Gianmarco Raimondo is the points leader in the European F3 Open race series heading into races in Hungary Sept. 8-9.
ST. CATHARINES – Much has changed in since Gianmarco Raimondo headed overseas to pursue his dream of becoming a professional race car driver.
“When I started, I couldn’t speak the language (Italian) and the way they doing things in Europe is completely different,” the 21-year-old St. Catharines native said.
It hasn’t been easy, but the current points leader in the European F3 Open race series heading into races in Hungary Sept. 8-9 has overcome many hurdles.
“You need to have that passion because not a lot of things go well for you when you want them to,” said Raimondo, who lives in Lido Di Canaiore, Italy. “You have to fight though the bad times and negativity of you against the world and you against the racing world.”
Last year, he raced Euro 3, the highest level of Formula 3 racing, and this year, he’s the only North American racing the European Series.
“The level is a little bit lower with the drivers a little less experienced but the tracks are actually a lot better than the Euro series.”
The tracks are one of the main reasons he’s in the series.
“It’s to learn to drive the tracks that, in theory, I’m going to be driving in GP2 and F1.”
He hopes to race in the GP2 Series next year and then make the leap to Formula 1. It’s a steep learning curve but Raimondo is up to the challenge.
“It’s learning when to do certain things and how to behave in certain situations,” he said. “This is a great year to understand championships and being mentally strong and confident and to not let distractions affect your driving.”
He’s right on track with his career path.
“If one really rushed into it, mentally it’s difficult because there’s a lot of pressure. There a lot of money, a lot of sponsorships and a lot of steps you need to follow in order to become that Formula 1 professional.”
When he’s not racing, he runs, cycles and works out to help deal with about three times the force of gravity pulling him in different directions when he brakes or goes into corners. Formula 3 cars have top speeds of 260 km-h and average speeds of 170-180 km-h.
“Even though you have belts on and you don’t move in the car, you still feel these forces and have to fight them and still drive precisely in the car,” he said.
Adding to the physical demands are the high temperatures which come from wearing layers of fireproof underwear under a suit and a closed helmet.
“You have to have same conscious mentality when you’re tired as when you’re sharp,” he said.
Equally important as fitness and driving skills is an ability to raise money.
Racing a Formula 3 season costs $450,000 and that accelerates to $2 million for a GP2 season. Drivers need to bring that money with them.
“It’s like going to medical school,” Raimondo said. “You pay the school a lot of money to learn how to become a doctor and once you become a doctor, you start to gain back what you’ve spent.”
Raimondo has people helping him with marketing and fund raising.
“As driver you need to focus on what you know how to do. The less distractions you have, the better you will do.”
Among the innovative fund raising ideas is a lithograph of Raimondo’s young career by Randy Lueken (www.luekeart.com) that will sell for $1,250 framed. He’ll also attend a fund raiser Thursday in Montreal.
None of his endeavours would be possible without the support of his parents, Emilio and Anna Maria. All he needs now are the continued opportunities.
“You need to be at the right place at the right time with the right people. So far it has been working out and the passion is always there and it keep growing stronger.”
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