The newcomers: Belen Garcia
Let's meet 20-year old Spanish Belen Garcia, one of the new additions to the W-Series grid and winner of the Spanish Formula 4 Female Trophy.
When, towards the end of the inaugural W-Series championship, I discussed with Catherine Bond Muir about the best female drivers currently not competing in the series, Belen Garcia was among the names that immediately came to my mind.
If her selection wasn't certainly linked to my suggestions, Belen Garcia had to be high on the list after her impressive first racing season in the Spanish Formula 4 Championship.
The 20-year old from Barcelona came under the international media spotlight when in April she became the first ever woman to win a Formula 4 race. In the opening round at Navarra and at only her second ever formula car race, Belen crossed the line in second but inherited the win after Colapinto's disqualification for a Safety Car infrigement.
Throughout the season, the Spanish Formula 4 Championship emerged as one of the most interesting categories for upcoming female talents, with its "Trofeo Feminino" featuring close competition between Belen Garcia, Nerea Martí and Irina Sidorkova.
After the Navarra highlight, the rest of the Spanish-based championship provided plenty of quality racing from the ladies, with Belen Garcia ultimately emerging on top of the Trophy standings at the final round in Barcelona, as the home girl claimed the title despite finishing equal on points with Nerea Martí.
A student of telematics engineering and a real elite athlete (she is also competing as a pole-vaulter), Belen is one of the most promising young female talents worldwide and, undeniably, she's already experiencing some growing popularity in her home Country. Despite the hype, she will come off as one of the most humble drivers one could talk to.
When W-Series announced the partial 2020 entry list featuring all the girls from the Spanish F4 championship, we decided that we had to meet them and report from behind the scenes of their last race of the season in Barcelona.
Eager to know more about the W-Series newcomers? Here is our first interview.
It's such a dream to be here, it's such a dream to be in W-Series next season and I still haven't realized that maybe I have a future in here.
RACERS: Tell us something more about you: where does your passion for motor racing come from?
BELEN: My dad has always raced in motorbikes and now in buggies, so passion for motorsports has always been on the table in my house, it's everything at home.
When I was six, I had a little motorbike and I started with that, but then the next motorbike was too big for me and I couldn't ride it.
R: So you switched to karting?
B: Yes. I then had to adapt in the switch from karting to formula cars, because it's a lot about confidence that I didn't have in the first kilometers that I did, so, as it's difficult to get a lot of kilometers, I was a bit late in gaining that experience and to be that confident about the car. But then by mid-season I started to be more confident and I think that's when I did the click and I got better.
R: How would you rate your first F4 season? Did you match your expectations?
B: No, my expectation were much lower. I mean, I didn't expect to win a race and being here on the grid feels just like a gift.
I wasn't expecting it, so I'm really really happy to be here. Everything that comes with it is just another gift and it's extra motivation; it's impressive.
R: What is your best quality and worst weakness?
B: That's a difficult one! Well, I think my passion is my greatest quality because I think it drives you to be better every day and to improve and not to settle. But then, passion also makes you a bit too involved and then you make mistakes or you fail to consider some things. Well, it's difficult, but I think it's also my best quality.
R: Describe your feelings the first time you drove a formula car.
B: It was so so special. It was here [in Barcelona] in fact, and it was less than a year ago. I was so amazed to be here.
I mean, not only in the car, but just having the opportunity to try a car like this, it was amazing.
R: How was your first experience of the W-Series?
B: I was really impressed about everything. Everything is so great, everything is so big, everything is so organized and I really enjoyed it a lot. You know where to be every time, you know what you have to do, everything is so under control. This is so good, because you just have to focus on driving and enjoying so, it was really nice.
R: What are the biggest differences between the Tatuus F3 and your F4 car?
B: I think it's the brakes, they were so much better, and also the aerodynamics. I mean, the high speed corners were very different and I had to gain confidence in those, because you have to trust the car. I think that was the most different feature.
R: How is your relationship with the other W-Series girls?
B: I don't have much relationship with any of them, but I'm willing to have it. I don't know, it's difficult. You know, we're competing against each other, so it's different.
R: What was your first thought when you discovered you were on the W-Series grid?
B: I couldn't believe it. Really, I was shocked. "What's happening now?"
I didn't know what to do and then I calmed down and I thought: okay, maybe it's real. I am going there and I have a big opportunity, so I'm going to make the most out of it.
R: Was there a moment when you realized that being a driver was a feasible career path for you?
B: I haven't realized it yet. I mean, it's such a dream to be here, it's such a dream to be in W-Series next season and I still haven't realized that maybe I have a future in here. I'm busy studying, I'm busy trying to do my best in every race and in every test so I haven't realized about the big things yet. I just focus on doing good and to improve.
R: Have you ever felt discriminated for your gender in motorsport?
B: No, not really. I feel like one more, one driver. And that's how I like to be considered.
R: What do you think it could be done to further promote women in the sport?
B: I think they are doing it now. I think they're promoting female racing and I think it has been noticeable. I mean, we're three in Spanish Formula 4: it's really a milestone and I think we're going in a good direction.
R: What do you think of "Female Trophies" in F4 championships? This is something controversial even among female racers sometimes.
B: I think it's about promoting women in motorsport and I for that we don't have to give any different explanations. It makes us gain visibility, which is the same as for W-Series, and I think just for that reason it's a good initiative.
R: What is your favourite track you've driven on so far?
B: So far...It's difficult to decide between Portimao and Abu Dhabi.
R: How was the test in Abu Dhabi with the Formula Renault Eurocup?
B: I cannot describe it! It was such a dream, to be there and enjoy the night. It was my first time with that car and it was really amazing. I have to thank Hankook and Renault for that, really!
R: Are you planning to do more testing or winter series in preparation for your W-Series debut?
B: Yeah, after the season we'll plan something in preparation for the W-Series because we want to be prepared for that, but we don't really know yet what we'll do.
R: What is your dream race car?
B: Michael Schumacher's Ferrari.
I think my passion is my greatest quality because I think it drives you to be better every day and to improve and not to settle.
Want to see the full interview and behind the scenes from her final F4 race of the season? Stay tuned for our video in collaboration with MotorBox!
Ph Credits: Racers-BehindTheHelmet.com