"Life is a race": a chat with Gosia Rdest
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
Exclusive interview with Gosia Rdest, the Polish motorsport hopeful that made headlines at the Norisring.
Polish journalists call her "Kubica in a dress". Her name is Małgorzata Rdest, but everyone calls her Gosia. She is one of the 18 selected drivers for the inaugural season of the all-female championship W-Series and at the last round on the Norisring street circuit she proved to be one to watch for the ramaining races and hopefully for next year.
Gosia was a late addition to the names that were initially published for evaluation during the selection process and I was very happy to see her name included, since I had followed some of her racing in karting. She then went on to race in the Audi TT Cup and in the European GT4 Championship, where she won a race at the Nurburgring in an Audi R8 LMS GT4.
With little experience of single-seaters, she completed a convincing first race in Hockenheim, scoring 2 points. After a couple of difficult races in Zolder and Misano, the 26-year old went to the Norisring as one of the few drivers with prior knowledge of the German circuit, and she delivered brilliantly leading friday practice and starting from the second row. Unfortunately, her race was ultimately compromised by a contact at turn one, but the Polish driver now enters the final two race weekends having proved to belong in the top five.
Gosia is also a sharp-witted young woman who just completed her second degree in journalism. She is comfortable behind the camera just as much as she's behind the wheel of a racecar and surely she'll have a bright future ahead. Furthermore, she is incredibly funny and gives the impression of someone that you would love to hang out with at parties.
“When I found out about W-Series, I thought it wasn't possible for a series like this to exist. I was a bit hesitant: I wondered if it was true or just rumors.”
Racers: At the Norisring you made headlines by topping Friday practice and you were very fast in qualifying as well. Describe what it takes to do the perfect lap on a street circuit.
Gosia: The track is pretty challenging because the conditions are actually changing every single lap. Every lap you have to adapt yourself, you need to search for the limit, move the braking points and also getting closer and closer to the walls.
At the beginning of the session you want to start a bit far off, in order not to make stupid mistakes like hitting the wall right at the beginning, because otherwise all the experience you can get from practice is gone.
So definitely building up the speed, getting used to the walls and massive attention to braking points are the crucial points on a street circuit.
R: What are your favourite racetracks where you've driven in the past?
G: I would say Hockenheim, it suits me very well and it has a pretty big variety of different corners; you have quick corners, medium and then heavy braking zones and also a section where you need to have a "flow", so I like that track very much. I also like Red Bull Ring and the elevation changes there, they're quite impressive. Also, one that is not that well known, it's a Polish track and it's called Tor Poznań. The infrastructure is not that great but I like the layout.
R: You were great in karting as well. What's your favourite kart track?
G: Definitely Lonato!
R: A classic!
G: That's a track that I really love. I had my first international podium there and I also was P3 in one of the rounds of the Italian championship, so I enjoyed that. Also I have good memories of Siena and Castelletto.
R: In the first half of the W-Series season you were always around the top ten. What were your expectations entering the series?
G: I knew it would be hard. I knew the names of those who were going to race and their experience so I knew it wasn't going to be an easy job and that I had quite a big work to do.
My aim was definitely to be in the top 10, so I'm happy to be always somewhere around. I had some bad luck in Zolder where I was not able to finish the race and I was slightly struggling in Misano where I had big hopes because I had finished P3 in GT4 Europe.
So definitely I'll still say that the top ten is my goal. If it would be possible to finish the season with a podium on my account I would be more than happy and I'd feel really privileged, but for me this series is definitely about getting the experience with single-seaters. It's a completely different feeling of the car, it gives you feedbacks in different ways.
R: As the season progresses, the gaps on the grid are getting closer and the racing is super tight. In the last qualifying there were like 6 drivers in one tenth of a second. Were you expecting it to be that close?
G: I thought there were a few strong names, like Jamie Chadwick and Beitske Visser, who were already driving single seaters, to be straight at the top. The beginning of the season actually showed that, they had the experience and they used it.
But now in the second half of the season the pack is getting closer, they're no more always P1 and P2, even in free practice. I think this shows that every single girl is working hard and we have high expectations for ourselves and we won't give up positions or points easily. And the trend will be going this way, it'll be closer and we'll have nice races.
R: What do you think you need to make the next step to win races?
G: Definitely track time. That's the crucial thing for me, because I think the general driving skills and knowledge is there but maybe I'd need more milege to apply it on these cars.
R: What does W-Series represent for someone like you?
G: I think it's a great opportunity for all of the girls. If it wasn't for W-Series I would never ever have entered a formula championship, you know? I had been dreaming about it but unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity since in Poland single-seater championships are not that known as a motorsport form. We have four or maybe five good drivers that are competing at international level, so to get the money for that was simply impossible.
That's the reason why I ended up with GT cars.
I think the overall interest in W-Series also increased the interest in motorsports; it's also about encouraging people to get to know this sport and not only focus on the most popular ones like soccer, volleyball...just to show that motorsport can be very complex. There's not just one factor that is important, but you need to be a complete racing driver to have everything sorted.
And for us it's just brilliant. When I found out about W-Series, I thought it wasn't possible for a series like this to exist. I was a bit hesitant: I wondered if it was true or just rumors.
Now thanks to this, I understood that nothing can develop your skills better than single-seaters. Not all of us, after one or two years of W-Series, will end up in Formula 1. But getting this kind of experience will only benefit us in the future when driving any kind of cars.
I can already feel it, since I also do the Polish touring car championship with a Seat Leon. It's not so easy to jump from a Seat to a formula, but now despite the fact that I know the tracks very well I managed this year to improve my laptimes everytime. So it shows how learning in formula affects the driving.
For sure I will be back racing against boys as well. Actually, girls like Jamie or Beitske were winning races among the boys so the level is really high. And of course W-Series is helping us in all our hard work, all the preparation: the mental side, the physical side, and car understanding. It's all about developing, it's a real effort to work on yourself.
R: Motorsport is often defined by the drivers' successes. But in a driver's life also the low moments are good learning opportunities. Tell us something about what you've learned and grown from a difficult moment in motorsport.
G: The difficult for me was the beginning, because I started pretty late, as it was at the age of 16 when I had my first experience in the Polish karting championship. To get to the benchmark that the others were setting it was like a real effort, I had to work twice as hard for that. I spent in karting three years and at my third year I won the championship, so all that work paid off.
Boys were ok when I was racing against them, but when I started to beat them, their fathers were like: "Gosia, this is not for you, you need to go to the gym, build your muscles and you won't look like a girl anymore". And it was an extra motivation for me. I want to do it, it brings me happiness, why should I stop it?
And another difficult moment was when I broke my leg in 2017 in Zandvoort. I was running second in the championship and unfortunately I ended the season in sixth. I still ended the race with the broken leg, though.
So those two moments I'd say, the beginning and the broken leg, but they made me stronger. Despite the fact that the leg was broken I was still driving: as soon as I was able to walk I was working on myself to overcome that barrier by braking with the right foot, which is not that good but still it made me stronger.
R: In Poland obviously you have Robert Kubica, who is a great example of overcoming adversities. Is it difficult for a Polish driver to be compared to such a champion like him?
G: He is my idol, I really do admire him. He put so much effort also before the accident, and now he's still a brilliant driver. It doesn't matter what kind of vehicle he has, it could be a go-kart, a WRC, a F1 or a LMP, he's always competitive. The adaptation process for him, it doesn't exist. He just gets into the car and he's fast straight away.
To be honest in Poland the journalists and the people are comparing me pretty often with him. "Kubica in a dress", they say. But because he's my idol, I'm only happy about this.
Of course this year both him and George Russell don't have the car that they deserve. But I really do admire Robert and actually I got to know him. It was in Dubai, at the 2017 24 Hours race. I went to him to say hello, and it made me happy that he knew who I was, it was very special. And before the start, I was in the car starting the race and he came and wished me luck. It was a great moment, and it was on my birthday!
R: You have a quite followed youtube channel. I don't speak Polish but it definitely looks very entertaining, and also you did some features for the W-Series in English. Obviously I'm not saying that you should give up driving to do TV stuff, but is that something that interests you for the future?
G: Yes, definitely! But only if it's racing-related. I actually just finished my studies and I'm doing my master in journalism, so this helps to build up my confidence with the camera and to get to know how these things work.
I like to do it because I know not all the people have the possibility to be here and to get all the background of it. And also I'm happy to provide insights. It's not that easy, especially with a youtube channel, mine is not that regular but I think that through winter-time there will definitely be more videos, but now I'm running instagram and facebook and focusing on the racing preparations.
“Gosia, this is not for you, you need to go to the gym, build your muscles and you won't look like a girl anymore". And it was an extra motivation for me. I want to do it, it brings me happiness, why should I stop it?
Ph credits: Racers-Behindthehelmet.com