Because it’s the end of the year and the decade, I gathered below 15 highlights from my 2019. It’s all about my gasoline-driven life: motorsport lessons, car stories, milestones and beautiful projects I was a part of.
15. Being a Walero ambassador
So here it is: the first highlight of 2019 was becoming a part of the amazing Walero family, right in January 2019. Being chosen as one of their ambassadors was (and still is) a very proud and important moment in my career, because it is a recognition of my efforts to promote motorsport in a relevant and authentic way. These guys really know how to #GetTheEdge and I am so lucky to use the best racing underwear there is. Walero definitely gave me an advantage during rallies and I can’t wait to see what the future brings. #WeAreWalero
14. Launching Femei în Motorsport
Inspired by what I learned about women in motorsport from my foreign experiences, I decided it was time to take matters in my own hands. So on the 1st of March 2019 I launched Femei în Motorsport – an online platform dedicated to promoting all women involved in Romanian motorsports. It respects the FIA – Women in Motorsport guidelines and my dream is to be able to connect ourselves to the international community, so we can learn from the best and stay updated with the latest sporting news.
13. My first International Auto Show
Next stop of 2019 was the Geneva Auto Show, at the end of March. I always admired my fellow journalists for getting to visit cool places with one or another automotive brand. So I decided I to buy my own plane ticket, book an apartment on Airbnb and head over to Geneva for my first auto show outside Romania – powered by Emoticar & mum. It was like Disneyland for petrolheads, as you can see from the photos. It’s definitely something I would like to try again, but with a more practical approach – I was so in awe I couldn’t write anything about what I saw! :)) so much for being a self-employed journalist.
12. My first podium
The first big motorsport milestone of 2019 was at the beginning of May. The first event of the National Rally Championship was Argeș Rally – more than half was organized on Transfăgărășan, the most beautiful road in the world. It was also my countryside – the place I grew up in and made some amazing childhood memories. Now it is also the place where I got my first podium: second place overall in Cupa DACIA. Me and Diana became the first ladies crew to ever step on the overall podium of DACIA Cup, which has a history of 13 editions and more than 100 events organized since 2007. I remember fellow drivers congratulating me in the regroup – we were on third place overall. I was so afraid I will lose my edge if I received too many praises, that I didn’t speak to anybody and just listened to Headspace for about 2 hours. After one other car crashed on the last stage, we gained second place. We had more than an hour of liaison until parc ferme, but we didn’t enjoy the moment until the last TC – we just didn’t wanna jinx it. We recovered that in the after-rally party…
11. Mechanics crash course at Rally Sliven
A big lesson of my 2019 season was the mechanics crash course we took during Rally Sliven, in Bulgaria. Our gearbox cables broke and they fell out of position 4 or 5 times on the first two special stages. We managed to fix them into position just so we can reach the service park using only 3rd gear. The thing is we still had one more stage to go, the longest one (how else) – 24km using only 3rd gear. Manicure destroyed, I am so proud we managed to overcome this challenge and finish the rally 4th in our class.
10. Speaking at some cool events like TEDx and Sports Festival
2019 also offered me some amazing opportunities to grow as a speaker at some very cool events. I got to share my motorsport story at Sports Festival, where together with sports journalist Andreea Giuclea we discussed about how it is to be a woman in sports today. The line-up was impressive: Darren Cahill, Chris Pfeiffer, Camelia Potec, Loredana Dinu or Ciprian Marica were some of the other speakers. The day after I returned home from Rally Roma I did some motorsport storytelling at TEDx Bucharest Open Skies, Open Minds. I also went up on the stage at Feed Your Mind by Awake Festival and at the Women Empower Forum in Cluj-Napoca. I am very grateful because these together with a great deal of TV, radio and press appearances really helped me share my story outside the motorsport community, hoping to inspire young people to be brave and follow their dreams. Special thanks to everybody involved: !
9. Learning to drive an R2 and mental training
Back in the race calendar, the next on my list was Harghita Rally, which was great training before our debut in the European Rally Championship at Rally Roma in the following week. We missed the overall podium in Dacia Cup by only 7.4 seconds, but I learned a great deal about how sensitive my mental game is and how much stronger and focused I should be. I won’t get into details, but I definitely hope I learned my lesson. That whole period was nice though, because I clearly remember driving the Peugeot 208 R2 for the first time after a hill climb event, then for my first proper test session at a race track and finally again right before leaving for Italy. After months of getting discouraged by people who were telling me I am not ready to an European event or that with an R2 it’s like learning to drive again, I proved them wrong and I felt stronger and more confident than ever. I guess I learned my lesson after all…
8. Expo rally car and amazing guest codrivers
Even though this summer I had a crazy schedule with 5 rallies in 6 weeks during June-July, I had some time to show off my race car at some events. Although Sean D’Or is only a correct entry-level race car, he is and will remain special because he helped me grow into the rally driver I am today. We were together at the A List Magazine party, where we brought fashion and motorsport together again after many years of separation. In September we were back in Cluj as ambassadors for Women Rally, the only motorsport National Championship dedicated exclusively to women.
I am so happy when I meet passionate men and women who want to find out more about motorsport and road safety or simply learn how they can become better drivers and overcome their fears. Some of the guest codrivers I had this year are Mădălina Merca, Irina Rusu, Corina Caragea, Vladimir Drăghia. But the most valuable memory was of course with my mom, finally convinced by Diana to step into the race car after 4 years of “supervising”.
7. A different perspective – the codriver’s seat
This season was also about learning from a different perspective: the codriver’s seat. Because in 2019 I had to build a low-budget strategy, I only drove in tarmac events. So in Bacău and Brașov I was on the wrong side of the car, but I was really happy with what I discovered: not only my car sickness was (almost) gone, but I was proving myself useful, as I felt and understood the car much better than 4 years ago (for those of you who don’t know, my debut in motorsport was as a codriver, but I quickly switched). I especially enjoyed codriving Victor Supuran at his first ever rally, his gravel home event. Even though the car broke, we tried our best and he definitely learned a lot during those days. He’s one of the juniors worth watching in 2020, so keep an eye on him (and support him if you can).
I also learned what regularity rallies are, thanks to Alex Filip who invited me to join him at Sibiu Rally, where we won the electric class!
6. Know when to take a break
Sibiu Rally is a big lesson of my 2019 season – it taught me why it is important to step down and know when to take a break. I was just back from Rally Roma and I wanted to do one more tarmac event in the Romanian Championship before the summer break, because I wanted to “prove I improved my skills in the ERC”. The reality was totally different, as I was too tired and too euphoric after my ERC debut to be able to get a good result. I finished 8th overall in Dacia Cup, the worst result in a long time. I owe a big thanks to Hicea, my codriver at that rally, who kept a great sense of humour and a positive vibe in the race car, even though I was driving like shit. We should do this again, only faster. :))
5. Driving cool cars
The highlights of 2019 are not only about motorsport – I am one lucky gal to be able to drive really cool cars on some of the best roads in the world. #RomanianRoads by Automarket.ro powered by Michelin was just about that: a group of crazy journalists on a 7 day roadtrip, with 7 great cars, exploring the best roads in Romania. I loved all of them, but my heart still beats faster when I think at the Megane Trophy RS on the Rarău Pass or at the BMW Z4 on Transalpina. I also beats faster when I remember driving the Skoda Kodiaq RS on the Praid rally stage – but this time for different reasons (the boys know).
4. First event as a trainer
The automotive milestones in 2019 are not even close to finish: in September I participated at my first automotive event as a trainer. I guess I must have proved myself in those last few months, because George Grigorescu decided he can trust me as a closing car for the L200 off road event he organized for the press launch of this new Mitsubishi model. It was a nice experience and I am always grateful to my fellow journalists for making me feel welcome and not reinforcing the “woman in a man’s world” cliche.
3. My first international press event – the new VW Golf 8
Just a few weeks ago I was invited to join Volkswagen in Portugal for the press launch of the new Golf 8. Again, as it happened with #RomanianRoads, I was over-the-moon happy and excited by this opportunity because it means somebody actually enjoys reading my blog, haha! As expected, it was maximum pampering with an insane attention to details: the whole resort was ours, everything from the hallways to the elevators, even the bathroom mirror were customized with the “Life is exciting” tagline of the new VW Golf 8.
I had the chance to test drive not only all the new Golf 8 models, but also every other Golf model since the first generation. It is definitely a highlight of my career and it motivates me to work harder and grow more relevant. Thank you VW!
2. Transilvania Rally – my best run & last rally with Sean D’Or
Back in rally mode, one of the best runs I ever had with Sean D’Or was on downhill Dângău, the power stage of Transilvania Rally 2019. We had the 4th best time in Dacia Cup, a great 19:15,6 on 30.17km of one of the most beautiful and challenging special stages in Romania. I loved it, I felt confident but it didn’t feel that quick or on the limit. I guess I never learned to fully trust my Dacia Sandero since 2017, this being one of the main reasons I decided to sell it. But I will be back at my favorite rally in Romania – faster, stronger and sexier (I’m talking about the race car :)) ).
These last 4 years were a crazy and beautiful adventure and I will always cherish the memories I made while racing Sean D’Or on the special stages. Cupa Dacia will always have a special place in my heart, at it is where I made my debut and constantly grew into a rally driver. But time has come for a new challenge, which will definitely expand my perspective and enhance my skills.
Nothing would’ve been possible without George Grigorescu, rally driver, master of motorsport, “the father” of Dacia Cup and most importantly, my mentor. With all my moments, good or not so good, you raised me until now and you trusted me even when I lost sight of any kind of hope – and this is priceless! I don’t think there is anybody more dedicated to young athletes in the Romanian motorsports like GG and I know how many of us owe to him our debut as drivers…Thank you!
Thank you as well, friends and fellow drivers, for all your encouragements and support, for the great challenge and the fairplay. The Dacia Cup family is where I learned that a handshake and your colleagues’ respect can be more valuable than a trophy at the end of a rally – thanks Dragoș Popa for this moment at Iași Rally 2017.
I can’t wait to see what the future brings!
1. Rally di Roma Capitale – our ERC debut
THE 2019 highlight. Last on my 15-post series, but first in my racing heart and soul. 2019 will remain the year me and Diana wrote another page of motorsport history, when we became the first Romanian ladies crew to ever compete in FIA ERC. Not only did we make our debut at this highly-competitive level, but we won the most points in the ERC Ladies Trophy at Rally di Roma Capitale.
It was definitely the best decision I took for myself this season: it was hard, it was challenging, I even borrowed some money to make it. The support we received was unbelievable – from sponsors, friends, family or rally colleagues – everybody helped us get here. Motorsport is a team sport, even though the crew – as one – is alone in the race car.
This was truly a life changing experience and the main reason I decided to bungee jump without a safety rope and sell Sean D’Or. I need to work my way forward and continue pushing, continue competing with & learning from the best – I will race again in the ERC 2020. So I am looking for sponsors and opportunities to upgrade to a R2 spec race car and carry on following my dream: the first ERC Ladies Trophy for Romania.
The video below is a different kind of rally story. It is a memory…a feeling hard to explain. Enjoy and dream big for 2020 and beyond!