Ivana Cetinch


Thank you for this opportunity to let our readers get to know you and congratulations on your success at the recent Rotax Senior Max Class. For those who don’t know, tell us a little about yourself?  Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity. I am 19 years old and I am currently studying Bcom Law at the University of Pretoria. I went to St Mary’s School, Waverley and I have a twin sister, Marisa, and although we are very different, we are extremely close and get along very well.

We are very lucky to have such supportive parents and I am fortunate to be able to work towards achieving the degree I want as well as have the opportunity to race all over the country with my dad, who is also my mechanic, together with Innocent Moyo. I am part of the BirelART team, run by Neil Curtis and Leeroy Poulter.

What’s your latest racing accomplishment thus far? I have not won any championship titles yet but currently I am running fourth in the Rotax Senior Max national championship and I am excited for the final leg of the nationals because it is at my home-track.

What is the highlight of your racing career? I would say that my highlight was going to Lonato, Italy, in 2013 to compete in the ROK World Finals in the Rok Cup class. I unfortunately didn’t have very good luck and didn’t manage to complete the prefinal to make it into the final race, but it was definitely an amazing experience and I hope to go back there soon.

At what age did you start racing and where does your passion for the sport come from? I started racing karts in 2012, the year I turned sixteen. This may seem like a young age but most of the people I race with have been racing since they were small. This made it quite challenging for me because I was competing against people who had many more years of experience than me, so I have been playing  ‘catch-up’ to make up for the years that I had missed.

My dad and I spent many days at the track, trying to get ‘racing fit’ as well as trying to learn the kart and racing techniques. My dad as well as his dad both raced karts when they were younger, so I suppose that the racing had always been in my family’s blood. My dad tried to expose me to racing when I was about 8 years old but I refused and chose rather to ride horses. In 2011, I had the opportunity to watch the Monaco Formula 1 Grand Prix, and when I got back to South Africa, I decided that I really wanted to start racing…and that’s when it all started.

Three lady karters, (from left) Shannon Jackson, Ivana Cetinich and Fabienne Lanz, may have made motorsport history when they filled the podium at Vereeniging’s Senior Max kart races.

What advice do you have for aspiring drivers? My advice for you is to stay motivated and keep pushing to reach your goals. Don’t give up in early days because motorsport is a sport that takes time before one can be competitive because, age isn’t necessarily an important factor, but rather your experience, mental and physical state play a bigger role. I have been racing for four years now, and only more recently has my pace improved and I have become a competitor to contend with. Another piece of advice that I could give is that, although some people think we just ‘sit there’, this is far from true.

Karting is very physical and both cardio fitness and strength are very important, so extra training helps. If a driver is fit and strong you can focus on your driving and you will make less errors if not too tired during the race. It is also good to keep a clear mind and if you’re feeling frustrated, don’t try too hard or over-think things (a female trait) as it will not make you go quicker…trust me.

In your spare time what would we find Ivana doing? I am often trying to juggle my studies, racing, social activities as well as gym so there isn’t always a lot of time for extra things. I do enjoy my degree so the work isn’t exactly tedious and the racing gives me break from all the stress. Fortunately, my boyfriend, Nathan, also races karts so the social side can be incorporated into the racing and he understands the time constraints from this sport.

My friends are very understanding of my racing and often come to support me, so I see them there. During the week, I stay at res so I generally spend my spare time hanging out with friends and eating (as all students enjoy doing). I also enjoy exercising and going to the gym with Marisa.

What is left on your list of motoring goals? I hope to finish a championship with a podium finish, a top three placing, and maybe one day, I will move onto main circuit racing but for now I’m really enjoying the karting.

What has been your favorite car to drive on and of the track? So far, I have only driven karts so on the track, I would say my favourite class to drive in is the DD2 125 two-speed. Off the track, I would say that my favourite car to drive is my mom’s Porsche Cayman GTS…when she let’s me.

What are your main challenges as a female driver? I would say that there are physical and mental challenges as a female driver. Mentally, it can be quite frustrating because people automatically assume that you will be slower because you are a girl, and motorsport tends to be dominated by male competitors. It can be annoying when I hear the comment; ‘you’re quick for a girl.’ However, I never let myself use my gender as an excuse when I am struggling to find pace, I rather work on improving my driving or the setup on the kart. It can also be frustrating on the track because most boys don’t want to be beaten by a girl and tend to sometimes be more aggressive towards you on the track; yet some boys are more polite which works in my favour.

Physically, the challenges aren’t exactly the same as other sports but my strength, height and weight can create problems. Because I am very short, even by female standards, and I generally weigh less than my fellow male competitors, I have to carry a lot of extra lead on the kart in order to reach the minimum required weight. This makes the kart harder to drive because it gets quite heavy on my arms. I train a lot at gym to help this, and there already has been a dramatic improvement since my first year in karts.

Who or what has been your inspiration & how has this guided you throughout your career?  My inspiration has been my dad because we do this sport together and he mechanics for me. We share special time together while racing. He is very helpful and always gets my mind right when I’m feeling stressed or frustrated. His personality is perfect for this kind of sport and he is very patient with me and puts in all the effort he possibly can to make sure I am quick and that I am enjoying the racing.

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