By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
Many drivers in motorsport are looking to move up the open wheel racing ladder. In this article series, we’ll take a look at several drivers that we believe should be in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires.
The next driver on our list is Tim de Silva. He has raced in Pacific F2000 the last two seasons, winning the 2016 championship before the final race weekend of the season at Auto Club Speedway.
In 2015, de Silva drove in four races in Pacific F2000, and in two of those races, he earned pole and fastest lap on his way to victory. This year, he won eight races, ten poles and nine fastest laps, all out of 12 races.
“It was obviously a very successful year for me, and I think it’s important to step back when things go that well at any level of motorsport when you’re winning that much, just to kind of look at what you did, recognize how lucky you were and try to remember that feeling and what it felt like to step in the car because that’s the kind of feeling you want to translate everywhere,” de Silva said.
But how did he get his start in racing?
“I kind of grew up driving karts with my dad,” de Silva said. “My racing experience has very much been always just driving with him and I was racing a lot of vintage stuff since I was pretty young and in 2014 he decided to run the SCCA runoffs. So, he ran Pacific F2000 to kind of warm up and prep for that and he had a lot of fun running with Dave Freitas Racing and so the next year he was like ‘Hey, why don’t we try a couple of races and see what its like?’ And so we ran at Laguna and that obviously went pretty well and that was in 2015.”
“I decided that I was going to do my best to run all the races in Pacific F2000 in 2016 but the big variable for me was that I wasn’t willing to step away from school for that, I wanted to be able to do both so it was a little tough to make sure I was able to make all the races but I’m glad I did and it was a very successful year,” de Silva said.
De Silva credits team owner Dave Freitas and driver coach Robert Podlesni for his success this year.
“[They] are two close friends of mine that I’ve known for years and years so when you’re working with guys you know really well and you’re comfortable with them it really kind of helps the communication process and it makes the whole team effort a lot easier.” he added.
It was a double victory for the de Silva family as Tim’s dad, Harindra, won the Masters Class in Pacific F2000 for drivers older than 50 years old. However it was the younger de Silva that reaped the rewards of winning the Pacific F2000 championship by testing for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.
“I drove with Cape Motorsports with the old car, they had a new car but it was kind of just out of the box and for me I felt more comfortable just stepping into something in terms of gauging my pace and my level of comfort it would be good to step into a car that was clearly very fast last year,” de Silva said.
“It was a lot of fun, I learned a lot, the track was awesome, I had never been to Indy and the track was just unbelievable, the whole infrastructure, you see it on TV but it’s hard to express in words. The road course that we ran is so smooth, it’s so flowing, it’s high speed but it’s got some nice corners, it was really a lot of fun from that standpoint.”
One of the things that might intimidate a first time tester in the Mazda Road to Indy is working with a team that has won the last six USF2000 championships in a row.
“I definitely learned a lot from those guys, they’re very successful so getting to just see how they do things differently was really really informative.” de Silva said. “What made it even more productive for me was that the car that we run on the west coast in Pacific F2000 is pretty similar to what they run so I can kind of see what they did differently from what I did this whole year and think about ways I can improve.
“Overall it was a pretty successful test, I wasn’t as quick as I would’ve liked but I learned a lot, I got comfortable with the car and I enjoyed working with those guys so overall it was a great experience, I’m thankful that they let me work with them.”
However, where does Tim de Silva see himself in motorsports and did he see himself ever trying out a career in open wheel racing or in sports cars?
“To be honest, before this year I never thought of a career in motorsports and then before a few months ago I never thought of a career in anything but IndyCar and open wheel racing, but […] getting to meet some guys who are involved in sports car stuff was really helpful because it gave me a little bit of exposure to the other side of the industry,” de Silva said.
“Before, it was just open wheel racing but I didn’t realize that there were so many other avenues out there but I think what I learned from all those guys is that one of the common denominators is they all ran either USF2000 or Pro Mazda, they all did a couple of years in the MRTI, that’s definitely something I’d like to do. Obviously, IndyCar would be the ultimate goal but I think doing a couple of years in the MRTI, that’s the short term goal because I’ll learn a lot, I’ll improve, I’ll meet people and after a year or two we’ll see what opportunities open up.”
The next on track opportunity for de Silva will be at the Mazda Road to Indy shootout at Laguna Seca on December 7th and 8th.