WORDS BY ADAM DICKINSON | IMAGES COURTESY OF IVAN PEKLIN
This is the second of two parts to this interview, The Pit Stop spoke to Ukrainian driver Ivan Peklin on his career and how his life has changed following the Russian invasion six months ago.
In part one, Ivan discussed the early days of the war and how he processed the realisation that he was now living in a warzone.
Out of all the obstacles in Ivan Peklin’s path from war-torn Kyiv to returning to the track, it was an unexpected impracticality that stopped his first step.
With his plans to compete in this season’s ADAC GT4 ruined, he initially focussed on keeping race-fit and training in his simulator at home. But even that was harder than anticipated.
“I wasn't driving on the simulator for a month, it's in my room in Kyiv,” he says. “When I started I’d hear the rockets and it was super scary.
“When you're wearing headphones you're afraid you won't hear that so for the first month I was driving with only one ear on.
“Then when it was a little bit calmer I could put on both headphones and be 100% focussed.”
But Peklin’s been overcoming obstacles big and small for much longer than just the last six months.
He made the decision to switch to GT racing at the end of 2021 and had a seat locked down for a full season of the International GT Open Cup.
But in motorsport nothing’s ever truly locked down, as his experience shows. Racing with Jordan Pepper for Team Lazarus, the pair were in joint lead of the championship after the opening round and looking good for the season.
That turned out to be Peklin’s penultimate race of the season though, as financial problems forced the team to abandon the season. This season they’re back with just two drivers in Italian GT, and a ‘coming soon’ website.
Meanwhile Peklin had just a solitary round of Italian GT to mark the rest of this season, and was set to return for a full GT4 season in Germany before the Russian invasion.
Before all of that, his first dream was to be an F1 world champion, and he even had a positive first season out of karts in 2020 French Formula 4.
He took a win and podium early in the season but was unable to build on that, eventually finishing tenth and well behind championship winner and current F2 driver Ayumu Iwasa.
Standing 186cm tall and weighing in at 75kg, Peklin’s not the standard build for a formula racer and he estimated he was losing up to 3kph on straights in the F4 car just due to his physique.
But that, coupled with budgetary constraints making a move up to F3 extremely difficult, persuaded him to pivot his focus for 2021 and he’s not looked back since.
“We were looking around thought let's try GTs,” he says. “I went to a test, I’d never driven one before and I was amazed, it's faster than F4 and you have to do a lot more stuff.
“You have pitstops, and driver changes so it was a lot harder, F4 is almost karting because you have three pedals and gear shift and the steering whereas in GT you have to understand the car a lot more.
“It's very very interesting and with my budget and with my driving style I have a lot more chance to shine in GT than in the formulas and I'm happy with that.”
That’s not to say his ambitions have dropped though: “I would like to win do the big four - Le Mans, Nurburgring, Spa and Daytona and of course the ultimate goal is to race in the hypercar class in Le Mans and win.”
He’s got it all planned out too. GT3s can compete WEC and Le Mans from 2024 and by then he also hopes to have experience driving in the LMP2 class.
But while he’s laid the path out in his mind, he’s also stresses he’s taking it one step at a time: “We’re in the middle of this season, most of the race seats are taken but we're looking for different opportunities and I have some.
“I don't want to say yet but I’ll reveal when I sign the contract, first I have to do well this year, and then during the winter break we'll see what opportunities we have for 2023, hopefully it'll be GT3, but the first step is to do well this season and then move forward.”
From everything he’s talked about though, moving forward shouldn’t be a problem. Peklin’s been through perhaps more than anyone else this season to try and get his career back on track, and if he can race with even half the resilience he’s shown already, we should be seeing the Ukrainian flag flying high above a podium before the year is out.