From zero to a hundred: meet Rebecca Busi
From no experience to the Dakar Rally: Rebecca Busi is building her career from scratch – while training for the next challenge. Meet one of the most promising young Italian talents.
Rebecca Busi is the literal example of someone who has a dream and is willing to do everything to make it come true: last year she was the youngest competitor in the Dakar Rally and immediately proved her point. After finishing the most iconic rally raid she started racing, inspiring thousands of people with her journey.
We had the pleasure to chat with Rebecca and to get to know her better: even if she might look tiny from the outside, she has a personality that could move mountains. Rebecca told us her story and her difficulties in kick-starting her career in the sport, while essentially being on her own.
RACERS: Let's start right from the beginning: how did you get into motorsport?
REBECCA: I've always been passionate about it: my father used to race with motorcycles, my uncle competed in various rallys, so it's like I was born with it. I've always loved cars, they were always involved: I don't remember a birthday party without something racing related.
Then you grew up and decided it was your time to wear the helmet: you chose to do it in rally raids. Why the desert?
I started racing with karts, which, however, always made it difficult for me: I'm very light so I had to take a lot of ballast with me. I have quite a particular personality so I never liked that idea.
Normal rallies, on the other hand, never really excited me that much: actually the only thing that I've always followed in motorsport is Formula 1. The Dakar was my father's biggest dream and as he never got the chance to experience it became mine. My parents started taking me to the desert when I was six years old so it's like my natural habitat: rally raids have always given me the feeling of freedom, of adventure, and I think it's the category that fits me the most.
You decided to test yourself immediately at the highest level: your first race was the Dakar Rally.
I decided to compete at the Dakar Rally because that is also part of my character: either I start strong or I don't start.
When I decided to start competing I had various options: I could try Italian rallies, even if they were too far from the desert style, or go to Spain, where they're much similar to raids but less followed.
Starting at my age with zero experience meant that I either went full in or it remained a passion. I didn't want it to be only a passion, I wanted it to be my everyday job.
Initially there were lots of issues: I never drove on sand, I never off-roads and, most importantly, I never competed in a proper race. After I convinced my father - everything but easy - we traveled to Morocco and tested on the dunes for the first time.
How did you handle such pressure?
I was scared sometimes. The first day I stopped with tachycardia and thought: "How am I supposed to race an entire Dakar with such little practice?". The Dakar Rally was a learning experience: I took it as a chance to live first hand what I've always dreamed of. I had only one goal, to finish it, and so I did!
You crossed that finish line but started the most important race: your career as a driver started right from there.
Racing the Dakar Rally I understood that the best category where to start, the one that allowed me to learn the most while making mistakes, was the one with side-by-sides.
An Italian team approached me: they always cross raced with that type of car - a discipline that I didn't even know existed - and wanted to compete in the Dakar Rally. We started this adventure that began in Tunisia, my first rally with what will be my 2023 Dakar car and with Giulia, my new co-driver. What a rally! Then we also competed in the Rally Greece Offroad, where I crashed for the first time!
Oh wow! And what was it like?
I was actually waiting for a crash, it's one of those feelings that you want to experience before competing in such an huge race like the Dakar Rally. It's just like karting: if you never go off track it means you're not pushing hard enough. The real shame was that it happened in the worst moment ever: when I got back to the base camp I was told that I was actually running first. It was literally my Leclerc moment. (laughs)
Speaking about karts, how did your experience on track influence your driving in the desert? Did it help or sent you right to the opposite way?
It's exactly the opposite. What helped me surely was the discipline and the resistance you learn on track, as the kart is very physical to drive. However, driving style wise it's the opposite: the first day at the Dakar I was driving the car as if I was still on track until my co-driver told me that if I kept doing so we would've crashed! I had to correct myself.
In a two weeks time you went from being a simple student with a dream to having realized it. How did your perception of the world around you changed?
Good question, no one ever asked me! I don't think I gave it too much thought. I always tried to be as honest as possible, also on social media, but finding the words to explain these feelings isn't easy.
This race is really tough, both physically and emotionally. Plus, before going to the desert I had less than ten thousand followers on Instagram, while when I finished the Dakar I was at like 16K and didn't even know how to behave.
I didn't feel special so I kept doing things as I used to. The difference is that you feel a little more anxiety: the main sponsor I found confirmed its support only two months ago, so I wasn't sure if I was going to race at the Dakar in 2023: I was already wondering how to tell that to so many people.
I don't know what changed in my mind or what didn't, however it was a bit shocking because I found myself from doing a little thing, trying to challenge myself for the 20th time, to having achieved my lifelong dream.
You've become an icon, an inspiration. Do you feel that responsibility? What is like being a woman in a world that everyone thinks is made for men?
It hasn't been easy, as I was the only one believing in myself before finishing the Dakar. I like to think that I got this far because of a bigger motivation, partly because I'm doing something I've never heard of: everyone started out with at least some contacts, with their backs well covered, but I built myself and my career.
My family couldn't bear the cost of a Dakar and I had to face so many rejections, so many closed doors. I would like to talk about it a little bit more but I see it almost as a double-edged sword. I get so many messages from people who have seen my story and have quit their jobs to follow their dreams. I feel honored and those messages are all screenshotted on my phone.
In between rallies you've seen the 24h of Spa and had track days with Lamborghini. Will we ever see Rebecca on the starting grid?
No! I don't like the GT world. I'm a bit of a Niki Lauda, as Daniel Bruhl told me on the 2win film set: my personality is particular, either you love it or hate it, even if I'm trying to improve it.
Now full focus on the 2023 Dakar, with Giulia Maroni as a co-driver to complete the only Italian female lineup. Are you hyped? Do you feel different from last year?
I still feel like a rookie. I'm changing the car and the race will be really tough! Both Giulia and I are worried about the fact that it's so long and so unpredictable. You have to deal with mishaps and the fact that it only happens once a year, so if something really bad happens nothing much can be changed.
However we are hyped, we are convinced and despite the billions of difficulties we encountered we are almost there. We're ready.
You starred in the film 2Win, in the role of Fabrizia Pons: how does it feel to wear the helmet and play such an important character?
It was unreal! I was finishing my master's degree in International Business and I was missing just three exams that I actually did while traveling: the first one in Turin right before going to the set, the other one at the airport, and then luckily I had such high marks that I could leave out the third one.
It wasn't easy to organize everything but it was a wonderful adventure that I would do again. I met a lot of great people, like Esther Garrel, who I was extremely fascinated by because of the work they do and who were also amazed by what I do for work!
Your motto is “Eat pasta and drive fasta” – so what is your favorite pasta dish?
I actually don't know! I'm unsure between pesto sauce and my grandma's tomato sauce.
The song that reminds you the most of last year's Dakar?
I have a playlist named "Dakar vibes" that I used to listen to while traveling. The first song in it is Parachute by Paul Kalkbrenner, that reminds me of Paolo Lucci, a friend of mine who's also a driver. We have a very similar story, as we both built our career by ourselves, we shared the first Dakar - as he also competed for the first time last year - and every part of our journey. Before leaving for the desert we listened to this song, as a "I hope your dream comes true" wish.
Who's your favorite driver?
Niki Lauda. He just wanted to race, and so do I. I have two Economy degrees but I always thought that if I have the chance to follow my passion I should take it. He always took it as a job and was never willing to risk more than he had to. He was a hammer in what he did and in my opinion consistency always trumps talent.
Rebecca proved to be fearless and through her words she stated her personality both on and off track as one of the strongest ones. Now she's all ready for the 2023 Dakar Rally and we're sure she'll make the most of it.