Young black racing driver from Brazil makes waves in auto racing

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A young black driver on the racing circuits of Brazil has earned the nickname “Hamilton of the Favelas” and the popular prospect says he is inspired by the seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton to walk the same path on and off of Track.

Wallace Martins, who currently drives in the Formula Delta class, has been given the nickname from other drivers because of his similarities – in appearance and driving style – to Hamilton.

An endearing 18-year-old Martins doesn’t shy away from comparison and says one of his dreams is to emulate the Briton.

“I think he’s a very dedicated rider at what he does,” said Martins. “He wins one race and he’s already thinking about winning the next one.

“And then there is his story. He comes from a poor neighborhood and is black and is the only black driver in Formula 1. There are a lot of things in his story that are inspiring.”

Like Hamilton, who spoke of racism, the humble Martins faced a number of hurdles in his fledgling career.

He’s competing with people who have raced in the United States even though he’s never been outside of Brazil.

When he started out in the notoriously expensive car racing industry, he would run once and then sit the next two or three while his friends and family sold t-shirts and organized laps to collect enough. money to bring it back to the grid.

During the pandemic, he tested cars and worked as a mechanic in exchange for food for his family.

“None of this has been easy,” he told Reuters. “It’s getting a lot better, but it’s still not easy.”

Martins started kart racing at the age of 10 and after success moved on to Formula Vee and then to Formula Delta.

He has eight wins and 21 podiums from 44 career races, according to Driver DataBase, a motor racing website, and currently sits third in the Copa Yokohama, the trophy awarded to the best driver in the last three races of the season. .

The last race will take place on December 19 at Interlagos, the same circuit where F1 drivers will race this weekend.

Recent stories emphasizing Martins’ talent and struggles have helped attract sponsors and also shed light on his past as a poor black man in an expensive sport, but he knows how hard it is to break into F1. .

“Everyone you see [racing] has a sponsor and when you ask them about it, it turns out they’re the store owner’s son or something, ”Martins said, with no hint of bitterness. therefore an elite sport. “

Although Brazil is a hotbed for the sport, they haven’t had a top driver since Felipe Massa retired in 2017 and no drivers’ champions since Ayrton Senna in 1991.

To succeed, Martins would have to leave Brazil and then climb the ranks in Europe.

Although still a teenager, he is wise enough to know that even at this level his presence is symbolic.

“I think I will one day be a source of inspiration for young people, for diversity,” he said. “I feel like I am [breaking down barriers]. I hope that other young people like me can one day reach a higher level. “



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