SARAH BOVY - This time, it's race time.
Exclusive interview with Belgian Sarah Bovy, W-Series reserve driver that will finally make her race start debut this weekend in Misano.
Engine issues on the grid of the last W-Series round prevented the 29-year old to take the start of her home race in Zolder. While she had to call it a day, she's now set to finally make her race appearance in the all-female championship this weekend in Misano, after proving her speed in every practice session she has driven so far.
We had the chance to sat down with the incredibly kind Belgian driver after yesterday's practice sessions and we had a friendly chat about her career and season so far.
“It's particularly special for me as I'm wearing the number 58 for Simoncelli and this is his track, so it's kind of emotional being here for me. ”
Racers: Tomorrow it's going to be your actual first race in the W-Series after the Zolder disappointment…
Sarah: Well, let's hope that tomorrow I can take the start!
R: How was the Misano round so far for you?
S: For me Misano is a beautiful track, I'm actually a big motorbikes fan, so it's particularly special for me as I'm wearing the number 58 for Simoncelli and this is his track, so it's kind of emotional being here for me.
In terms of driving a formula car, this is just the perfect circuit to drive this car, it's a real pleasure. Also, we have nice weather, which is always a great thing when you're driving a formula car.
So far the weekend has been good for me, so I cannot complain!
R: Have you found a setup that you're satisfied with at the moment?
S: You know, so far I'm driving the basic setup, I didn't went into any kind of different stuff and the reason why is because I need to work first on my driving, find the limits of the car as basic as it is right now and when I'll be more experienced with those F3 cars I'll start to play with the setup, but you cannot learn if you're changing all the time the car. The car feels good right now, so we're keeping it like that. Maybe more experienced drivers like Jamie or Beitske will start playing very early in the weekend with the setup, but that's a different story.
R: While you don't have yet their experience with formulas, you actually have big experience with GT cars. Are you planning to go along that path more in the near future?
S: GT has always been for me the best way to practice and to keep racing, budget-wise, you know. This year I haven't been doing the Spa 24 hours like I did almost every year in the past, as it really was a lot of extra work for me and I simply didn't have the time with the W-Series commitments and my work at Lamborghini.
But it's very possible that I will come back to do more GT races, I think I would definitely be faster now with the formula experience.
R: You think it helped?
S: Yeah, definitely. I don't think, I know. I had this conversations with a lot of factory drivers and I was like: "wow, this is really impressive, I feel like I really improved my driving". They all know that formulas is something you have to do in order to be fast in any kind of cars.
But, to be honest, my real target is to go to Le Mans. Now I would like to dedicate the following years to build the experience and reputation to drive a LMP2 in Le Mans. That'd be my dream. I know it's a big dream, but you have to dream big!
R: That' would be so cool. As you know, this year there will be an all-female crew in Le Mans, with Kessel.
S: Yeah, they're doing good so far! For me, if it's a team with all fast female drivers it would be great, but I don't really mind if it's a female or mixed team, I don't think it makes any difference, I just want to do it in good conditions, be prepared and do it.
But right now Le Mans is way to much money for me, so it's gonna have to be with a team inviting me, I cannot find half a million euros, I don't have that kind of sponsors.
R: You entered W-Series in a reserve driver role. Did you expect to be in races so early in the championship?
S: No, to be honest, I think in Hockenheim I was pretty good in my only free practice session as I used my experience to catch up with the other drivers. Then in Zolder, as it was my local race they wanted to give me a chance, Emma got injured, and all that went quite fast. We knew since the beginning of the season that we might have gotten a chance to race if there were drivers off the pace but I wasn't expecting it to be so soon.
Obviously what happened in the race in Zolder was devastating for me, but when they called me to say that I would be racing in Misano it was so cool. You know, we're only in race 3, so if I can do very good here and maybe they decide to make a switch, you still get to do something in the championship! Not winning it, obviously, but maybe a top ten, and it would be great.
R: Realistically where do you see yourself in tomorrow's race?
S: The hardest part for me would be the quali. You really need to use the new tyres properly and I don't have that skill yet, so that would be my weakness. I would like to reach more or less the position I was today, 13th or 14th in qualifying and then get into the top ten for the race, because I know that in race pace on old tyres I'm very efficient and I keep my lap times very constant. So realistically in the race I'd like to finish around P10, but quali is difficult to say… the thing is if I manage to find the right way to use the tyres I know that I already can be in top 10 in qualifying but I'm not so sure if I can do that.
R: Of course with W-Series being an all-female championship, do you think you're missing something from racing other drivers?
S: No, the level we have here is great, you just have to look at the lap times here. It's absolutely tremendous. This morning I think I was P17, which it was 1.7 seconds behind, so one driver every tenth of a second. That's the level you have in most Formula 3 european championships. And we all know that the girls that we have at the top are very fast drivers; the fact that Jamie or Beitske are not all the time P1 or P2 but it's so close, it demonstrates that this championship is as competitive as any european F3 championships.
R: You know, being advocating for female drivers in the top echelons on motorsport for many years, when the news of W-Series came out I wasn't so sure about it, if it was the right path to go. Now I can say that I changed my mind, by just looking at the media-side of it. So many drivers like you and the others, are receiving an unprecedented exposure, so it must be a big step for everyone's career.
S: Sure, it's helping a lot. Everybody is learning so much and it brings to us so many things we were missing. Some of us have money, some of us don't, but you know what, that's motorsport. You don't do motorsports if you don't want to play the game. So the fact that some drivers are doing private tests or other races, that's part of the game. If we want to have the best female drivers in motorsport, they cannot forbid it.
But for racers like me, who were struggling to do one or two races a year and just trying to survive, this is my best racing season in the last 10 years. So I really believe it's the right way to build skills and techniques and I'm sure all the drivers will get out of this championship faster after this season.
R: Very last question, I promise. Where do you see yourself in five years time?
S: I'm actually very happy with my life right now, if I could do some more races it'd be great, but in five years time I'd like to see me in a pro team, WEC or ELMS, that'd be super cool. But to be honest, if I just keep working with Lamborghini and earning my life with what I do in motorsport like I'm doing right now, I'd be happy with that.
“... for racers like me, who were struggling to do one or two races a year and just trying to survive, this is my best racing season in the last 10 years.”
Ph credits: Racers-Behindthehelmet.com