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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

Caroline Candas: “It was the best day of my life”

“It was the best day of my life to be in the car and to drive COTA" - From touring car experience in France, to winning her first shootout in the States at her first GT4 outing: discover more about the new RAFA Racing Club driver and ambassador, Caroline Candas.

Caroline Candas, RAFA Racing Club Driver Shootout, COTA
Photo credits: RAFA Racing Club / Motorsport Woman

Driven, determined, focused. The three perfect words to describe Caroline Candas as she chases her motorsport dreams. Caroline described the feelings of rolling out of the garage and onto the track at Circuit of the Americas as the best day of her life, but this was only the beginning.

Just one day on from this incredible experience, Candas was crowned winner of the inaugural RAFA Racing Club shootout and secured herself a fully funded drive in Porsche Sprint Challenge North America. As a result, Caroline took another step closer to realising her motorsport ambition, competing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Caroline’s motorsport journey began with a family passion, although being involved in racing itself was new to the Candas family as she explained. “My family are not from a racing background. It was just me and my brother in go-karts and I saw him and therefore I wanted to race too”. Like the vast majority of upcoming drivers, Caroline began her career in karting before switching to cars at the start of the 2022 season.

Behind every driver is a unique identity and personality which can be expressed via their helmet. Caroline is no different and commented that “My helmet hasn’t changed since I was first able to design it for karting and my colours are yellow and blue, with stripes and stars. The star represents my [karting] championship in France in 2020. I also have yellow gloves which is my lucky colour”.

Caroline Candas, FFSA TC France
Photo credits: SRO / Patrick Hecq Photography

For Caroline and her father Patrice, one event stands above all in terms of history and prestige, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. “My dad is a huge motorsport fan, especially of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and he first attended the race in 1973. My life in racing started from him. It is my biggest dream and also my target to race at Le Mans”. The Circuit de la Sarthe now holds even greater significance for Candas as she described that her daily commute to university incorporates parts of the legendary track.

“Now I live in Le Mans and I drive along the roads every day when going to university and it is crazy to imagine that I see it every day and one day I want to race there”. There is undoubtedly no greater motivation to a racing driver than to receive a daily reminder of the most prestigious race in the world and Candas has firmly set her sights on achieving her dream.

Indeed, coming out on top in the RAFA Racing Club shootout was a significant step in her career and one which has also changed her mindset during the winter, with her priorities shifting from a predominant focus on seeking sponsorship, to preparing herself effectively for the challenges to come. Caroline explained “Now I have to train myself for next season and my target is to make the best season possible so I’m training in the gym and on the simulator."

"The step in America is very good for my career with a lot of new challenges, new people and new experiences”.

As the least experienced driver in GT4 machinery entering the shootout, Caroline knew it would be a significant challenge and therefore learning quickly would be the key to success. Candas worked closely with her assigned coach for the week, Alec Udell, and she described building a positive relationship with the 2019 GT4 European Series Silver Cup champion.

Caroline Candas, RAFA Racing Club Driver Shootout, COTA
Photo by: @consblanco / RAFA Racing Club

Reflecting on their partnership, Caroline said “I took every piece of advice that he gave me and therefore we won the shootout as a team. He gave me a lot of help and therefore my win is also his win. From the first day in the simulator until the last day of the shootout, he always supported me. I was very lucky to have him with me and he knew that I didn’t know the car or the track so I had to practice and learn quickly, it was a great journey for us”.

With Caroline having no experience of COTA, the time spent with Udell was vital in preparation for the on-track element of the shootout. Summing up her first laps of COTA, Caroline’s enthusiasm shone through as she explained “It was the best day of my life to be in the car and to drive COTA. I didn’t think about that in the moment, I thought about my job of driving the car and what I had to do in that moment."

"I knew I had to concentrate and rely on my simulator practice, then afterwards I realised that I had driven at COTA and I was like okay, this is the best day of life. In the moment, I knew I had to take the advice of my coach and do my best. It was a completely different car to what I had driven before and I had a lot to learn”

“I knew I would have to work hard because I had little experience but I am here for that, I am here to win. The other girls knew the track and similar cars. For me, it was just about improvement during the week and to do my best and I think it worked out well.”

RAFA Racing Club driver shootout, Maddie Aust, Caroline Candas, Emma Segattini, Sara Misir, Rafa Martinez, Caitlin Wood, Hannah Greenemeier, Alyx Coby, Charlotte Birch, Jemma Moore
Photo credits: RAFA Racing Club / Motorsport Woman

The RAFA Racing Club shootout provided a unique experience for the drivers to spend a week in each other’s company, while fiercely battling for the overall prize. This dynamic was something Candas enjoyed and she noted that “It was very cool to learn about the other girls and their experiences, since we are from different backgrounds and everyone has their own experiences to share. I’m very grateful to learn from the other girls and it was a really great group. Everyone was kind and it was very cool to have my journey with them and I learnt something from every girl at the shootout”.

Undoubtedly, the crowning moment of the week came as Caroline was announced the winner of the shootout. Emotions were high as years of hard work and sacrifice by Caroline and her family had paid dividends. Therefore, the call she made to her parents upon receiving the news was a significant moment.

“It was a completely crazy experience as it was 4am in France and I called my parents and I said okay, you have to wake up because I have something to say and then I’m waiting for my dad to wake up and I was like quickly come and then I announced that I was the winner and it was crazy."

"It was our dream for what we have been working for and it has been real teamwork”.

Caroline credited the RAFA Racing Club organisation as a whole for being extremely supportive and welcoming throughout the process. Commenting on those involved, she said “I was very grateful to meet all of the people from RAFA Racing Club, it was a real family. It is not just Rafa Martinez but the whole team, so I’m grateful to meet them and it was a really good week. I’m very grateful for this opportunity”.

Rafa Martinez and Caroline Candas, RAFA Racing Club, 2023
Photo by: @consblanco / RAFA Racing Club

Now that the dust has settled on an unforgettable week stateside, Caroline’s attention is now firmly focused on 2024. Speaking of her expectations and goals, Candas said: “I want to do my best to be competitive and it’s true that I want to win and I will work towards that with my coach and the people who are supporting me. I have already watched some races from last season, especially from Sebring being the first round, as well as some onboards which are useful in learning the tracks away from the simulator”.

Aside from COTA, every round of the championship will feature a totally new circuit and Caroline will need all of her skills to get up to speed as fast as possible. Commenting on the track she is most looking forward to visiting, she said - “Sebring for sure! Also, Watkins Glen but every single track I’m looking forward to driving. I did look at the calendar before the shootout as I’m going to the shootout with a goal to be competitive and to win”.

Candas will tackle the formidable Sebring International Raceway in March to open her Porsche Sprint Challenge North America season. Speaking of her preparation, Caroline aims to treat the occasion similarly to her TC France races. “I take it just as the same as if it was a race in France. I will just concentrate on my job and practice on the simulator, I don’t put pressure on myself as I want to do my best with the same targets. I will work with my coach and take his advice. No pressure, but also it’s Sebring and it’s a dream to drive at this track as I’ve watched IMSA race there and it’s an American dream to race there”.

Caroline Candas, Paige Morales, Ian Porter,  RAFA Racing Club
Photo credits: RAFA Racing Club / Motorsport Woman

Caroline will be part of a three-car team and will be joined by fellow female driver Paige Morales who will be making her competitive racing debut in 2024.

“I met her at the shootout, I’m very pleased to drive with her next year and I’m excited to be part of the championship with her”, said Candas. Like Paige, the third member of the team will be another rookie racing driver, Ian Porter. Porter is a highly successful online gamer and was recently presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Esports Hall of Fame.

Caroline’s story is one of perseverance and is a perfect example to other female drivers looking to achieve their dreams. Therefore, it is only fitting for Candas to have the final word and her advice to those aiming to follow in her footsteps is simple:

“Don’t give up, if you work hard, anything is possible!”

Rafa Martinez, Jem Hepworth, Caroline Candas, Jemma Moore, Charlotte Birch, SRO Prizegiving Gala 2023
Photo credits: Motorsport Woman



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