Master and Speedster
Cali Express. From Kuala Lumpur to Kaufmann’s
Oscar Andres Tunjo is running ahead of schedule. Departing his native Colombia at a young age, he was tearing the kart tracks all over the world. At age 14 he picked up second place in the 2010 Formula BMW Asia series with a stunning maiden win over Sainz Jr in Singapore. For 2011 he is changing from Asian to European tracks and will race with mega-successful Josef Kaufmann Racing in the Formula Renault Euro Cup.
F1 weekly is pleased to present his journey so far. Enjoy the ride and the reading.
Q: You are 15-years old and have been around motorsports for 12 years, what got you hooked into this sport at the tender age of three?
A: My parents have always been working with car dealers, when I was nearly 2 years old I moved one of the cars and crashed it into a wall, so my parents gave me a go-kart for my 3rd Birthday, I jumped in the kart and since then start my racing career.
Q: Colombia has produced quite a few accomplished drivers; Montoya, Guerrero and Saavedra, are you satisfied with opportunities available in your country for young drivers to show case their talents?
A: I’m very happy and proud to represent my country all over the world, I have a lot of support from my fellow Colombians and this gives me a boost to push harder every day in my racing career to take our flag to the 1st step of podium.
Q: You have worked with Martin Hines, the Guru of karting world; how important was working and learning from him?
A: Martin is a very good friend of me and my family, he has helped us a lot during my racing career, I learn the competiveness from Martin and the way he works with his drivers, for me he is the best go kart driver of all times with his world titles in the 250cc category.
Q: What was the highlight of your karting career?
A: I have many good memories from karting, I made the pole position in the world finals at Easykart at age 11 in the 100cc category with special permission from Birel to compete as under age. I was in the top 5 of best drivers of world in KF3 category with MGM Birel Motorsport from Mauro Pozzi who is a great person.
Q: From Cali to Kuala Lumpur; what made you decide to move to Malaysia to start your single-seater career?
A: We stopped racing karts by middle of 2009 when we decided to move and begin testing Formula BMW in Malaysia with Meritus Racing, I have been living around the world with many countries, always in company of my manager and brother Gonzalo Tunjo, while my parents work hard in Colombia for me to be able to continue my racing career as we don’t have a lot of money.
Q: You placed second in the 2010 Formula BMW Asia championship, what were the highs and lows of the season?
A: My debut in Formula BMW Pacific at the F1 Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang, when I had the opportunity to met Mr. Bernie Ecclestone and he told me that F1 need a Latin American with talent who can be a different driver. That event I finished in the podium in front of F1, I had the visit of Mr. Eric Boullier who is the director of Lotus Renault F1 team, he has been following my carrer since then and that inspires me to work even harder to achieve my goals each time.
Q: Great battle with Carlos Sainz Jr to win your first race in Singapore; how much confidence did you gain scoring your maiden win?
A: I was waiting for my win a long time, and I think we deserved it with the team, after winning in Singapore I got more confidence and we had very good meetings in Japan and Macau where I was always at the front of the grid.
Q: How will you compare the street circuit of Singapore to Guia in Macau?
A: The Singapore circuit is great, especially when we qualified at night on Saturday, the atmosphere is amazing. One of the best events in F1 I believe, I was dreaming on winning there because it was in front of F1 and in 2009 I had the opportunity to assist with team to watch the F1 Grand Prix and F. BMW races.
The Grand Prix of Macau, it’s an amazing event if you compare with F1, because it’s the world Championship of Formula 3 and the best drivers in the world want to win the event. The circuit is incredible, I worked on simulator really hard and got the pole position point for the event which was really good for me as It was my 1st year there. It’s my favorite circuit so far as it’s very demanding on driving and you have to be focus every single second during the lap.
Dressed for success. On and off the track
Q: Your success made you ‘Sportsman of the Year’ in your country with an award from the President; what does this mean to you at such a young age?
A: I won the first award of Sportsman of the Year when I was 8 years old and won the Spanish karting championship, and know because I did a very good year in Formula BMW Pacific and the youngest to achieve this great result with 14 years old approved by FIA, it’s an honor for me to be elected for the award and it pays for the hard work from my family to keep me racing in the highest level in the world.
Q: You were based in Malaysia, very different environment from Latin America, how much of an adjustment and culture shock was that for you?
A: Malaysia, it’s a beautiful country, very organized and I had the opportunity to live there for 2 years, I have very good memories and friends in Malaysia, I had the opportunity to be with the Malaysian President and Prime minister.
In each country I live with my brother we do the same during the day, I have the fitness training each day 2 times 4 hours per day in total, I work on the simulator in the circuits I compete, we have a mental training routine as its very important for my career when you want to be at best level to compete.
Q: Have you developed a taste for spicy South Asian food and what is your favorite dish from that part of the world?
A: I quite like it now, I always eat with Peter Thompson, a great friend of mine and Meritus GP owner, he took me to eat spicy food and a dish call chicken Mackawala, after 2 years there you begin to like Asian food.
Q: Did you look at other series before deciding on Formula Renault Euro Cup?
A: Our plan was to compete in Formula BMW Pacific and jump to Formula BMW in Europe with one year experience in Asia, BMW Motorsports trusted me giving us a great opportunity to compete at a young age in Asia and the category was very good for young drivers to be with the F1 events, that’s why my manager got in contact with Joseff Kaufmann racing and we have build a great relationship with the team.
Q: Main difference between Formula BMW and Formula Renault machinery?
A: The car it’s a lot faster than the BMW, we have the paddle shift in the steering wheel, a lot more down force that you can feel in the corners and brake later than the F BMW, the new car it’s amazing, I’m loving it and I cannot wait for our first race in April.
Q: Depth of competition will be much greater on European tracks what are your goals for 2011?
A: My main goal in Europe it’s to be very competitive and fight for the championship this season, it’s not easy as there will be many good and experienced drivers like Robin Frinjs F. BMW Europe champion, Will Stevens, Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat, Come Ledogard and many more that will make this category one of the highest level and the one to watch in Europe this year.
Q: Where do you expect to see the biggest improvement in you as a racing driver at the end of this season?
A: I want to improve in my results, my main objective is to learn a lot during this year and to be able to fight for victories to take the Colombian flag to the 1st step of the podium.
Q: What made you decide to race with Josef Kaufmann Racing?
A: Kauffman Racing has a great history with a lot of experience, we tested for 2 days in Motorland and we have built a very strong relationship with the team. The environment is great and I feel at home. Josef knows a lot about setting the car, working with the driver and Lars is great with the data, most important is that they have passion for what they do and they want to win as much as I want this year and we will work hard to achieve our goal this season.
Q: Josef Kaufmann himself was a racing driver what do you want to learn most from his racing experience in your rookie year?
A: I want to learn from him many things as he has a lot of experience, setting the car, as it’s very important for driver to know and help with the setup of the car.
Q: Where will you be based in Europe during the racing season?
A: I will be based in Madrid, as we want to work with the Latin people in Spain to accompany us during the race meetings, we want their support and to bring as many Colombian flags as we can to the race events.
Q: Your favorite track and Formula 1 driver?
A: My favorite race track where I have race at moment is Macau, and from Europe that I have work on simulator is Spa in Belgium.
Q: What is your advice to young drivers who want to make a career in motor racing?
A: Motor racing requires many dedication, discipline and hard work from the driver and the family to support him, the best way is to be at the highest level in Europe since Karting, and then go step by step.
Q: Please tell us about the Oscar Tunjo Foundation?
A: We are currently working on it, I’m working on the message to all the young people of my country to practice sports or any kind of art or talent in their free time, and the parents to support their children because they are the future of our country. I have been advising young people in schools during conferences where I talk about my life working for one dream – to get to F1 and win the world title.
– Nasir Hameed
Greetings and percolated regards.
For more information please visit www.oscartunjo.com