Under the Visor: Marta Garcia

After just one season of W Series, the name Marta Garcia is already synonymous with speed and skill – but the 19-year-old Spaniard insists that her fans have seen only the very beginning of what she can ultimately achieve.

“Once, early on in my career, I overheard a group of men saying, ‘She can’t win. She’s a girl.’ Well, along with every single W Series driver, I think I’ve proved that such statements aren’t only embarrassingly outdated – they’re also simply untrue. I feel like I was born to be a racing driver, regardless of my gender, and I’m only just warming up.”

Marta’s love of racing started at the tender age of six. She recalls, “I used to go karting with my father at that age. I just loved speed. Then, when I was nine, we went to a kart track together and we noticed a competition going on. We asked about it and the organisers told us about a karting school which they encouraged me to join. The guys at the school thought I was quite good and before too long they let me try a competition at the Circuito de Karting Fuente Alamo, in Murcia, Spain. That’s where my motorsport career began. That was in 2010.”

Marta admits to being influenced but not pressurised by her dad Francisco, an entrepreneur who currently owns a chain of personalised merchandise shops in Valencia. He bought his daughter her first kart – a black Alevin 64cc jobbie – when she was nine. She says, “Dad has always been a petrolhead. He used to race Vespas and when I was a little kid I remember him waking up at 5.00am to watch far-flung Formula 1 races. Racing is part of our family. My mum Paqui also loves it. One year, when I was young, I remember being very upset because my parents had only two tickets to go and watch the Grand Prix on the Valencia street circuit, so I had to stay at home. But my mum managed to get autographs from both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, and she presented them to me and my older sister Esther when she got home.

“She knew how much I loved racing but I’m not sure if she ever believed I would become a driver. In the end, my mum wants what’s best for me, and now she supports me, but in the beginning she was scared – and, even now, she can’t watch the start of my races.”

Up to the end of 2019, Marta had driven 40 car races – 31 Spanish Formula 4 Championship races, three North European Zone Formula 4 races, and of course six W Series races. In addition, in 2015, at just 14, she won not only the prestigious CIK-FIA Karting Academy but also the Trofeo delle Industrie, an even more illustrious karting competition which had previously been won by Formula 1 world champions Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. “Winning those competitions made me feel like I could really get somewhere,” she remembers. “They taught me a lot and gave me more confidence in myself.”

“Now, when I pull my helmet on, it’s like I’m happy to be alone with the adrenalin and the speed – it’s where I want to be. Somehow, everything else slips away.”

Despite the coolness of in-cockpit temperament she describes – and exudes – she admits that being a woman in motorsport can be tough. Nonetheless, she reckons that difficult environment has helped her. “I was P1 in a race a few years ago, in Spain, and a guy was P2. He really needed to win the race, so he conspired with the other drivers on his team to shunt me off the track so that I would lose position. The same thing happened when I was racing internationally. The boys would try to shunt me out of the way because they couldn’t bear to lose to a girl. I realised that I would have to learn to do the same back – not just to hold my position on track but off it too. I needed to do that for them to respect me. So I did it, and it worked.”

So does Marta have Formula 1 in her sights? “Of course I want to get to Formula 1 but it’s difficult because you need much more than good driving skills. You also need a lot of economic support. Money, in other words.” With that in mind, she has enrolled at the University Pompeu Fabra, in Barcelona, to study public relations “because you always need to have a second plan if the first one doesn’t work”.

So is life for Marta all work and no play? No. When she is not racing or studying, she enjoys spending time with her boyfriend Kirian, a 26-year-old mechanic. “When we don’t have races we try to be together and we love going to the beach, the cinema or just being at home watching Netflix,” she says. “We’re currently watching a series about a bank robbery.”

Marta is almost as devoted to her shih tzu dog Luna. She also loves shopping for clothes. And during the course of the 2019 W Series season, she made a new best friend in W Series driver Vicky Piria, 26, from Italy.

“Vicky and I got on really well from the beginning,” Marta says, “because we have similar personalities. Also, I speak Italian, which means we can communicate very easily. She’s like a big sister to me and she’s given me lots of good advice.”

Meanwhile, Esther, Marta’s real big sister, supports her but has not followed her into racing. The 22-year-old is a business studies student at Manchester University in the UK.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Marta was one of the stars of the inaugural W Series season, 2019, finishing fourth in the championship and winning the fourth race, in July, at Norisring, a tight circuit consisting of short straights and slow corners that require hard but precise braking. “I think my successes in karting taught me how to be quick under braking, and in slow corners and hairpins,” she says. “Now I just need to get better in fast corners too.” She may be right, but her consistency, season-long, was nonetheless impressive, especially for one so young. She scored points in all six W Series races, finishing third, fourth, sixth, first, ninth and eighth, in that order.

“W Series has been great for me,” she says. “It’s a wonderful opportunity. Without W Series, in fact, I probably wouldn’t have been able to race anything last year, and I wouldn’t therefore have been able to show what I can do. And I’m really looking forward to the 2020 season. It’s like everything in life: this time I know what to do, so I’ll be able to do it better. And I can’t wait to get back in the car and prove just that.”