YACADEMY Winter Series: how to become a Pro

- Focus
Based in Florida, the YACademy created by former driver Yacaman became a standard in training at the track for youngsters who switch from karts to single seater

After a long career in motorsports Gustavo Yacaman decided to take a break, tired of the struggle of finding sponsors, a team to race with, and putting a racing program together, became more interested in business. He started a business doing exclusive super car track days. Once in a while open wheel teams joined these track-days to do some testing and he slowly started talking to them, understanding what they needed in their pre season. It later evolved in a series events to the point where today they host over 20 days of testing for all North American Open Wheel cars, with the support of basically every team in the paddock, and every driver. If you are racing Formula Cars in North America, you have a 99% chance of testing at the YACademy Winter Series Events.

« After understanding that young drivers from karting where really struggling in F4, specially at the beginning of the season, I decided to start a two round, 6 race Winter Series Championship for them. Where we do a lot of driver coaching with all of them, not just on how to drive their cars to go faster, but most importantly, how to go about a Formula Car weekend which is completely different to karting. How to do standing starts, how to qualify, safety car procedures, post race interviews and even opening and spraying champagne bottles! The first podium we ever had, none of the kids knew how to open it and shake it! So we had to do a 101 on champagne as well!»

I am trying to bring all the experience (LMP2 prototypes, Le Mans 24 hours, Sebring 12 hours, Daytona 24 hours and Petite Le Mans. As well as for sure what was my favorite most enjoyable year in Motorsports when I ran the WEC championship) that I learned over more than 20 years of racing. Having raced in amazing championships like FIA WEC, IMSA, Indy Lights, Formula 3, Formula BMW, Blancpain GT, and many others, I was able to learn a lot about the organization and the things they did that I thought were good and bad, take the good, leave the bad, and make an awesome championship. This is a good chance to ask an American player what’s the differences in junior racing between USA and the rest of the world.

«Well, the rest of the world is hard to compare, so let’s compare USA vs. Europe. First thing is, our tracks in USA are similar to those in UK, that are very unforgiving. But very different to the rest of Europe because we don’t have massive run off areas, or gigantic sand traps. So, if a driver makes a mistake while pushing hard, he is most likely going to hit something or go off and spin into the grass. If you ask any European driver what they like most from American tracks is that. Less margin for error. So for sure, to learn on is much more challenging, and when kids from America go to Europe, they feel a lot less scared to push the limits there. The competition side, of course Europe is the pinnacle. I am not going to sit here on this interview and lie to you and tell you how America is so much better. YET, Europe is full of politics, and once you leave the F4 level if you don’t have a lot of money, you won’t make it anywhere. In America, things at a lower level like F4 are similar, or even maybe a bit more expensive than Europe, but after and USF2000, Indy Pro 2000 and Indy Lights level, the price is a lot less than in Europe.
This is because team personal, hotel and travel is very expensive in USA compared to Europe. Also, there is a scholarship price to the champion of each class to move to the next level. This in Europe does not exist. We have seen how drivers have gone from Winning USF2000, to win Indy Pro 2000 and move to Indy Lights, win that as well and make it to Indycar with 0 dollars, other than the money that comes from the scholarship that is in place thanks to Andersen Promotions and Cooper tires. This in Europe does not happen. I enjoyed my time racing in Europe for sure. The competition is like no other, the limit, and the professionalism of everything in Europe is the standard for the rest of the world. BUT, you are very secluded to your team, since is SO professional, it leaves very little room for enjoyment. What I like about American racing is how the paddock is way more relaxed and social. In Europe I felt like I was walking on eggshells, just very strict. In America, you can relax a bit, and enjoy the moment and what you are doing. This doesn’t mean that things don’t get taken seriously in America. When the time comes to focus, and be professional at some teams is just like in Europe.»

You sit 13 years boys into a single seater: picture the Pros and Cons « Karting has become stupidly expensive and out of control. Parents spending crazy money on moving their kids/family to Italy at a really young age, homeschooling the kids for karting, and much more. This for me is too much. We have seen fantastic karting drivers like David Fore, Alessandro Manetti, Sergio Jimenez and most recently even Daniel Formal and Jordan Lennox. All of them fantastic over all drivers, but lacked the funds, or political connections to move up into cars and got stuck in karting. This is something, sadly as a young driver you need to avoid. You do not want to be a professional karting driver if your goal is to move to Formula Cars. The latest example is Andrea Kimi Antonelli. As soon as he turned 15, he jumped in an F4 so the sooner you start testing the better. The cons are that Karting is still a great school. If a driver started karting later in their life, I would for sure prioritize some karting over formula car testing/racing. It’s cheaper to crash a kart while learning than a formula car. BUT, now, since kids are able to race in junior as young as 11/12 years old, one or two years in junior class coming from 3-5 years of cadet racing is more than enough to learn what you need to learn in karting and is time to go into cars.»
In 2022 Yacademy Winter Series has a series of tests and races. Starting with testing at Sebring January 24/25, followed by Homestead on the 27th 28th with then the Winter Series Races taking place on February 8/9 at Sebring and 15/16 at Homestead. To find more about the Yacademy Winter Series visit www.Yacademywinterseries.com and get in touch with Gustavo. He will help you find a race team to participate.

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