Christine Giampaoli Zonca is a professional rally and off-road driver, including Extreme E, who holds a bachelor degree in Motorsport Engineering Technology.
MOVE caught up with Christine to talk about what first sparked her love for race cars and how the racing world is now making the transition to become more sustainable through the use of electric vehicles.
Christine will be joining us at MOVE 2023 to share her knowledge on Extreme E, specifically electric cars and how they race.
Read more below!
Q: For those who don’t know, just tell us a little bit about yourself and who you are and what you do.
That’s a long story. I hope you guys have like five hours! I was born in India, but I’m Italian and my parents have like absolutely nothing to do with racing. They don’t even know what a good car looks like. So, it’s, it’s been super weird since the beginning. They say that when I was really young, I always used to have little cars and people would come to my house and see the posters on my wall and say to my parents “oh, you have a son?” And my mom was like,” yes…”.
There was always this joke and for as long as I can remember, I have always just liked cars! And then one day I saw this rally car in the Canary Islands, which is where I grew up, and I just fell in love. I was like, I don’t know what this is, but this is what I want to do!
I stopped the guy in the middle of the road, and he almost ran me over! I got in the car, I could smell the gasoline, hear the noise and I thought, what is this? The man said to me, well, this is a rally car. And I knew there and then that this is what I want to do. So, from there it started. I knew that it was an expensive sport from what everyone was saying, and they were telling me it’s going to be impossible for you to just become a race car driver.
I realised then that if I built my own car, everything was going to be cheaper. I became a mechanic, and I spent my first two years prepping my own car. I bought a chassis in the scrapyard, and I basically started from there. I learned how to weld and little by little, after two years, I prepped my first race car.
I went to England, and I started Montes Sport Engineering to kind of just help me out. And then from there I won the Canarian Championship overall, I was the first ever woman that won the championship.
After that, I contracted with a team of Barcelona and then I ended up in Los Angeles and Mexico racing all this crazy off-road stuff.
Q: You said you grew up in the Canary Islands. What was the reputation of the sport where you lived?
Well, everyone in the Canary Island, where I lived in Fuerteventura, was really into surfing and kit surfing and that’s pretty much it.
I was like a little bit of a hippie surfer at that time, and I just liked cars. And then when, when I realized I really wanted to become a race car driver, then it’s when I kind of started and, and I realized that there was a lot of passion for motorsport. Because there’s a lot of gravel.
We’re in Fuerteventura, so all the roads are gravel. Everything’s gravel. So, people are already drifting around corners and stuff. Then I realized there was a championship and I knew I wanted to race the whole championship. I started doing local races and then slowly kind of stepped up to the whole championship until we won it.
Q: You were recently at Web summit talking about your transition from ICE race cars to electric race cars. What made you make the transition? Is there a considerable difference between the two?
I feel that like right now, like every championship is adapting, it’s like an iPhone update, and they’re all going into electrification.
There’s a clear movement going on and everything is focused around EVs right now. The biggest difference, race-wise, is that there is a lot more drivability. You put your foot on the gas and then everything is smooth. While in a combustion engine car, it doesn’t work like this. I always say that whatever happens in the tires is proportional to what you do in your foot, you know.
At the beginning when this movement started, I was a little bit apprehensive. I loved the smell of gasoline and the sound of the car but then when you realize how incredible it’s to drive and how different it is but at the same time similar, then you just fall in love with it.
With an electric engine, everything is super easy and not dangerous. Everything is software. I feel that there’s a lot of pros and cons obviously, but I think that as that’s where the world is going it’s also important that we follow and step up.
Q: What’s so unique about Extreme E driving?
Extreme E like for me, it’s a completely different championship. Obviously when I saw it at the beginning, I was super interested because of the amazing legends that are racing there.
When you start realizing more about Extreme E being so much more and caring about electrification, gender equality and sustainability all at the same time, you wonder what’s this all about? They tell you that we’re racing in extreme locations of the world and at the same time we’re promoting sustainability and we are taking actions for climate change. It’s not just about the cool racing, we’re racing in crazy locations and then leaving the place better than how we found it. I feel this is a huge accomplishment.
We also have which are led by scientists at the University of Oxford and Cambridge. We sometimes go to Senegal and other places to teach the children how to be more sustainable. We also teach them about business and investments for the school. It’s not just racing and it’s not just a championship.
Q: What will we be hearing from you at MOVE 2023?
The panel that I will be part of is how performance vehicles are driving road car innovation. I mean, I love just talking about race cars. It will be nice to talk to people about how electric cars work, and how they can race as so many people don’t know about this sport and it will be great to share my knowledge with people.
Q: What have you got planned in the next 12 to 18 months? What can we expect to see from you?
So, everyone that knows Christine knows that my life is day by day. That’s a very hard question! I guess it will be to work hard, race as much as possible and, and try to tick the objectives for the year.