Vittoria ‘Vicky’ Piria was one of 20 drivers to compete in the inaugural season of the ground-breaking new championship: W Series. After 6 races contributing to the championship standings, and a non-championship race, Vicky finished 9th meaning she automatically qualifies for next season. I spoke to her about how she discovered her love of the sport, her career leading to W Series, and what she has learnt from this revolutionary new initiative.
Like many involved in motorsport, it was through her family that Vicky was introduced to the world of racing. “I got involved in a purely casual way,” she said. “My dad bought a go-kart for my brother and I decided to give it a try! It all escalated to first local races then bigger and bigger until I switched to cars at 16 years old.” Piria’s transition to cars came in 2009 when she competed in multiple races in series such as Italian Formula 2000 Light and Formula Renault 2.0. Despite this being a possible challenge, it seemed to a straightforward progression for the young Italian. “I must say it all happened very naturally. Obviously, the driving style is completely different and also the approach itself to the sport,” she described.
The following 2 years saw Vicky take part in the Formula Abarth series, driving for Tomcat Racing in 2010 and Prema Powerteam in 2011. Although her best result in her first season was 14th, her experience showed the next year when she had multiple points finishes in both versions of the series, after it split into Italian and European championships. However, the turning point in Piria’s career came in 2012 when she joined Trident Racing’s GP3 team, entering 16 races with the Italian outfit. Although she had of course taken her racing seriously previously, it was this year in the F1-feeder series that made it clear to her that motorsport was something she wanted to pursue further. “It all got very serious for me in 2012 when I got supported to race in GP3. I was only 18 years old,” Vicky told me. She then went on to race in the European Formula 3 Championship, with best finishes of 4th, before going on to race in the USA with the Pro Mazda Championship.
After a few years of focussing on her work as a racing instructor with brands such as Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, late last year Piria got involved in W Series, following the announcement of its creation. “I sent the application form as soon as I heard of the possibility,” she said, adding that the attraction to the series was: “the opportunity to race in great cars at great tracks and be part of something completely revolutionary.” After being named on the longlist of 60 drivers, Vicky took part in 2 selection processes, the first reducing the number of racers to 28, before a further round to select the final 20 racing drivers. In March 2019, Piria was announced as one of those who would be racing in the inaugural season of W Series. Despite having previously driven Formula Renault and Formula 3 cars, returning to single-seaters with the W Series Tatuus F3 T-318 after a nearly 5-year absence, wasn’t without challenges for Vicky. “It wasn’t easy,” she explained. “Driving a single-seater is something that requires great feeling and is unique, also the recent cars are different… heavier, different engine, halo, it really doesn’t allow mistakes. From race 4 though I started to get the right feel and pace and loved it ever since.”
Going into the season, much was still unknown due to the series being so new, and even for the drivers, it was difficult to have expectations for the 6-race championship. “I didn’t have expectations. My goal was to be at a good speed and comfortable with the car as soon as possible. I would have been happy with top 10 finishes,” Vicky said. Though it seems that Piria achieved her aim, ending the season 9th in the championship and therefore automatically qualifying for the 2020 season, as well as with 4 top-10 finishes to her name. However, like most racing drivers, she stills sees the mistakes and is keen to work on making sure these don’t happen again. “Yes, I am happy (with the results). Looking back there are things I could have done better but I know my weak spots now so can work well for next year,” she explained.
Having identified what she needs to work on, the biggest thing that Vicky has learnt from the first season of W Series is: “preparation is important but it is also important just to drive and feel the car to be a little more perfect every lap.” 10 years after she made the progression from karts to cars, many of her career highlights have come in series where she has driven single-seaters. “For sure racing in Monaco and my podium in Paul Ricard in F3,” the Italian racer said of her best moments. Though when it comes to this season with W Series, it was her impressive performance closer to home that was the high-point for Piria. “In W Series, for sure finishing 5th in my home race in Misano,” she said.
After starting karting at a young age, it was in her late teens that Vicky Piria moved into the world of formula cars. In 2012, she made the step up to GP3 before going on to compete in European Formula 3 and then to the USA with the Pro Mazda Championship. After 5 years away from racing whilst she worked as an instructor, earlier this year Vicky returned to motorsport in W Series. Following an impressive season, she finished 9th in the championship standings, meaning she automatically qualifies for the series next year. Speaking of the advice she would give to those wanting to get involved in the sport, Vicky explained: “go to races, watch them, try to work in the automotive business… even though it is difficult for budget reasons, try to live and breathe motorsport as much possible.”
(All photo credits: W Series)