Fearless racer Gosia Rdest has a motivational secret weapon in the form of her great-grandmother.
She credits 101-year-old Zivta with giving her the self-belief to beat the odds in a male-dominated sport and strive to reach the upper echelons of racing.
Gosia, 26, said: “My great-granny lived through both WW1 and WW2 in Poland and has been a huge inspiration to me, helping me to believe that it is possible to survive and achieve anything. I am very close to her and we have done everything together from playing football to cooking our favourite cucumber soup.
“Every time I get a trophy, I take it to her and she gives me a High Five. She has taught me to be happy, positive and live life to the full.”
“I feel so lucky that she is still alive to watch me race in W Series. She is a role model in so many ways. For instance, she keeps as fit as I do, riding her bike from village to village and using an outdoor gym. Even now she is living life to the fullest and has taught me about hunger for life.”
Gosia, an only child from Zyrardow, Poland, is also close to her mother Agnes, a florist, but admits to being “more of a Daddy’s girl”. Her father Christopher, who runs a medical waste disposal company, recognised his daughter’s sporting talent from an early age and the two often delighted in pitting themselves against one another.
“Even a nice walk along the beach on holiday would turn into dad saying: ‘Come on Gosia – run!’ and suddenly we’d be racing each other across the sand while mum would look on from the sun lounger,” said Gosia.
One day during a family shopping trip to Warsaw, Gosia’s dad suggested he and his adventurous 12-year-old daughter explore a nearby karting track. She recalled:
“We left mum in the shopping mall and went racing. I loved it from the first moment – truly fell in love – but I was also upset and angry because dad already knew how to brake and accelerate and that meant he was faster than me. After that I had one goal – to beat him.”
It didn’t take Gosia, who also grew up acting in musicals, long to fulfil her ambition – after five track visits she was in pole position. And by the age of 16 she was racing professionally, winning the Polish Karting Championship just two years later.
She said: “I had researched where to buy a kart and persuaded my dad to buy me one if I made a podium so there was no choice.”
While Gosia’s racing career was in its ascendancy, her mother had reservations. “I used to come home with bruises on my elbows and back and she would be worried, saying to my father: ‘What are you doing to our daughter? She isn’t a boy! I think it was tough for her but in the end she realised she couldn’t take me away from something that was giving me pure pleasure.”
Gosia’s love of racing quickly converted to some stunning wins including the 24 Hours of Dubai in 2018. She has also competed in British Formula 4, VW Scirocco R-Cup, Audi Sport TT Cup, ADAC TCR Germany and GT4 European Series.
She is used to fighting for a place on the grid but has also been forced to maintain her position off the track. Gosia said: “At the beginning of my career, the motorsport world was very closed – especially in Poland. When I started to do well I think there was some shock and probably jealousy. A father of a male racing driver my age once told me: ‘Your passion is like straw – it will burn out, so you’ll be better off if you don’t invest too much in it.’ I simply replied: ‘What is your point in even saying this?’
“And another well-known investor on the circuit told me: ‘You know, from the physical side it will require muscles and think about how that will look on you as a woman.’
Thankfully, I had a great mechanic who just told me to ignore. He said: ‘It’s BS about BS, Gosia. But you’ll have to be prepared for it.’
Sexist comments made Gosia even more determined to accelerate past her critics on every level and she began a punishing 6 times per week fitness routine that made her a serious contender for W Series selection.
She said: “It’s a turnaround that I was never expecting to happen. To get back into a single-seater car is a dream. When I first heard about W Series I was suspicious, thinking: ‘Is it real?’ It’s just amazing and bringing me closer to my dream of driving a DTM car in Formula 3.”
Gosia’s enthusiasm for racing is palpable as she talks at speeds which match her racing pace, pausing only occasionally to flick back her long blonde hair.
A combination of bubbly personality and in-depth knowledge of motor racing has secured her a co-hosting spot on a Polish motor show alongside occasional F1 commentary. Gosia, who owns a British racing green Mini Cooper and a Mercedes V Class, cites Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica as particular F1 heroes:
“Hamilton because he respected what he was given, seized the chance he received and keeps on improving on it. And Kubica because he was out but put himself back together again.”
Alongside driving and commentating, Gosia has also found time to complete a journalism masters degree and pursue a passion for singing. She said: “I love to sing folk songs with my great granny. Music is definitely a part of my life. Before each race I play two songs by Queen – the first is Killer Queen and the second is Don’t Stop Me Now.”
Judging by her commitment to W Series to date, Freddie Mercury’s lyrics seem poignantly placed.
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