Eyes on the Future: a chat with Natalia Balbo
Updated: Jul 23
Discover more about NGM Motorsport's lady driver Natalia Balbo, among the queens of the karting homeland.
Our journey through the karting landscape continues with this week's edition of "Eyes on the Future": we discovered some of the most interesting female upcoming talents from major European countries and now it is finally time to focus our attention to the place that can be defined as the home of international karting: Italy.
As some of our previous interviewees told us, most of the young drivers hoping to break into the echelons of international karting have - sooner or later - been spending time on the Italian racetracks, working together with teams and manufacturers that so often have their headquarters in the southern European country.
South Garda Karting is probably one the most famous karting circuits in the world - a place where most of the current and past Formula One drivers moved their first steps in motor racing and where it is not difficult to meet them in their free time or in training days.
We had the opportunity to chat with a driver that is arguably one of the most influential Italian ladies of the international karting scene: Natalia Balbo.
Natalia is currently racing in the KZ2 category and her prestigious resumé includes some very important experiences - and some remarkable results - in the FIA European and International competitions.
But her involvement in motorsport is not only karting-related: the Italian young woman had in fact the opportunity to drive a Wolf Racing Prototype car and, with such an elite racing background, she is the driver for her University's Formula Student project.
As we talked about her cool experiences, her passion for motorsport and much more, we found a very interesting person and potentially a very promising talent for our sport.
"I'm honored to be where I am and I hope that my example can help all the Italian girls that want to be part of this motorsport world."
RACERS: Natalia, where does your passion for motorsport come from?
NATALIA: It's quite strange how this passion was born, because no one in my family was in motorsport or pushed me in a way to be in it, so I can say that this big passion of mine comes only from myself. Maybe my cousin helped me in this, because when we were together we always played with micromachines or played Gran Turismo on the PlayStation.
R: What were the best moments of your young career so far and what were the most difficult ones?
N: Well, I had a lot of best moments in my career, above all I think I can say it is the victory of the Rotax DD2 Italian Championship in 2015. But also last year's whole season in KZ2 was pretty good....I can't choose [she laughs].
The most difficult moment is not just a single thing, but it's more about a combination of moods that I had in my career, which I had to deal with, but this is part of my growth in sports.
R: How do you feel about the fact that you are among the most important representatives of a new generation of Italian karting drivers, a Country widely considered the "homeland" of karting?
N: Wow, am I? I think it is better to say that I'm quite important in representing the Italian girls' new generation, but there are plenty of amazing girls that are growing in our motorsport world. I can only say that I'm honored to be where I am and I hope that my example can help all the Italian girls that want to be part of this motorsport world.
R: What do you think is missing in Italy in order to further grow and develop a"female wave" in the motorsport environment?
N: I think we did some good steps forward since I started to drive, but we need a motorsport program from our federation (ACI-CSAI) that can help the Italian pink wave. Not only for teenage girls - like fifthteen-year olds - but also for all the age groups, because as we are growing in numbers, a lot of us are more than eighteen years old and we need an opportunity to demonstrate what we can do.
R: Tell us a little bit more about NGM Motorsport team.
N: We are like a big family! NGM Motorsport is a team based in Treviso that was founded by three former-drivers, all with the same passion, karting.
R: At the beginning of 2020 you had the opportunity to drive a Wolf Racing Prototype car. Talk to through that cool experience!
N: One of the coolest days of my life. Unfortunately I didn't do a lot of laps that morning, but it was very fun. It's a really nice car to start with after a karting experience because it's easy to drive. I hope I will have the chance to drive it again.
R: And what about the Race UP Electric project, tell us something more about that.
N: Race UP Electric is the Formula SAE's team of the University of Padua. We are a group of 70 students that work together - splitted on two cars: Combustion and Electric - to design and build a single seater prototype to race in the Formula Student events around the world. I've been part of this project for the last four years as both driver and member of the chassis department.
It's a very innotative project that helps you to apply some of your studies directly in the work's world.
R: How did you manage the Mechanical Engineering studies with pursuing a career as a racing driver?
N: This is the most difficult thing that I have to deal with. I'm around the tracks during the year not only for my races but also with the junior program of NGM, so sometimes in a week I'm able to study only few hours - obviously also the Race UP Team needed time during my work week, so my life in the past years was more like a tetris game.
R: Who is the racing driver or any other sports figure that most inspired you?
N: This is a really difficult question, I've never had only one figure that inspired me throughout all my life, I can say that Beitske Visser inspired me because she has been the only girl in the past years to have won a KZ2 European race, and this is huge for me.
Outside motorsport, Linsdey Vonn, Sofia Goggia, Michela Moioli and many more have inspired me, because they all had some really difficult moments in their lives but they never gave up!
I know that everyone has a F1 hero like Senna or Schumacher, but I think what Nico Rosberg did in 2016 was awesome, he beated Lewis [Hamilton] at his game of mental supremacy and that is not easy when you have one of the best drivers as a teammate.
R: How is your typical physical preparation before a competition?
N: It's very easy: gym, road bike and running. Of course I try not to push too much with the workout before a week of races.
R: Outside the racetrack, who is Natalia Balbo?
N: I'm just a girl that loves to spend some good time with my friends, have a party or even just a movie night at home with my dog.
R: What are your passions besides motorsport?
N: Dancing, hiking, ciclying and more...I like to do a lot of things when I'm at home.
R: What does your racing program look like for this 2020 season?
N: Before all the Covid situation, my program was to take part in the Russian championship and the CIK-FIA races like European Championship and International Super Cup - all races in KZ2 category.
Now all the races are confermed, the only uncertainties are the Russian championship ones because Russia is not open for foreigners yet.
R: How was your return to the track after the quarantine period?
N: It was very difficult, my neck paid the price for all the months far from the track. But we are now able to race and have tests, so everything is getting back to normal.
R: What are your main goals for the future?
N: For sure I have my University degree [she laughs]. For my future in motorsport, I don't know, for now I don't have plans, we will see.
"I think we did some good steps forward since I started to drive, but we need a motorsport program from our federation (ACI-CSAI) that can help the Italian pink wave."