Enzo Trulli: the Japanese way to professional Motorsport

Columns: Interview
The 18-year-old scored his first double win in Super Formula Lights at Fuji last weekend. Stable presence in the Top 5, Enzo has found an excellent feeling with the Dallara 320 and aims to become a professional in Japan: he told us about his experience so far from home in this exclusive interview. (fm)

First, tell us about the last weekend, how was it at Fuji?
«The first qualifying went very well, we only have 2 at most 3 laps available to set the time in 10 minutes but as soon as I entered I realized I had a good feeling with the car and I was calm. I tried to put in a good lap and thanks to that I was able to take pole for race 1, in qualifying two I changed the set-up but it wasn't a good idea, the car was very nervous and I only managed to get the 5th fastest time. Race 1 was fantastic: after a good start, I didn't push too much in the first laps but as soon as I saw that the rival behind was losing a bit, I immediately pushed two laps to put a gap and I did it, the car was very good and the pace was fantastic so much so that I even managed to set the fastest lap on the last lap (the 21st) fighting with the first two because I had the tires from race 1 against the others who had fresher tyres, but I did my race and the pace was good. I won race 3: it went very well, I knew I had a small advantage in the first 5 laps in fact even there I immediately tried to create a gap with those chasing me and then I kept my pace without making any mistakes. A really nice weekend and I hope to have more like this!»

What brought you to Japan by opting for Super Formula Lights? Are Super Formula Lights and Super Formula in all respects the counterparts of the F3 and F2 that we have here in Europe? What are the differences?
«Japan for motorsport has always been a very important pole with the presence of very large manufacturers, moreover, in recent years in Europe motorsport has increasingly become a business while in Japan the mentality is more to create a winning team: this is why we came here because there is more chance of becoming a professional and the races are fantastic on top of that.»

In 2022 you raced in F3 with Carlin, probably suffering from the fact that it's a category where there aren't many tests: what do you think of Formula 3 and above all what would you have liked to find that instead you didn't find in that Championship which in fact should be the watershed between the simple "moving from kart to car" and "things getting serious"?
«Last year was terrible for me, I was called up at the last minute to race in FIA F3 and furthermore, before the first race I had only done 4 days of testing, two of which in non-optimal weather conditions. Then, I think FIA F3 is a category where it's worth racing only with the best teams, be prepared and you have to do test days before and during the season like everyone does, so if you find yourself not having the budget to do it, it almost doesn't make sense to do F3 because track time is almost zero. You arrive, you race just 45 minutes of practice in different track conditions from those you will have in qualifying so you have to be prepared. I think that one thing that is missing in that championship is the track time, if you look at F1 they have three one-hour free practice sessions before qualifying, in the junior categories only one for 45 minutes. »

Speaking of the options facing a 15-year-old today: you who have been there, what do you think of the F4 and the Regional? Based on what you have seen and experienced in the category, how formative do you think it is?
«I think a little bit of F4 is necessary because it still gives you the basis for the higher categories but I also think that you shouldn't focus too much time because it's quite different from the real cars. For the Regional I'm not in a position to judge because I've never driven one so I don't know but looking at the times and the difference even with the Euroformula I think it's a car similar to Formula 4, just a little bigger and a little heavier. Based on the experience gained, I think that the Dallara 320 is the best car at the moment to learn to drive but above all also to learn the set up because it has extremely powerful aerodynamics and making a mechanical and aerodynamic set up of this car is not easy, in the last year I have really improved a lot and I really understood how a real racing car works and this has helped me to improve my decisions and performance. Furthermore, it's not easy to drive and finding the limit isn't simple, because the speed you can carry around corners is impressive and superior to many categories, thanks also to the weight. It's a very light car and doesn't have a lot of horsepower so the cornering speed is impressive »

It's impossible not to talk about safety, given some recent tragic events (Van't Hoff's accident at SPA), but more generally thinking of the fact that very often in F4 you literally get hit and miss and there's no shortage of accidents: is karting training enough in your opinion? Or, broadening the theme: what do you think is the age - without thinking about the regulations - in which a boy is mature enough to drive a 260 km/h car?
«Unfortunately this sport can give us tragic news like that of Dilano a few weeks ago. Honestly, when I saw the news it was a shock to me, I didn't believe it because I remember the Formula 4 championship we spent together and it seemed almost impossible that a boy a little older than me, with whom I raced together, died in that way, and it took me a while before I digested this thing and I send my sincere condolences to his family and loved ones. I think karting is not the problem, and that it teaches you enough about taking risks, racing wheel to wheel. I think it's one of the best things there is and that excites everyone, especially if it's done by drivers who know how to race and who know when to take risks and when not to, but accidents often happen because maybe someone exaggerates and loses his head and tries to jump into places where there's no space but it's part of the game. Other accidents, like the one a few weeks ago at Spa instead, happen because wrong decisions are made, racing in those conditions with more than 30 cars was just absurd, when it rains and there's a lot of water you literally can't see anything ahead, and you often see the car when it's too late. For me it was a huge mistake to continue the race and I hope people realize it and learn from this serious mistake because things like this can't happen again. As for the right age to get into a car, I think it's around 16: this obviously depends from person to person, however, you also need to understand if the boy is mature enough to understand the dangers and seriousness that driving a car requires. »

What do you think will encourage drivers to do a few more years in karting – perhaps competing one or more seasons in KZ – before switching to cars?
«It's hard for me to say, given that I've never driven a KZ and when I went by car I didn't have any particular problems. I think that again, it depends from person to person.

Now tell us about Japan: your Team, your aspirations, your life in a country so different from ours. How often do you return to Italy? You live alone? What do you like about this country and what do you find difficult to adapt to instead? Did you learn some Japanese language?
«The life experience I am having here is one of the best even if it is not easy and more difficult than I expected. The team is very professional and they race to win even if there is a different mentality than in Europe and they also have their own culture. It's still a bit difficult for me to adapt because when there's something wrong I get right there and I always try to find new solutions and try as many things as possible in the shortest time possible so as not to waste time but sometimes they don't agree and they tell me to don't worry, which I understand because they have more experience than me and know the car better, even if they would like to try new things to improve the car. In the last race, however, the feeling improved and I'm adapting more and more to the car and their culture. This year I haven't been to Japan all the time, because the first race was in May, but I've been in Tokyo since the second round and so to date I've been there for about two months. Unfortunately I was mainly alone, it was quite difficult because I don't know many people and I don't know the place either, Tokyo is huge, I mainly concentrated on training and getting ready for the next race. But the last two weeks have been very nice, my brother and a dear friend of mine came to see me and stayed here with me for ten days, we had a lot of fun, we visited beautiful places around here, overall so I'm very happy with this experience. It remains difficult for me to adapt to Japanese culture and their ways of doing, they are very different from Europe and the places I come from, so it is something I am working on. Gradually it's getting better and better."

Japan was for many the turning point towards a paid, remunerative and satisfying professionalism as an alternative to F1 obsession. Lotterer, Alex Palou, Liam Lawson. What is particularly educational about this sporting universe compared to the more classic FIA 'official' junior path?
«I think the car is one of the main reasons, the Super Formula is, in my opinion, the best car to prepare for Formula 1 because the aerodynamics and power are very similar to Formula 1 as well as the behavior of the car and its characteristics and I think this is the main reason why Red Bull put Lawson on this car and in this category because in any case racing in Japan, against all Japanese professionals and drivers, is not at all easy for those who come from outside, because the local drivers know the tracks very well and thanks to the fact that they are native speakers they work at a top level with the engineers.»

Let’s close it with your plans: short, medium and long term. Clearly starting from 2023 and the second part of the Championship you are taking part in.
«The main objective this year is to learn all the tracks and have the opportunity to participate in the Super Formula rookie tests at the end of the year and, very difficult, maybe have the opportunity to race for Toyota in Super Formula next year. My medium-term goals are to sign with Toyota and become a professional driver in the next two years. Finally, my long-term goals are to race in Super Formula and Super GT as a professional. Finally, I would like to land in the WEC as well as in Super Formula, in such a way as to not only be in Japan but also return to compete in the European and World most famous circuits.»

Created by: fmarangon2 - 20/07/23

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