Filip Vava Atanacković – The hope of European car racing, ace who strives towards winning trophies and high education.

10. април, 2022. #




The past weekend we have been at Imola, San Marino, to the well-known circuit Enzo and Dino Ferrari, a true temple of speed and competition place of many motorsport stars. We have witnessed many racing series of extremely powerful cars with the participation of a few hundred drivers. We saw authentic motorsport stars as well as motorcycle world champions, Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, who were in Imola behind the steering wheels of Audi and Lamborghini, as well as a number of champions from the other prestigious racing series, formulas and circuit racing.

Alongside these motorsport giants, there were many young motorsport talents, who just recently, or some for the first time, had the chance to feel the excitement and adrenaline that only car racing and motorsport can offer. Between the crowded racing paddock, filled with race teams’ trucks and awnings, we had the opportunity to meet for the first time the 20 year old driver FILIP VAVA ATANACKOVIĆ….. Here is our conversation:

You’re born in Timişoara… what is you birth date, height and weight? 

Yes, I was born on November 14th  2001 in Romania. My father is from Timisoara, with Romanian and Russian roots and my mother is from Belgrade. I am 176 cm tall and weigh around 70 kg, ideal for my passion in motorsport.

How was your education?

I started pre school education in the American International School of Bucharest (AISB) and in 2nd grade, my family and I moved to Düsseldorf, Germany, where I transitioned to the International School of Düsseldorf (ISD). After this, our next destination was Madrid, Spain, the place I consider my home because I spent the largest part of my life living there. I attended the American School of Madrid (ASM) from 4th grade until graduation. During my final two years of high school I enrolled into the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB DP), a prestigious and well-rounded program that opens doors to many universities around the world. Under the IB, I took subjects such as Mathematics, Physics, Information Technology, Business and Management, along with a few others. This has vitally prepared me for the next big step, which was university, and I have learned a variety of crucial skills that prepared me for higher education.

What languages do you speak?

I speak three languages fluently: English, Spanish, and Serbian. When I was younger, I spoke Russian with my grandmother, and I was exposed to Romanian and German. While I can grasp a slight understanding of these languages, I would not include them under this list… I should practice a bit before!

What are you studying in Oxford? How long will it take?

I am a student at Oxford-Brookes University in the UK, studying a 3-year degree of BEng Motorsport Technology, nearing the end of my 2nd year. For me, the program is both fascinating and challenging, where delve into engineering subjects such as materials, thermodynamics, stress analysis, CAD (3D design of parts and assemblies), electronics and more. The most significant project I’ve worked on is a group project where we designed the front end of the car, including suspension, steering system, chassis, etc., as well as optimize the design and make sure that it stays within UK road regulations, together with ensuring safety and reliability.

What do you plan to do with your education in the future?

I am still creating a plan looking forward, but I know that I want to work in some internships to gain work experience, as well as aim to do two masters degrees: one in electric vehicle/sustainable/renewable engineering, and another in business management. My general plan is one that I can control with my learning, while I am still unsure of what the future holds, but time and progress will tell!

When did you decide to start karting and what have you achieved? How long have you been in karting for?

My passion for racing and cars has always been with me since the day I was born. I most likely got this from one of my relatives up the bloodline, Nebojša Atanacković. My parents recognized my passion for cars, and they took me to the AMC Kart track in Bucharest, when I was around 5 or 6 years old. Funny thing is, after only a few sessions I was actually afraid of the speed! When we moved to Germany, I started regularly going to the Michael Schumacher Karting Center in Kerpen, where I was driving around for the fun of it! Similarly, when we got to Spain, I started driving karts around for fun at the Carlos Sainz Karting Center, where a lady working at the gift store noticed my speed and talent, and suggested that I contact a karting school. And that is how, back in 2011, I finally got the opportunity to drive a real kart! My parents expected that I would be satisfied at the level I was driving, and that I would take up other actives… but that never happened.

I will always remember my first race in Valencia on the Albaida track, back in 2012, where I was one of the last finishers in the race. However, that same year, I rose to fight in the mid pack, and later my name appear even higher on the list of final races. With this, from 2013 to 2017, I participated in the National Spanish Rotax Championship, where I won races and achieved podiums, moving up the ranks from Mini class, to Junior, and to Senior. During the 2016 and 2017 campaigns, I also raced in the Portuguese Rotax championship, where I continued winning races and getting on podiums, but unfortunately both times came second in the championship by very small margins. In 2017, I got unique opportunity to race in the Rotax Grand Finals, a prestigious international race with the best competitors coming from 6 continents, to race in Portimāo, Portugal. During this tough week, I had an accident in qualifying which put me last on the grid, 72nd out of 72 drivers. In the qualifying races, starting last from each, I fought my way up to start 11th on the prefinal grid. From there, and on my first ever international race, I managed to fight my way up into 3rd. This was a huge achievement, and more importantly, I met the person who would lead me into the next step of karting: Ash Orchard, team leader of KR-Sport. It is a UK-based team racing in both European and International Championships and is one of the most competitive teams. From 2018 to 2021, I raced with KR-Sport in many European and International competitions, managing to finish 4th in the Rotax Euro Trophy and 5th in the Iame Euro Series, along with participation in the Iame World Final and a couple Rotax International Trophy events. This was a challenging, yet fun period of my life, as I had to balance doing up to 18 races in a year with my high school. I developed new skills and faced challenged that contributed to finding the best version of myself, both as a racing driver and as an individual. Then in 2020, something special happened…

When did you step up into car racing? Was it 2021?

In 2020, in the middle of the Coronavirus Pandemic and lockdown, I was contacted by someone called Felix Porteiro, a person heavily involved in motorsport and with wide connections within the industry. This connection led me to try a Formula 4 car for the first time in June of 2020, at the Circuito de Almería. Later the same year, I also tested in a Formula 4 car in Jerez with Campos Racing, and then in Valencia, with MP Motorsport. However, by the start of 2021, I realized the F4 was not the right thing for me due to many things, such as a narrow ladder to higher levels and its financial burden which was impossible to overcome. This then opened another alternative: GT racing. Felix put in me contact with Nil Montserrat, team manager of NM Racing Team, and sat behind the wheel of the Mercedes AMG GT4 for the first time in Barcelona. In the same year, I debuted in car racing by competing in the 2021 GT4 European Series, and the rest has led me to this moment here.

In my first year of GT4, I have raced on legendary circuits such as Monza, Spa-Francorchamps, and the Nürburgring, as well as famous F1 circuits like Paul Ricard, Zandvoort, and Barcelona. It was a hard and competitive year, with around 40 cars enlisted for every race, and with it being my first year, I knew I had to fight like a lion. In Zandvoort and Spa, I managed to qualify within the top 15, which at the time was a massive achievement, as I had limited testing, and on top of that the field contained the best GT4 drivers from all around Europe. I always gave it my all during the races, where I fought determined to get as close as I can to the front, and oftenly ending my stints within the top 20. I always chose the right times to overtake and to defend, and always strategized the fastest way to get to the front. From my perspective, 2021 was a steep learning curve where I had to acclimatise to the AMG GT4 car, as well as get used to racing in a GT car, which is much different from karting.

 What is the hardest part of GT4?

There are too many difficult aspects in racing in European GT4, but the hardest is definitely the racing. The grids are massive, with a minimum of 38 cars, and may reach up to 50 cars, where almost every driver is quick and prepared. The margins are nearly non-existent, and every mistake, no matter how big, is payed for dearly. When competing in a GT4 European weekend, you have to be at your best, and you have to be ready to perform without error, but even this will just about get you to be in the mid pack. To be at the top, that’s a whole different story. Experience, being one with the car, being aggressive and smart, staying cool and collected: That’s what differentiates the good drivers from the great, and doing this every weekend and every day you spend in the car is the hardest part of GT4.

Many things are important during a race…. Testing, qualifying, driver changes, braking method, tyre management, overtaking and defending rivals, and radio communication during the race.

Yes, every aspect of and every moment you spend in the car is important for a race weekend. Testing is one the most crucial parts, as this is when you get to spend the most amount of time in the car. During testing, the engineers gather data, as a driver you get to understand the car better, and also keep on learning, as there is always something new to learn. Qualifying is undeniably the second most important part of a race weekend, since this directly sets you up for the race. Being quick in qualifying means you get to start the race in a higher position, putting you in a position to fight at the top, but qualifying poorly means you have to start towards the back, and forcing you to fight through and put many risks along the way. During a race, communication with you engineer is also vital, as they are you direct link to what is going on around you, while also implementing strategy and talking the driver through certain situations. Tyre management is another factor to consider in a race, since it needs to last the whole one hour race, and when using a tyre as soft and tricky as the Pirelli, this can get hard, especially when you also have to fight against other racers for track position. Another aspect where the race can be won or lost is during the driver change. This is something that gets practiced over and over again during testing and practice sessions, as completing the driver change as quickly as possible means that you get to leave the pitlane earlier, and hopefully gain positions in the process.  Finally, knowing how to defend or attack is the most important part of a race, and is what defines racing at the end of the day. As a driver, you have to find the perfect balance between being aggressive and passive, where knowing that difference is what separates the good from the great. Knowing where to overtake and how to do so makes a massive difference, and the same goes with defending. It is an important skill to understand, and a skill that is constantly worked on, as every situation is different, and as a driver you have to adapt, and most importantly, going with a mindset of “I am going to get past this guy, and when I do that, I’ll get past the next one”.

You look good and I imagine you dedicate time to maintaining physical condition and diet?

Yes, I do exercise, and usually watch out over my diet. To keep myself in shape, I do running to maintain consistency under physical duress, and a lot of upper body workout, such as arms, shoulders, and abdomen. In terms of my diet, I mainly stick to meals containing chicken, turkey, and seafood for protein, and I also eat pasta and fruits to maintain my carbohydrates. Sometimes an unhealthy meal slips in, such as a burger, pizza, or cake, but in very controlled and small quantities. Like in everything, it is important to always find the right balance.

Beograd 10.4.2022  Djordje Djenic –


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