Tasmin Pepper Interview

 

Tasmin has fast become one of our top young racing talents and even though she’s already had a taste of competing internationally, as part of the Formula BMW Pacific series, there is much more to come from this very fast lady racer.

Currently competing in the highly competitive Formula VW series she has shown that the girls can and do compete at the front end of the grid. She has wonderful race craft and her success from karting though to Formula BMW shows that there is a bundle of talent waiting to be unleashed. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

How has having the foundation of karting helped with your racing career?

It has helped a huge amount, karting taught me all the basics of driving and racing. It taught me how to compete against other competitors, it helped to give me that fighting edge. Karting also gave me an understanding of how the engineering parts of the kart worked, it gave me an understanding of how a racing car should feel. I was able to learn all about oversteer and understeer and what happens to the kart when you change something as little as the tyre pressures. Having all this knowledge has helped me a lot in my main circuit career, as I know what I’m looking for when I’m in the car, I know how it should be handling, and when a change is needed to be made I am able to tell my engineers what we need to be looking for in order to make the car that much better.

 

Winning races early on like the GP Junior Class, this winning mentality seems to have been there from early on with you. Do you think this has helped you strive for more, racing wise?

I think it has, I know that I have the capability to win races and championships, and knowing this has kept me going and wanting to achieve only the best that I can, and for me that means winning.

In 2005 you finished 9th at the ROK World Finals, what was this race like? As your first international event, it was an excellent result, especially considering you had an incident early in the race. Talk us through the race and the experience?

My first international race is one I probably will never forget. The talent of competitors is at its best and knowing I was competing against the best in the world only made me want to win even more. I was doing really well considering it was my first time at the track, I was setting one of the fastest times during the whole weekend. I started the final in 6th position, I knew it was only going to be better from there and was striving for a podium finish. The competitors in that class fight hard and I was a little bit bullied during the race, where nearing the finish of the race i was taken out and pushed way back down the field, where I had to fight back through all the drivers to try get back to my original position, in the end I ran out of laps and eventually finished 9th. For me it was still a great achievement, I was a little disappointed as i knew I had it in me to finish on the podium. I learnt a lot from that weekend, and when I came back to South Africa I was never bullied on the track again, as I learnt how to fight back from my international experience.

 

2006 was even better for you coming from 26th on the grid and finishing 8th at the Max World Championship. Sounds like it was a wonderful race! How was this race for you?

I was very competitive throughout the whole weekend and knew I shouldn’t have been starting there, we made a big mistake in the prefinal where we put slicks on the kart as we thought it wasn’t going to rain, but as we left the grid it started to rain, it was one of the toughest races I have ever had to do, racing on slicks in the pouring rain isn’t fun. *laughs* Needless to say every time I got a spot in the field I was pushed right back off the track, where in the end I finished in 26th spot, I was just happy to have finished that race.

I started the final in 26th position and once again it was raining, but this time we were prepared we had the wets on. Leading up to the start line I couldn’t see my hand in front of my eyes, this was caused from such bad spray coming from the karts in front of me. I knew at this point it was going to be a tough race. I remember just picking off one competitor at a time, making sure  passed them nice and tidy so that they wouldn’t come back after me. I had no idea what position I was in until I was slowly catching the front of the pack, I remember getting into 3rd position and holding it for about ten metres, as I passed 3rd place he came straight back at me and ran me wide on the exit of the 3rd last turn, I got knocked right back down the field and had to fight back to the front, where I eventually ended up 8th. For me it was an amazing achievement as I was the first South African to cross the line and the top female competitor.

You also took part in your first year of Formula Fords, finishing 8th in your debut season and getting awarded the Rookie of Year award. Did you find the transition from karts to single seaters quite natural?

At first the transition was quite difficult as I had to learn to use the gears and get used to being a bit higher off the ground in a much bigger surrounding. After a few practice sessions in the car it started becoming more natural and I was able to focus just on the driving and not everything else that was going on in the car.

 

2007 saw you come 4th in the Formula Ford series and gain National Colours, it must’ve been quite an honour for you?

It was a huge honour to receive my national colours, I knew that what I was achieving was being noticed and this then made it that much more special.

What was it like racing in the Formula BMW Series? What were the highlights of that experience for you?

The highlights for me will have to be being able to race on the same circuits as well as on the same days as the Formula 1 championship events. One of the biggest highlights of that series would be being one of the first drivers to drive on the Singapore night Grand Prix circuit, as it was the first year of that circuit being there.Formula BMW was a big learning curve for me, I learnt a lot about how the cars work with wings, and how much faster you can actually go into the corner with the wings on the car in comparison to the Ford that had no wings on the car. I learnt a lot over that year, and i am able to take what I have learned there and apply it to my racing here in South Africa in the Formula VW championship class.

Will we be seeing you return to a similar type of international series going forward?

That is the plan, but at the moment we haven’t got the budget to go overseas as it costs so much money to get into a team and be able to be competitive at that level.

What are your racing aspirations? What is next for you?

At the moment I’m not too sure, I would like to step up and go overseas to maybe the Formula 3 championship and then progress from there. Another route we have been looking at is to go to Indy Lights in America and from there follow up to Indy Cars. Before we can do any of this we need to find a budget that will help support my racing career over there.

Who were and are your racing inspirations?

My dad is my biggest inspiration as he has achieved so much in his many years of racing, Danica Patrick is another one of my inspirations as well as Vettel in Formula One, I want to one day get to that level where I can be recognised.

What have been the challenges for you racing in the Formula VW series?

My biggest challenges would have to come down to being able to drive the car on the edge, having to go out of my comfort zone in order to find that .2 or .3 I would be looking for. Having to put trust in the car as well as myself that it can be done.

What was it like winning your first Formula VW race?

I was very happy and excited, with all mixed emotions at the same time. It was a long time coming and just to have achieved it means that I am capable of doing it. I know now that I am able to win races and now I need to win some more of them!

What are your aims for 2011?

In 2011 I want to try win the championship. I finished 2nd last year and that is the next step forward. The competition is really tough this year and the guys are really fast, got to push a lot harder to try and receive that result.

 

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