In recent years, the popularity of motorsport has risen in areas such as Eastern Europe. Although already popular, the success of F1 Grands Prix in Russia and Hungary (central Europe) and the remarkable comeback story of Robert Kubica, has continued to boost this. As home to some of the most competitive and challenging motorsport series in the world, who are the racers from these areas hoping to reach the 2019 W Series grid?
Veronika Cicha began her motorsport career competing in hillclimbs before going on to make a move into circuit racing. Most recently, Veronika has been driving in the BOSS GP Championship in the Formula class. Cars such as those used in Formula Renault and GP2/Formula 2 are raced at prestigious tracks around Europe. 2015 was her first season in the series and after 12 races, finished the year 8th in the standings. She returned to the championship in 2016, however struggled with reliability which was also a problem in the 2017 season. Last year was much better for Cicha though as she achieved her best result in the Boss GP so far. In 2018, Veronika achieved a podium finish as well as her best finish in the driver standings in 7th. This experience in formula cars will be important in the selection process.
17-year-old Vivien Keszthelyi is one of the youngest qualifiers. The Hungarian driver didn’t race from a young age and didn’t even have an interest in cars for much of her childhood. Vivien’s unconventional route to racing didn’t involve karting at all with her admitting to ‘not liking it’ even now. Her first experience of motorsport was in 2013 when she attended a race at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. Her interest began to grow from there as she started watching videos online. Later that year, Keszthelyi got the chance to sit behind the wheel of a racing car, it was then that Vivien began to believe racing was what she was meant to do. In her first race, she finished in 4th and was the fastest woman, and it wasn’t long after that special permission was granted for her to start competing in the Swift Cup Euro Series, needing this allowance due to her being only 13 at the time. In her debut season, Vivien achieved multiple points finishes. Having impressed many, including the promoter of the Swift Cup Austria, she was invited to take part in the series, finishing 4th out of a field of adult drivers. Keszthelyi returned to the Swift Cup Euro Series the following year, improving on the previous season’s result to finish 3rd overall, 2nd in the junior category and 1st in the women’s standings. After a huge amount of success, Audi Sport Racing Academy selected her to represent them and in 2016, she began driving an Audi TT in the FIA Central European Zone Trophy. In her debut year, she won both the sprint and edurance categories before moving onto the Audi TT Cup in 2017. Last year, Vivien raced in the GT4 Audi Sport Seyffarth R8 LMS Cup making history as she was crowned Rookie Champion and overall Vice-Champion. It is clear from the huge amount of success she has had that Vivien is really one to watch both in the selection and if she makes it to the final 18.
Polish driver Natalia Kowalska’s first year of circuit racing came in 2007, after several years of karting. Her karting career began in 1999 and was extremely successful with Natalia finishing 2nd in the Polish Championship in 2002 and 5th in 2003. However, she went on to improve on this by winning the championship as well as the Polish Motorsport Association Cup in 2005. Her debut season in cars came in the Northern European Formula Renault Championship in which she competed in 6 races before going on to race in the Formula Renault Eurocup for 2 races. In 2008, Kowalska took part in 6 races in the Star Mazda series in the US, with her best placing in 10th. Natalia was also involved in the revived European Formula 2 Championship which ran between 2009 and 2012. She drove in 16 races, finishing the season with 3 points. The following year Kowalska again raced in the championship, however she only drove in 4 races following injury. She also had to sit out the 2012 season after a traffic accident. Since 2016, Natalia has returned to karting but as a qualifier for W Series, she will surely be hoping that this opportunity could help her to get back to racing cars. Having raced in multiple Formula series, she also has experience in cars similar to what the series will be racing.
Alexandra Marinescu is known for being Romania’s first female single-seater driver. The 18-year-old has had a difficult start to her career having struggled to get the sponsorship and funds she needs leading to several breaks in her racing. She also had to take a year out after a crash in British Formula 4. Alexandra began racing aged 9, however it took her 2 years to convince her family that it was something she was really passionate about and that she would rather be karting than playing with dolls. After a successful karting career that involved racing for KSM Motorsport, the karting team co-created by Michael Schumacher, in 2014 Marinescu made the transition to car racing. Driving in the Skip Barber Summer Series in the US, she achieved 6 top 10 finishes in the 8 races she competed in. The following year, Alexandra had planned to race in the MSA Formula season, however after financial difficulties, her season was over before it had started. Having worked hard to gain the sponsorship she needed and to keep improving on her skills, Marinescu joined the Richardson Racing team mid-season and began racing in the 2016 British Formula 4 Championship. With Alexandra even having to start a Gofundme page to try and fund her racing career, the free-to-enter W Series could be an amazing opportunity for her to get her racing back on track and help in her aim to inspire more girls in Romania to race.
Polish driver Gosia Rdest knew she wanted to be involved in motorsport from the age of 12 after attending a car show showcasing all thing automotive. Like many aspiring drivers, it was clear the route she would take as she started her racing career in karting not long after. In 2011, aged 16, Gosia took part in her first karting race, and less than 2 years after this debut, she won the Polish Karting Championship, finished 3rd in a round of the Italian Karting Championship, before being named as a member of the national karting team. This success quickly caught the attention of others as she was selected as a participant in the BMW Training Cup program, going onto be named one of the 12 best female drivers in the world by the FIA’s Women in Motorsport commission the following year. In 2013, Rdest drove a full season in the BRDC Formula 4 Championship with a best finish of 11th, however at the end of the season she was honoured with an award for the most overtakes showing that although she may not have been on the podium, she spent a lot of time moving up the field and fighting back. In the same year, Gosia made a move into saloon car racing as she entered the Volkswagen Castrol Cup, in which she finished 5th in her debut race. She continued in the series for the following year before saloon racing became her main focus in 2015. She raced in the Polish Volkswagen Golf Cup finishing the season 10th in the driver standings. Rdest has since raced in the Audi TT Cup twice, finishing 3rd in 2016 and competed in the GT European Championship in which she was victorious, winning the round at the Hungaroring, Hungary. Having won an award such as the one in the BRDC F4 Championship, there is no doubting her race craft and strategy. The skill of overtaking will surely be very important in the one-make W Series with no chance of dominating constructors.
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