Girl Speed Racer
By Angela Casco
What were you doing when you were 14 years old? While others were occupied with school or attempting to get out of it, Tara Laconico was focused on being a racing prodigy.
Her interest in the sport started one summer while playing soccer. “Coincidentally, there was a small kart race track beside the soccer field,” the teen tells Philippine Panorama. “My dad and I checked it out and found that there was a class for aspiring drivers.” Tara eventually joined, even winning the mini-race held at the end of it. The rest, as they say, is history.
At just 12 years old, two years after she officially started racing, Tara came in fourth at the Total Max Asia Championship. The same year, she achieved one of her biggest feats yet by qualifying 27th in the world out of more than 7,000 racers from 30 countries and finishing 17th overall among a pool of 16 and under racers at the Sodi World Series in Lignano, Italy. This made her the youngest and highest-placing girl in the competition.
At age 13, she competed at the Petron Super Series ROK Grand Prix and placed second, also in the 16 and under category, which qualified her to race at the upcoming ROK Supefinal in Lonato, Italy this October.
At 14, she was chosen as one of the three drivers of the Phoenix Petroleum Young Drivers’ Program in the Tuason Racing Formula V1 Championship. It marked the first time she drove a race car on a track.
These accolades, however, did not just come from pure talent. “I work really hard on and off the track,” says the racing prodigy, sharing how focused she is on making her dream come true. “Nothing in racing itself is easy. Anything outside the track is the easiest.”
Racing, as Tara describes it, can be an “unforgiving sport” of highs and lows, both physically and mentally, and she finds recovering from a loss to be particularly difficult. “There is no hiding from the stopwatch as you are racing against yourself or your referenced time,” she says. “Racing is all about perfection so the driver who makes the fewest mistakes in a race while getting the most out of tires, chassis, and engine will win the race.”
It can be pretty dangerous, too, as the teen recalls how she once sustained injuries while racing. “In Clark, I was forced into a wall by another racer in a high speed chicane or extra turn, which broke my wrist and my kart,” she says. “I had to wear a cast for two weeks and I was not able to drive for a month, which honestly hurt me more than the physical injury.”
But Tara never allows fear of injuries or even speed to get to her. “We are trained and we are used to the speed, so even though we go over 100 kilometers per hour, it is not scary,” she says. “When you are in a race, you are also deeply focused on variables like grip, time, breaking points, apex, throttle, exit, among others, so there is no time to think about the danger.”
Her genuine love for the sport has also kept the teen going, despite all the difficulties. “I love a lot of things about the sport—the thrill of speed, racing against fellow drivers (then being friends after the competition), the smell of gasoline, and the sound of engines roaring,” she beams. “The adrenaline rush is something else. You can’t find it anywhere else.”
While already with a promising career at such a young age, the youngster said she hopes to move up the so-called “racing ladder” by building her resume further with more wins in tournaments. She adds that she hopes to compete on the same level as some of her favorite racers, too, like five-time Formula 1 world champion, Lewis Hamilton, whom she has had the privilege to meet at the 2018 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix.
At the moment, Tara says she is preparing for her appearances in a few upcoming competitions: the ROK GP Superfinal in Lonato, Italy on October, FIA Motosports Games in Rome, and Tuason Racing Formula V1 Endurance Race in Clark, Pampanga in November.
The next goal in sight, however, would be to take her racing to the next level—Formula 4. “I hope to be racing in Formula 4 by the time I am 15,” she says. “That will lead me closer to my dream of racing Formula 1 someday.”