Interview with a racing driver – Anna Walewska
Anna Walewska, aged 22 is a racing driver with an impressive CV and proud of her Polish – English roots. She became the youngest female to hold a full race licence at 14 years old and is now a top racing instructor at Thruxton. Exclusively for Opinia Anna provides an interesting insight to the world of motor racing.
Driving for BMW in 2007 she came third in the Britcar championships and is now seeking sponsorship for the 2009 series.
Anna started racing in karts aged 11 and then moved to the T-car saloon car race series at 14 before progressing to the Britcar championships. She was awarded Driver of the Year for her outstanding performances in 2005 and nominated again in 2006.
Your father was a racing enthusiast but what attracted you to motorsport and racing karts at such a young age?
AW: I was brought up around fast cars and introduced to racing at a young age. I remember playing with toy cars instead of dolls when I was little. I have always been very competitive and loved all sports at school. When I started racing karts at 11 years old I took to it like a duck to water and was instantly quick. I have raced ever since and not looked back.
What inspired you to make the transition from karts to cars and become the youngest female car race licence holder in the UK at 14?
AW: I knew from an early age that racing was what I was born to do and wanted to move up the ladder of motorsport as quickly and professionally as possible. My kart team also ran a team in T-cars (saloon car series designed for 14-17 year olds who want to make a career out of racing). The time manager, Andrew Crighton, offered me a drive in T-Cars in his team Advent Motorsport. I accepted and started racing at just 14 years old breaking the record.
How difficult was the transition from karting to car racing?
AW: Having never driven a car properly before, besides driving my dad’s car up and down the driveway in first gear, it was a challenge. I did a few tests and learnt clutch control and changing gear and once I had mastered it I was off! The racing craft was easy enough to pick up, using mirrors was new to me as in karts you don’t have any and getting familiar with the width of the race car took a bit of time. However, I believe you’re either a racer or not, I certainly am so racing others wasn’t that difficult for me to learn all the techniques of defending and attacking.
What did you learn from coming third in the 2007 Britcar championships?
AW: I learnt how to maintain my position and the old saying of ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’ is so true! There were times when I wanted to make a do or die move for 2nd place but learnt to hold back if a 3rd position was all I needed to defend my place in the Championship, it’s a shame we didn’t win it but I am still learning as I driver and improving all the time.
How would you summarise your 2008 season?
AW: It’s been a challenging year. I have struggled with funding so had to pull out of the championship whilst lying in 3rd position, I was gutted but there was nothing I could do. The 24hour race at Silverstone was the highlight of my year as we finished and finished 2nd. I am looking forward to doing some tests in a Porsche GB Carrera Cup car and also Renault Clio Cup car for next year. I will be working hard on finding more sponsors to support me in this high profiled, media frenzy championship.
Tell me about your work as an Association of Racing Driving Schools instructor and recently launched driver development business?
AW: I work as a Racing Instructor for Thruxton, instructing in Ferraris, Aston Martins and Porsches which is great fun. I recently set up my own driver development business using a Lotus Elise for one to one tuition. I felt there was a need for personal race tuition for up and coming drivers that want guidance and of course the general public that wants to have taste of what motorsport is all about. I currently look after two junior drivers who wanted my help in making the step up from kart racing to car racing and can proudly say they both are doing extremely well.
Can you describe what it’s like driving a racing car round a famous track?
AW: Spa is one of my favourite tracks. To be honest it feels like such a privilege to drive on a superb track like Spa where the corners are technical and require a lot of skill to master. I get a huge adrenaline rush from racing which I thrive on and also the hunger for winning is in my blood. It’s an incredibly satisfying feeling to win a race knowing your team have worked hard on preparing the car and you haven’t made any mistakes in the race to lose the lead. It’s difficult to describe in words how I feel when racing but all I can say is I have never been able to match the same feeling doing anything else. It’s certainly addictive.
What are your plans for the future?
AW: My goal is to drive in World Touring Cars WTCC. But first I would like to race in British Touring Cars BTCC and gets some experience. Leading up to those two championship I am aiming to be in either Porsche Carrera GB Cup or the Renault Clio championship next year, it depends on sponsors but both championship get a lot of media attention and being the only female competitor at the front I hopefully will generate a lot of exposure for my sponsors.
What advice would you have for anyone interested in pursuing a career as a racing driver?
AW: If you’re young I would certainly recommend karting to learn basic race craft and set up and then move onto either saloon car racing or single-seaters depending on what you want to do. If your older and want to get into racing as a hobby there are plenty of club championships around that are enjoyable to race in.
Tell me about your Polish Roots?
AW: My father is Polish and my mother is English. Unfortunately I speak very little Polish as my father didn’t speak to me in Polish when I was young which is a great shame. I love the country and always have half a Polish flag and half an English flag on my race car and suit.
Thank you and every success for the future