Veronika Jaksch and the fun side of motorsport
Discover the story of Veronika Jaksch (aka Veronika Cichá), one of the few women competing in the highly-performing GP2 cars in the spectacular MAXX Formula championship.
Not many people can say to have driven a GP2 car, F1's top feeder series before its rebranding to Formula 2. Among them, even less - so far - are women.
Veronika Jaksch - who raced under her birth name of Veronika Cicha before marrying fellow racer Wolfgang Jaksch - is one of the very few female racing drivers with plenty of experience of the Dallara GP2 car, which she currently races in the MAXX Formula Championship.
The series - very similar to the BOSS GP, which also saw Veronika competing in the past - features some of the most incredible formula cars of the recent past: from Formula 1 cars of the early to late 2000s, to the various generations of Dallara GP2 machinery, rare European sightings of IndyCars, and the beautiful yet often forgotten SuperLeague Formula cars. The small but certainly eye-catching MAXX Formula championship feels like a small family, with the owners of such beasts giving their all for the pure passion of motor racing.
Despite the short 2020 calendar, the mainly Central European-based series will manage to visit some important venues such as Monza, Most and Magny Cours.
After several years spent behind the wheel of her 2005 GP2, Veronika Jaksch switched to the fresher Dallara GP2-08, as the Czech driver entered few weekends ago the second round at the iconic Temple of Speed in Monza.
The racing career of the Czech driver has been quite an unconventional path: a late start, a debut in hillclimb racing and then the giant leap straight to some of the most powerful single-seaters.
"I first got into motorsport ten years ago, when I first tried a Mitsubishi Evo specially prepared for hillclimb racing." - she told us a couple of hours before jumping in the car for her second race at Monza.
"It was fascinating, because the car is not so heavy like normal cars and has a lot of power, so I said 'wow, I would like to have a go!' - and so I entered my first hillclimb race. This is how it all started."
For Veronika, motorsport has always been a passion shared with her life partner.
"Together with my ex-boyfriend we drove hillclimb, we had our team. Then I met my husband and he said 'hillclimb is too dangerous, you have to drive with me in formula cars'. And, of course, he put me straight away into a car like the GP2."
As expected, driving a single-seater was a completely different experience, and something that she couldn't forget easily. In order to prepare for such a high-powered and high-downforce car, she successfully completed two test days in a Tatuus Formula Master car - a vehicle in the Formula 3 performance range: "I have to say I had two tests in a Formula Master before." - she told.
"There was a couple of guys there and I was the fastest, so my husband said 'I think you're good, you can drive next time the GP2'. I drove one day and he said 'ok, in three months we have the first race, please do it!'
'Are you kidding?' - I replied. And yes, my first race was in 2015 in Hockenheim. I finished, and I didn't finish last."
For the past five years, Veronika has been competing in some of the highest-performing cars around the best European racetracks, firstly in BOSS GP and now in MAXX Formula. And, even if she did cross paths with another female racer at one point, most of the time she is the only woman in such championships.
“There was one girl that also has a GP2, we met a couple of times in the past, but most of the times I the only one." - she recalls.
“Sometimes it's difficult, because men are so nice to you in the garage and everything, but on the racetrack, when they see a pink car coming, they’ll do everything they can to pass it.”, she said jokingly.
Two years ago, Veronika also attempted the W Series selection process, as the first ever women-only Formula 3 championship was laying its foundation and selecting their drivers for the inaugural season.
"It didn't go so well for me, but I have to say that for me motorsport is now a hobby, while for these girls it's everything.” - she explained.
“For them it's their whole life. As I said, I started 10 years ago, I was not the 5-year old girl going through karting, you know what I mean? For me it cannot become something more.”
“I’m happy with that, I really love what I'm doing, I'm enjoying it - I study the on-boards and I try to improve, I’m not ‘the arrive and drive’ driver, that's really not my style. But for these girls in W Series, they're fully into it, they're always training while I have to go to work on Mondays and I'm too old for that."
While Veronika didn’t have the chance to start sooner in her career, W Series is now aiming to provide more opportunities to drivers that wouldn’t otherwise have the financial backing to get to F3-level. Still, the key factor remains to increase the movement at its grassroots levels.
“I think that I couldn't have closed that gap. When somebody starts at 5 years old and when you start at 22, I think you cannot get to the same level, because of the feeling and experience from karting. The same goes for the feeling of battling other drivers in go-karts, I'll never get that.”
“Unfortunately my parents didn't give me that opportunity, but I'm happy that my husband did and I enjoy it, but I cannot be a professional".
Nevertheless, Veronika proves that motorsport can be incredibly exciting even without the enormous pressure of a professional career at stake, as she ticked off her bucket list some impressive experiences such as racing on one of F1’s holy places.
“It's my third time here. I always thought my favourite track was Monza, but you know, after some experience you understand how fast you're going - or maybe it's the fact that I'm a woman and I know what can happen - you know what I mean?” - she joked.
“But it's a beautiful track, without any doubts, it's really amazing."
The Monza weekend proved to be a really positive one for Veronika, who had to sit out a wet practice session but then had a solid run in Race 1, finishing sixth in class and seventh overall. The result that turned around her weekend, though, was her third place in class in Race 2 - fourth overall - where she consistently lapped faster than an IndyCar just ahead.
“Honestly, [the first race in Monza] was not so good for me, we figured out that the throttle was only on 70%, so I was really disappointed because I didn't have power.”
“Race 2 was amazing, with no Safety Car, perfect, clean. The car was amazing: setup, engine and everything. I passed some guys and maybe on new tyres I could have finished second, but I'm really so happy and grateful to my team and everybody.”
“My tyres were already used from qualifying and you know how it is, when you have new tyres you are 2 seconds faster right away. Next time!"
With quite relevant performance gaps between the cars, somehow MAXX Formula feels like a purer form of racing: by going back to its basics, it takes you back to a man/woman vs machine dynamic. Here, the driver’s first challenge is with him/herself.
And, after seeing an ecstatic Veronika Jaksch climbing out of her Dallara GP2 car to head onto the famous Monza podium, we can definitely say that she had won that personal challenge.
"I drove one day and he said 'ok, in three months we have the first race"