Luli Del Castello: from watching her father's races to leading the EuroNASCAR Ladies Trophy
We caught up with Italian racer Luli Del Castello, one of the most promising rookies of the EuroNASCAR 2022 season: she scored her first Top 10 overall finish in Vallelunga and is currently leading the Ladies Trophy.
This year, EuroNASCAR headed to Rome with four women on the grid: at the wheel of a beautiful and captivating pink Chevy, Luli Del Castello leads the Ladies Trophy with four wins under her belt. We had the honor to catch up with her and find out more about her passion for the sport as well as the role of women in it, discovering an incredible personality behind the helmet.
Luli was born in Roccaraso, Italy, and found herself immediately immersed in the world of motor racing: "Motorsport is a family tradition, as my father Roberto has been an old-guard driver for over 46 years. I have experienced the racetracks since I was only three years old, and I was lucky enough to see this sport in person during its golden era in the 90s."
She was used to spending her days watching her father race, finding her biggest inspiration and role model in him. When we asked her if she had a favorite driver, she didn't hesitate to point to her father: "Well, as trivial as it may sound, my hero and idol on track has always been one: my dad. I could never have any other hero beside him, as I always had the chance to watch and cheer on my favorite driver – and then take him home as well! I owe so much to my father: I was able to learn the biggest secrets of Italian motorsport thanks to him."
In 2014, Luli got the chance to be the one in the family to wear the racesuit and get behind the wheel: she entered her first championship, the Lotus Cup Italia, where she finished fourth overall and claimed the title in the Ladies Cup after several podium finishes. "My whole perspective changed in 2014, when I stepped from the grandstands onto the main stage and entered my first championship, the Lotus Cup Italia. From there my little career unfolded between touring cars, V8 and GT3 championships."
This year, Del Castello is racing in the increasingly popular EuroNASCAR championship, with CAAL Racing.
"This year I decided to cross the borders and give a try to a form of pure, traditional motorsport, something that was missing here in Italy. This season is a turning point for me, in many aspects."
"I was lucky enough to get to enter this championship thanks to CAAL Racing and this project promoted by Sponsorizza Passioni by EscortAdvisor, which helps and promotes Italian amateurs and athletes in different fields of competitions."
"EuroNASCAR 2022: what an adventure! I decided to turn my motorsport experience around by throwing myself into something so different from what I was used to."
Luli is at her rookie season in EuroNASCAR: "I followed the championship during the past few years, as it's a very spectacular and fierce series - and when CAAL Racing reached out to me to drive for their team, I accepted with great enthusiasm", she revealed. "It was a way to put myself on the line, prove my worth and understand what my level is in a different context where everyone is on an equal footing with the cars" – Luli continued.
After a challenging first round in Valencia, where she had to deal with both a new car and a new track, Del Castello impressed everyone at Brands Hatch Circuit: "During the first test that I had in February at Autodromo Vallelunga I set very interesting times, which gave both the team and myself a lot of confidence", she explained. "I won't deny that I had some fears and insecurities on the first weekend in Valencia, as that was the first real shake down with all my team-mates and rivals on track."
It was then time for the Vallelunga round, home soil for the Italian racer; she brought home two class victories in the Female Trophy and received tons of support from the Italian public. "We arrived at the home race aware that we had a big responsibility on our shoulders, as it was the weekend where we had to get back on track after complex races in Valencia and Brands Hatch." – Luli said.
"Vallelunga was the most important weekend for me, as I had to prove my worth on the track where I took my first steps in the sport. I wanted my victories and I took them both by the skin of my teeth."
EuroNASCAR has lots of unique characteristics: the main one is the car, as it's not very common to what we're used to in European motorsport. It features a 5 700 cc V8 engine and has more than 400 horsepower, which makes for a car difficult one to tame: luckily, Del Castello already raced in American-type cars and found the EuroNASCAR less challenging than she expected.
"I quickly adapted to the car, since I already had acquired experience with American-horsepower V8 engines: in the past I competed in the Supercar Series Championship at the wheel of a Chevrolet Lumina – in the first year – and with the Corvette GT3 in 2019, when I actually won the championship." – she told us. "This experience allowed me to learn how to handle big power at low revs".
"My only difficulty this season is the lack of experience on the European tracks which I don’t know.", Luli continues. This year's EuroNASCAR calendar in fact includes multiple iconic European tracks, such as Circuito Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, Brands Hatch, as well as Zolder Circuit in Belgium. "It's a bit of a disadvantage for me in terms of lap times, as I have to use free practice to get to know and adapt my driving to the new track. It’s a challenge within a challenge!"
Despite all these new challenges, we can safely say that the first part of the season was a successful one for the Italian racer:"Today I can say that I am extremely happy and proud of the work I am doing together with the team, thanks also to the help of my teammate Gianmarco [Ercoli], who gives me precious advice and supports me in every occasion."
"I am personally working to be an asset and not a ballast for our crew: the greatest satisfaction is seeing that my determination is paying off."
"My real goal for September? I want to finish this championship with my head held high, proud of having come as close as I can to leading the best."
As we all know, being a woman in motorsport can be quite peculiar: there are still lots of championships – such as the pinnacle single seater series, Formula 1 – with currently no representation on the grid. "Even if we are in 2022, the role of women in motorsport, as in many other fields, is seen as something new, different – special, in some way."
"Actually, this should be ordinary - something not to be surprised by or to be considered outside the box" – Luli said.
"If we have a lack of female presence in this environment, it's because we don't have the right stepping stones to allow many girls and women to get to know this sport, to get passionate about it and, perhaps, to discover an unconscious and hidden personal talent." – Luli continued.
"None of us know what we are capable of until we try it and realize we can indeed do it."
While talking about this topic, she found the perfect example to explain her thought by telling us her very first-hand experience in a car, when she got her permit – different from what others would expect it to be: "A disaster! I found myself completely lost in front of the steering wheel and thought 'what do I do now?'.
"Many people find it hard to believe that I didn't already have practical skills, but it's true. I started from scratch, like everyone else. The difference is that I was lucky enough to be already immersed in a world that allowed me to approach track driving, thanks to my father."
This year, the EuroNASCAR grid features five girls on the grid: Arianna Casoli, Alina Loibnegger, Aliyyah Koloc and her sister Yasmeen – and Luli herself. It's one of the highest numbers around Europe, as only a handful of other championships count more female drivers on track.
"During my nine seasons in motorsport I have only had two previous occasions to share the track with another female colleague: in 2014 in Lotus Cup and in 2016 in Mitjet Italia with Vicky Piria. This year, it’s nice and exciting to see a fair number of women in one of the most tough-driven and traditionalist championships."
Lastly, we asked Luli one final question, about who her favourite racing driver would be. As we anticipated, she talked about her father, but ended her answer in the most inspiring way: "This year I chose to race 'alone' to add a new idol: myself."
I owe to myself the courage to change, to put myself on the line, to take risks. The strength not to give up, to believe in myself until the end. To be a heart behind a helmet.
Luli Del Castello proved to be an incredible and amazing woman both on and off track and it was an honor to catch up with her. She'll be back on track at Autodrom Most, Czech Republic, during the first weekend of September where she will continue her impressive rookie season.
This content is also available in Italian