Australia’s Ricky Capo is one of the country’s next generation of up-and-coming racers plotting a pathway all the way to the Formula 1 World Championship.
He’s achieved his first major career milestone, coming out on top in a thrilling season-long battle with Jon Collins to narrowly win the 2015 Australian Formula 3 Championship by just four points.
Capo headed into the final round of the championship at Wakefield Park behind Collins in the championship standings, and needed an almost faultless weekend to stand any chance of getting his hands on the crown.
Race 1 did not go to plan; he and Collins came together while battling for the lead, and the stewards gave Ricky a time penalty which dropped him to third. Undaunted, he bounced back to win Saturday’s second race, but still had it all to do over Sunday’s pair of longer (and higher points’ paying) races.
Race 3 saw Collins lead the majority of the race, fending off repeated attacks from Capo as the race wore on. On the final lap, Collins was baulked by lapped traffic, allowing Capo to seize the opportunity with a lunge around the outside of the final corner. The pair sped onto the main straight side-by-side, with Capo winning the sprint to the chequered flag by just 0.0183 seconds!
That put Capo in a narrow lead over Collins in the championship standings, with Collins now needing to win the final race in order to win the title for himself. Once again, he led from the off and had to contend with Capo’s attacks from behind. On Lap 10, Capo launched one more attack and took the lead, which he would never surrender. The title was his, a fitting end to one of the best seasons of open-wheel racing in Australian history.
With the biggest prize in Australian open-wheel racing now his, Capo now must set his sights on plotting his next step towards making it all the way to Formula 1. Perhaps one day he will emulate the achievements of his childhood hero, Michael Schumacher, by driving for Ferrari?
We spoke exclusively to Ricky in the latest installment of our ‘Up & Comers’ interview series.
|2009||Karting: Australian National Sprint Kart Championship – Junior Clubman|
|Karting: Steward Motors NZ Shifter Series – Formula Junior, 11th overall|
|2010||Karting: Mi Sedaap NZ Pro Kart Series (KF3 Class), 15th overall|
|Karting: CIK Trophy of New Zealand (KF3 Class), 7th overall|
|2011||Karting: CIK Stars of Karting – Pro Gearbox (KZ2 Class), 24th overall|
|2012||Karting: Kartsport NZ Sprint Championship (KZ2 Class), 7th overall|
|2013||Karting: SuperNationals XVII (KZ2 Class), 37th overall|
|Karting: ProKart Series (KZ2 Class), 19th overall|
|Karting: Kartsport NZ Sprint Championship (KZ2 Class), 4th overall|
|2014||Karting: Race of Stars (KZ2 Class), 19th overall|
|Australian F3: Modena Engineering Dallara F307 Mugen-Honda, 3 podiums, 4th overall|
|2015||Australian F3: Ricky Capo Racing Dallara F311 Mugen-Honda, 8 wins, 22 podiums, 1st overall|
How was your interest in motorsport sparked during your childhood?
My father owns a gearbox engineering company so I have been surrounded by motorsport my entire life. When I was seven years-old, my father bought me a go-kart and I loved it and knew straight away I wanted to make a career out of racing.
Who were your motorsport idols when you first became interested in racing? What was is about their character or achievements that you admired?
Michael Schumacher, because he was winning constantly when I was a child and because he was racing for Scuderia Ferrari. As I am half-Italian, I had no choice but to love Ferrari!
How influential was the support of your family when you started out in your racing career? What do you recall about your first experience behind the wheel of a kart?
My family are very supportive of my racing career and I owe everything to them. My father and I still compete together [in our family team] as we do not want to join a team at the moment so to this day my family remain very influential to me. My first experience driving a go-kart was at the carpark of my father’s engineering factory! It was very scary at first and I think I actually cried.
The formative years in karting are the best proving grounds to show if you might have what it takes to make it in the bigger leagues of racing. What was the most important skill you learned during your time racing in New Zealand and overseas, and what did you learn about yourself personally?
I learned the majority of what I now know about racing in go-karts, especially the KZ category so it was a very important stage of my life. Racing in Europe made me realise just how competitive and professional racing is worldwide and I learned what I needed to do to make a career out of racing and this raised my expectations of myself.
The traditional transition out of karting is into Formula Ford, but you made the jump straight into the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship in 2014. How did you find the transition from karts to open-wheel racing, and what was the biggest adaptation or learning experience for you?
Understanding the aerodynamics of Formula 3 was the biggest adaption from go-karting. Trusting the car and understanding that the faster I go the more downforce I have and therefore the faster I can go through a corner took a couple of test days to truly understand but I felt comfortable and confident at my first race which was a couple of weeks after testing.
How did you find the challenge of juggling the demands of completing your education while competing out on track? What advice do you give to other drivers who are currently facing this chapter in their lives?
It was difficult at times. Racing is a difficult sport to make a career out of so it was very important for me to get an education so I could find a career elsewhere. Even now I am studying full-time at university as I race Formula 3! Time management is the best advice I can give to other drivers who are currently studying.
You finished fourth in your maiden year of the championship, never finishing outside the top-six in each race you started. Towards the end of the season, you started to be a regular podium threat and achieved your first two rostrum visits at Phillip Island, following this up with another podium at Sydney Motorsport Park. What did those achievements mean to you furthering your motorsport ambitions?
It proved we were making good progress however it was a frustrating season at times as we were competing in an F307 car as opposed to an F311 car which we used this season, so it was difficult to compete against the newer technology!
This year saw you embroiled in an incredibly close battle with Jon Collins for the championship, which – despite Collins claiming more victories – you won with a complete rout in the final round of the season at Wakefield Park. What were the highlights of your season in your rivalry with Collins?
Our battles at Sandown Raceway, Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit and Wakefield Park were definitely the highlights for me as the competition was very close there!
How has your success influenced the next stages of your motorsport career? Are you planning to compete in Formula 3 championships overseas such as in Japan or Europe to boost your international profile, or would you prefer to focus on a domestic-level career with a pathway to the V8 Supercars Championship?
Now that I have won the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship I hope opportunities will come my way for racing in 2016. At the moment I am interested in a handful of categories so my goal now is to choose the best category where I will continue learning and developing as a driver.
My goal will always be to race Formula 1 but even making a career out of racing would be a success. I do not have a plotted pathway as of yet because I have not chosen a category to compete in for 2016, however my goal is to move and race in Europe in the future.
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