enthusiasm, not just from the motorsport community but also the local fans who came and participated in the activity, there’s simply no substitute for hands on experience. One of the major additional benefits of teaming up with Formula E in this way is that we have the benefit of some incredible city centre race locations, this goes a long way towards helping raise awareness and generate interest in the activity.

SJ: Is it imperative to gradually add more racing events to the D2BD calendar for exposure? Are there certain avenues such as F1 and MotoGP that you want to pursue further?
SW: Now that we are a joint venture with the FIA, we’re not focused on volume of events or trying to be the biggest. What we want to do is foster strong and lasting relationships with the ASNs (the local motorsport authorities) to ensure that the activation is strategic, meaningful and leaves a lasting impression on the young ladies who participate. The impact we have from an inspiration and education perspective is the most important thing to me.

SJ: With the introduction of the W Series aimed strictly at a female demographic, do you feel it is a positive step towards better representation of women in motorsport?

SW: Any championship that gives the opportunity to young women to compete is a positive thing. In my view though to become a truly world class professional driver and earn a living in motorsport, you need to compete with the best in the world regardless of gender. Ultimately, motorsport isn’t segregated so I think in the long term, we need to really focus our efforts on bringing more female talent in to the sport across the board so that the best can rise to the top.

SJ: What advice would you give any young girls or women wanting to break into motorsport, whether it be driving or engineering?
SW: My advice would be the same whichever field they were looking at: believe in yourself. Find out what it is that you feel passionate about and go for it. Don’t be scared to stand up for yourself and be seen and heard. Work hard, push yourself and never, ever lose the belief in your abilities. Use initiatives like Dare to be Different to connect and widen your network. We have an incredible line-up of ambassadors who provide mentoring and education to the next generation. But above all else, don’t wait for doors to open for you, knock them down.

For more information on the Dare to be Different initiative: https://www.daretobedifferent.org/

ThePitCrewOnline Exclusive: Bia Figueiredo for International Women’s Day 2019

Bia Figueiredo has had a glittering career in motorsports that spans from Indy Lights to Brazilian Stock Cars. As the first woman to win an Indy Lights series race and the first woman to win at a race car event at the Iowa Speedway, she defined motorsport history and inspired women around the world with her positive attitude and impressive racing. For this International Women’s Day, Bia answered a few of our questions on her career and what it’s like to kick the trend in motorsports. Because this girl can!

 

Jade du Preez: How did you get into karting when you were young?
Bia Figueiredo: Since 3 years old I’ve shown passion for cars and speed. I would stay in my dad’s car turning the wheel for hours. I would ask for mini cars together with dolls. My parents decided to take me to a go-kart track and I loved it. I was lucky enough that they had an open mind by that time and supported me in the sport.

JdP: When did you start to think that you could make a career out of racing?
BF: When you are a kid you are sure you will make it easily to the top. Growing up I’ve realized that it wouldn’t be that easy. Because of that I started to focus on racing and left to the side my teen life with friends, boyfriends and parties. So, by 16 I decided to do that and put all my energy into racing and finishing school.

JdP: How do you think motorsports has changed for women since your breakthrough season in 2009?
BF: Actually I believe 2008 was THE year for women in Racing as I won in Indy Lights, Simona da Silvestro won in Atlantic and Danica Patrick won in IndyCar. On 2010 I made it to Indy 500 with the record of 5 women. So I believe it brought attention to other female drivers working hard to get to a top series.

JdP: You’ve had a few issues with funding over the years, and as a result had to miss races, do you think this would be an issue if you were a man? 
BF: Funding is the biggest problem in racing for male or female racers. At the beginning of my career in karting people wouldn’t support me because they thought a girl would never reach Indy Car. But after winning so many races it has changed a lot.

JdP: And how do you think the issue of female drivers struggling to get funding can be solved?
BF: There are not many women around the globe that are passionate for racing and speed. And not all of them have the support to move up. I believe if you start winning, things will start to change. Funding was always a problem when I struggled to get good results. So I started to work harder to do things different from guys like working better with social media , TV and others. And kept working hard to win races.

JdP: You’ve had such an incredible career, what is the highlight for you?
BF: The highlight is to be able to live from racing. I had support from so many people that believed in me and it is good to know that winning so many races, reaching the top and live from what I love to do make them all proud.

JP: And looking forward, what goals do you still want to reach?
BF: I moved from open wheel to V8 Cars in 2014 and feel that adapting wasn’t  easy. In Brazilian Stock Car where 30 cars can be in the same second I was able to reach a top 5 and many top 10. But for me the target still is a podium and a win. The same in IMSA where I should run a few races with Heinricher Racing/ Michael Shank with amazing drivers like Katherine Legge and Christina Nielsen. I can’t thank Jackie Heinricher and Michael Shank enough for giving me a new chance in the USA.

ThePitCrewOnline Exclusive: Noemí de Miguel for International Women’s Day 2019

As part of our celebration of International Women’s Day, we spoke to Spanish F1 journalist Noemí de Miguel about her love of sports, her work for Spanish broadcaster Movistar and more.

Emily Inganni: Where did your love of sports first start?
Noemí de Miguel: From my childhood. I grew up in my grandparents’ house and my grandfather and my uncle (still single then) loved sports and we didn’t watch another thing on TV. You only have to choices: love it or hate it. And seems that I felt in love with sports.

EI: Was it always your aim to become a sports journalist?
NM: Indeed. I have been always focused on being a sports journalist and guided my studies and my career to get it from the very beginning.

EI: Why did you decide to switch from football to Formula 1? How did the opportunity with Movistar come about?
NM: I felt stuck. I had been working hard to be the best football journalist possible but my position on the company, my contract and opportunities to raise better conditions weren’t what I expected. I felt frustrated working on my dreamed job and at the beginning, I thought that the situation would change in some moment. But nobody changes anything for you. You must do your way. Then, they offered an opportunity working on F1 and I accepted the challenge because you can watch F1 and follow the races but developing yourself as a journalist following the Great Circus is very demanding. I was studying for months to prepare myself.

EI: How did you feel when you first came into F1? Were you intimidated at all?
NM: In Melbourne in my very first grand prix I was nervous and the jet lag didn’t help at all. I had been studying, reading and researching all kinds of information, speaking and asking some specialists, but it was my time to prove I was capable of doing a good job; as good as I considered I did working for 10 years on football. And many people tried to pressure me and criticised me for being there coming from football and doubting about my knowledge. But I overcame all those circumstances and my confidence grew quickly. I was very welcomed on the paddock for the main F1 representatives, drivers and colleagues. And soon people on social media changed their minds. It’s a good learning experience to leave your comfort zone, face the difficulties, localise your weaknesses and work hard to fix it.

Source: Noemí de Miguel Instagram

EI: F1 is still very male-dominated, what do you think needs to happen to get more women into the series, in roles both on and off the track?
NM: Fortunately, off the track, there are more and more women coming to play important roles. And the opportunities for a driver is about to happen soon, Tatiana Calderon is in pole position. The problem is the culture of motorsport in women, something in which FIA is working on and also Dare to be Different. As the girls would be educated in the culture of everything is possible for them and every single job is appropriated for them and get away the idea of male and female jobs the number of girls aspiring to be F1 driver will increase, the options of talented drivers also.

EI: Do you think there has been much progress for women since you started working in F1?
NM: It’s been a long way but there are more projects running to help the development of female drivers and more women working on F1 teams.

EI: What would be your advice for anyone trying to get into sports journalism?
NM: Respect sports and athletes because they are who play the main role. Work hard, you never know everything, be focused, openminded, a good teammate and enjoy the opportunity. And if you are not happy just change yourself and move on for the next challenge.

ThePitCrewOnline Exclusive: Sabré Cook for International Women’s Day 2019

Sabré Cook hit the headlines last year when she won the Renault Infiniti Engineering Academy scholarship at the US GP, but her story goes much further back than that. She balances careers in both racing and engineering , chasing her dreams and encouraging others to follow theirs.

Emily Inganni: What inspired you to start racing?
Sabré Cook: My father used to race motocross and supercross professionally, and he and my mother didn’t want my brother and I racing motorcycles so we got into karting. Things started out slow, they even called me driving miss daisy at first! I remember getting teased by one of the boys about him being faster than I was and that really didn’t sit well and just flipped a switch for me. I remember telling my dad through tears that if I had a proper kart (I had an old one just for fun as I wasn’t too serious about racing yet) I could win. Well, he got the kart and the very next race I won. From then on I was hooked and my competitiveness and passion only grew from there.

EI: You’ve raced in both USF2000 and F4 United States in 2018, how would you compare the two series?
SC: Both USF2000 and F4 are a great platform for starting along the ladder system to professional open-wheel racing in the US. USF2000 has great competition and provides unique opportunities being paired with the IndyCar calendar. F4 also has good racing, the amazing venue pairing with the US F1 GP at COTA, and the overall cost is lower. Both are good series fielded with talented drivers.

EI: What drew you to the engineering side of the sport?
SC: I’d always enjoyed school, specifically math and science subjects. Growing up working on my kart with my dad only fed my interest in the science behind motorsports. Then throughout school, I was blessed with several amazing teachers who nourished my desire to learn.

EI: How did the opportunity with Renault’s INFINITI programme come about? 
SC: The Infiniti Engineering Academy (IEA) is a global opportunity available to all engineering and science-related undergraduate and graduate candidates. The program offered by the IEA is the only program in the world that offers a placement for young engineers that stretches from the road car side of the industry to the motorsports side. And not just any motorsports, it’s Formula 1. Having access to work in F1 is a treat very few engineers get. Candidates can apply online and learn more about the program at www.academy.infiniti.com. I highly recommend checking it out!

EI: What was the selection process like?
SC: The process first begins with submitting your CV online and taking a short test at www.academy.infiniti.com. Candidates are then selected to be a part of the Skype Interview phase. From there only 10 are chosen from each of the 7 global regions to compete at their respective regional final. (The seven regions being Europe, Asia & Oceania, Canada, US, Mexico, China, and Middle East.)
Each of the finals extended over two days. On the first day, the 10 finalists complete several challenges including an engineering exam, individual interviews with the judges, and team challenge created by Harvard University; after that, we were divided into two teams to build an RC car and then compete against the other team in a drag race. Three of us then progressed to the second day, which took place in the Renault F1 Team garage at the Circuit of the Americas the day before the Formula 1 US GP.
On the second day, myself and the other two finalists that made it through completed a technical F1 challenge; this challenge varies per region and it is normally designed by one of the Renault F1 Team technical partners (Pirelli, Castrol, etc.); ours was designed by Perkin-Elmer and it was about diagnostics and trying to find suspect substances in a sample taken from the air filter of the F1 car. This was then followed by the media challenge, which essentially is a simulated press conference with a 30-minute grilling from journalists.
The judges then selected a winner and the announcement was made in front of the Renault F1 Team garage by Nico Hulkenberg. It was a truly amazing experience, to say the least!

W Series Driver Selection.
Melk, Austria.
Monday 28 January 2019.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _54I4037

EI: What will your 12-month placement at Renault involve?
SC: The Infiniti Engineering Academy placement offers 6 months at Infiniti Technical Center and 6 months at Renault F1. I’m currently at the beginning of my placement as a Vehicle Test Engineer at the Infiniti Technical Center. I will be working as a Composite Design Engineer for the second half of my placement when I transition to Renault F1 in the middle of 2019.

EI: Women are still in the minority in both racing and engineering, have you seen progress being made during your time in the industries, or is more change needed?
SC: There is certainly an increasing number of women involved in STEM-related jobs, and of course I hope this trend will continue. Racing is a different story, as the number of females involved seems to come in waves. The core issue is that not enough girls are starting at the roots in karting or other introductory levels. Most girls are not encouraged or know motorsports to be an option for them. I was blessed to have parents that believed I could do whatever I put my mind to regardless of the activity or my gender. The more parents that encourage their daughters, the more women in the industry that speak out, take action, actively support programs to get girls more involved, and publicly put out there that little girls can choose motorsports as a career path, the more likely it is we will see the number of female racers steadily increase.

EI: How are you going to juggle your racing and engineering commitments this year, will one have to take priority?
SC: I’ve balanced racing and school/engineering since I can remember. Time management, having the right focus, and asking for help when you need it are all key.  Engineering and racing go hand in hand, so one skill is always helping improve the other. I am very blessed that the Infiniti Engineering Academy fully supports my passion and ambition to continue racing, and vice versa with my racing partners understanding and supporting my desire to be an engineer.

EI: What does the future hold for you in both racing and engineering?
SC: Truly I cannot be sure, and it will depend on how this year unfolds. That’s life though, the route to your goals never goes exactly to plan. My goals remain the same though, to be an IndyCar driver or F1 Race Engineer… or both! Life is unpredictable, so I cannot say exactly what my path will be. All I know is that I am going to work as hard as possible to achieve my dreams.

EI: What advice would you give to any youngsters dreaming of careers in racing or engineering?
SC: Go for what you want, and don’t let the fear of failing hold you back. Believe in yourself. Learn from every opportunity and keep everything in perspective. Positivity is a choice. Embrace every event, even if it seems less than ideal, there is always something to be gained.  But most of all NEVER GIVE UP!