Colombian driver has F1 title dream
Colombia's Tatiana Calderon might believe she's got the potential to be the first woman to win a race in Formula One, but in Manawatu they are not even letting her drive a rental car.
Track-tripping around New Zealand for the past six weeks in the Toyota Racing Series, Calderon, 19, has been forced to sit back and watch her dad, Alberto, handle the confusion that comes with driving on the left-hand side of the road.
After all the adventures Calderon, who sits 12th in the championship, will line up as the lone female driver in the New Zealand Grand Prix this Sunday.
She is after victory or a top-five finish to impress European scouts.
Her New Zealand sabbatical follows her first full season of open-wheel racing in Europe after competing in the United States for two years.
Calderon considers the series to have been the perfect training ground for her debut in the top-tier of Formula 3 in Europe this summer.
"Coming here was one of our best choices. It's a wonderful preparation. Six weeks in a row is like racing an entire season before the season starts.
"I've been improving every weekend and a win here would be just the most amazing thing in the world.
"All the European people are looking at what is happening here and the competition is really tough.
"In a few years' time I would love to be in Formula One, and I believe I will be good enough, so I'm just working towards that goal."
Calderon began karting when she was nine. She caught the racing bug when she watched fellow Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya win the two biggest open-wheel races in the world - the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 and the Monaco Grand Prix three years later.
"I remember when I was eight and I was sitting down and watching him at home at 3am in the morning.
"Almost every F1 race seems to be at that time of night. Only the Brazilian GP is at normal time for us."
Calderon's other heroes include feisty Indy Car driver Danica Patrick for her no-nonsense, treat-me-as-you-would-a-boy approach.
She believes there is still a hint of sexism in motor-racing, but says that disappears once she gets on the track. "Sometimes you go to a team and you say you're a girl and they don't expect much of you. It's hard to change.
"And at any series you go to they [the boys] treat you a little different because obviously they don't want to be beaten by a girl," she says.
"But all that changes when they see you are quick."
Calderon's perfect white smile will be a sponsor's dream in the years ahead and she aims to use it to her advantage.
"I've got an advantage to getting sponsorship because you don't get many women out there.
"But you don't get the sponsors without being fast."
Saturday: 2.33pm, NZV8s race 1, (10 laps); 3pm, Toyota Racing Series race 1 for the Dan Higgins Memorial Trophy (20 laps)
Sunday: NZV8s race 2 (14 laps) 12.28pm, race 3 (20 laps) 2.16pm. Toyota Racing Series race 2 (12 laps) 11am, race 3 NZ Grand Prix (35 laps) 3pm.
- © Fairfax NZ News