PALMETTO, Fla. – Argentine Nicolas Dapero grew up in Buenos Aires in a family that had no auto racing background. But with help from fellow countryman Ricardo Juncos and the Juncos Racing driver development program, the 18-year-old will make his debut in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires this season. Learn how a family friend started the young Dapero on the auto racing path, what his expectations are for 2016 (and 2017!) and how he gives back to needy families in his home country.
What first got you interested in karting? How did you get into racing?
I wanted to do motocross, racing dirt bikes, but my father didn’t let me because he thought it was too dangerous. A friend of my sister’s raced karts and I asked how to do that. It was hard at first, because no one in my family raced so they didn’t know anything about the sport but the family of my sister’s friend helped them. My family has really helped me and supported me.
I started karting when I was 11 years old, on the same team as my sister’s friend. At first it was just something fun to do on the weekends, but then we decided to do it more seriously. I tested a lot that first year and then the next year, started racing.
Take us through your racing career to date.
In 2012, I raced in the ROTAX of Buenos Aires, along with two smaller karting championships so I was racing every weekend to try and learn as much as I could. The next year I raced in Argentina and some in the U.S. and in Europe to get more experience. In 2014, I won the ROTAX Argentina Championship. I also started in formula cars that year, and for me that was the beginning. I wanted to learn more and to go to a better formula series so we started in the Formula Renault 2.0 series in Argentina. It wasn’t that competitive, and we decided to go to the Formula 3 series in Brazil. We did a lot of testing in the F3 car and I learned a lot.
What got you interested in the Mazda Road to Indy and the Pro Mazda series?
When I did Formula Renault we decided to go to either Europe or to the U.S. to get more experience before going to F3. My manager knew Ricardo Juncos so we looked at Pro Mazda and the Mazda Road to Indy. We decided that it was a good idea because Europe was so expensive. We tested in the Pro Mazda car for the whole year that I was doing F3.
We decided to go to Pro Mazda with the idea that one day we’ll be in IndyCar. That is the goal. We take this very seriously because the Pro Mazda championship is very serious. If you don’t do the Mazda Road to Indy, it’s very hard to get into IndyCar.
What are your expectations for 2016?
I want to learn a lot, get a lot of experience and be as quick as I can. Juncos Racing is the best and we have a really good relationship. Then in 2017, I will go for the championship.
Are you looking forward to living in the U.S.?
We used to come to America for holidays. I will move to Florida starting in March, before the season starts. I know the country pretty well and I’m used to it.
What kind of activities do you like to do away from the race car?
I work with TECHO, an organization working to fight poverty in Argentina. They support youth volunteers in helping families in need. We work alongside the families, helping them to build houses.
What is your favorite race (or racetrack) and what is your best memory about that race/track?
I tested all over the U.S. last year and I know almost all the tracks that we’ll race on. The one I prefer the most is Mid-Ohio. It’s a tough track with all the high-speed corners so that’s my favorite.
What do you do to relax?
In my free time, I like to play golf and spend time with my friends.