Sharon Scolari: the race driver next door.
Updated: Oct 19, 2019
A chat with Sharon Scolari, the Swiss racer that after a successful debut in GT cars is now taking the path of elite formula championships.
The glorious Autodromo di Monza will host this weekend the final round of the brand-new FIA Formula 3 Regional European Championship, currently one of the most interesting F3 series that is gaining status and momentum, attracting first-class talents.
What a better venue to host its finale, than the "Temple of Speed"?
The presence of German superstar Sophia Floersch certainly raised the attention for the series. But on the grid of this competitive championship, one cannot not notice a bright yellow and blue car, driven by another fast girl: Swiss Sharon Scolari and her small ScoRace Team are an integral part of the Formula Regional paddock, someone that is impossible not to root for.
Motorsport is such a complex sport that it's incredibly difficult to comprehend from the outside. Results are influenced by so many factors hidden from the public eye, that it would be very childish to judge drivers and teams purely based on numbers and standings.
We are talking about David versus Goliath, here: a line-up of small F1-worthy operations such as Prema or Van Amersfoort, against the family-run, passion driven squad.
Sharon Scolari has been doing wonders given the resources at her disposal: forget about testing and fancy facilities with state-of-the-art simulators; nonetheless, her sheer passion together with her extraordinary parents, brough 24-year old Sharon up to one of the elite European single-seater championships.
Behind the girl-next door appearance, there is in fact a multiple race-winner in GT cars: the Swiss lady finished vice-Champion and with 9 victories to her name in the 2017 Lotus Cup Europe, before making her formula cars debut in 2018, in the Formula Renault Eurocup.
Taking into account all the budget constraints, Scolari has used so far every session in her Tatuus T-318 to learn the secrets of the Formula 3 machinery, as well as the all new tracks featured on the Formula Regional calendar. Each practice, qualifying or race session has been an opportunity to lap quicker, in her quest for personal improvement, second after second.
There is something incredibly romantic in her pure passion for the sport, which has brought her this far, to the Temple of Speed, where she used to go and see her idol racing in a red car. Tomorrow it will be her turn to go around those historic corners which bear names such as Ascari, Lesmo, Parabolica.
Sharon is one of those old-school racers, that you can just drop by her trailer and have a coffee with, always with a smile on her face. She proved to be fast and now, given proper resources, we sincerely hope to see her one more year in the series.
"There's always that moment where you want to win - you always want to win, even if you are at the back. When you are on the starting grid, you want to win."
RACERS: Tell us a little bit more about yourself: how you started and how the passion for motor racing was born within you.
SHARON: I started to follow my dad in racing when I was a little kid, as he was racing in GT cars. So I always grew up in this environment and the passion grew bigger and bigger until I started to ask that I wanted to race myself. So I did that when I was 14.
I started racing with Legends Cars, they are American prototypes. It was a good "school", because it wasn't easy to make them go straight!
R: A bit of a different path from the usual one, then.
S: Yeah, let's say that I took the reverse path. For a financial reason obviously, as karting is already very expensive. Racing in a high-level karting championship is as expensive as racing cars basically, so we decided to start with GT cars straight away, only to switch to single-seaters later, when I was way over twenty.
R: How was this "reverse switch", from GTs to open wheels?
S: It was tough, because it really was something different: from physical training, to how you turn, how you exit the corners, lateral forces...It's all very different, there was nothing I could take with me from the previous experience into formula cars. It's a whole different world, and also a different level of commitment.
R: People say that drivers who have had experience of single-seaters have it easier when they switch to GTs. Do you think it's realistic to say that?
S: Yes, totally. After having some experience of formula cars now, I can say that GT cars are easier. If one day I had to go back there, it would definitely be easier for me, compared to the "reverse switch".
R: As you said, you started racing by following your father. It's a common experience in motorsport. Did you also have someone you looked up to, someone that inspired you?
S: Yes, my idol was Michael Schumacher and I followed his racing when I was a kid, both on TV and then live at Monza. He has always been my reference point in Formula 1.
R: It's often said that it's harder for little girls to find a hero, a key figure in motorsport to look up to, as they don't see many other girls on racetracks. Now things are slowly changing. Was this something that you experienced when you were a kid?
S: No, I wouldn't say that, as I don't really mind about men or women. If there was a woman doing what Schumacher did, surely she would have been my idol to follow. Unfortunately there wasn't so far, but at the same time it's also very hard to find other men on the same level of Schumacher! Not many!
R: You went from a championship where you raced at the very top, to this highly-competitive championship, where obviously there are more difficulties. How are you approaching a race weekend differently, mentally?
S: At the beginning it was very tough, mostly last year, because I wasn't used to this and my expectations have always been very high, straight from the beginning. This year I had a different approach instead, since the first few races. My aim is to learn as much as I can from each session. Thus mentally, the approach is just to focus on learning. Obviously there's always that moment where you want to win - you always want to win, even if you are at the back. When you are on the starting grid, you want to win. But obviously I know my chances.
R: Explain a bit the main differences of the Formula Renault you drove last year, compared to this Tatuus F3 car.
S: They are very different cars: the Formula Renault car has a naturally aspirated engine so you have a different acceleration and you can exit corners going on the throttle in a specific way, while this Formula 3 car has a turbo engine and that feels very different especially in wet or damp track conditions. This is also way harder physically to drive and, obviously, al lot faster.
R: What was the most difficult moment in your career?
S: Definitely at Le Mans in the Lotus Cup Europe, when I was robbed of the championship title and I could not even say anything as I was in hospital. That was the hardest moment, the one that convinced me to try this switch to formula cars. And this was the best moment: when I drove a single-seater for the first time. It was my childhood dream, and to turn that into reality was an amazing experience.
R: You are also an ambassador to the Dare To Be Different foundation. Tell us something more about this project and why it is so important. What should the FIA do to increase the presence of females in motorsports, in your opinion?
S: Dare To Be Different is a really cool initiative that allows little girls to get to know the different jobs within motorsport. I think that a lot of girls don't even think about motorsport about a career option because they see it as a "boy's thing", that there's no chances or space for them in it. On the other hand, this initiative promotes days full of different activities, in order to discover how many female figures can work in this environment: from the racing driver to the race engineer, from the mechanic to the journalist. And they can try their hands at doing a pit-stop or an interview. It's really a full day of activities that prove how many things women can do within motorsport.
The FIA has a Commission that works with Dare To Be Different, the FIA Women in Motorsport. Personally, I've never been involved in that project, so I don't really know how it works or what they're doing specifically.
R: Where does Sharon Scolari sees herself in a few years time?
S: I hope at the pinnacle of racing, that's what I hope for. Next year, I really would like to have the chance to race at the top in this championship. Obviously my hope is a lot linked to the financial factor, which is always crucial. Everything depends on sponsors. If we won't find them, I'd like to try to work in TV in my country, within this sport.
"This was the best moment: when I drove a single-seater for the first time. It was my childhood dream, and to turn that into reality was an amazing experience."
Ph credits: Racers-BehindTheHelmet.com