Rising Stars Profile Vol.8 – Bianca Bustamante & Laura Bubenova

FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars special series

Last year, FIA launched FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars program. 20 girls went into the selection, and Maya Weug came out on top, joining Ferrari Driver Academy and debuting in Italian F4 Championship for Iron Lynx this season. This year, the FIA Girls on Track – Rising Stars program came back bigger and better. Two groups of girls, 14 in the Senior Category and 14 in the Junior Category, will go into the three-day shoot-out from the 21st to 23rd of October at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

Just like last year, we are rolling out the profiles of drivers participating in the program. Today, we give you Bianca Bustamante in the Senior Category and Laura Bubenova in the Junior Category.

Bianca Bustamante

Bianca Bustamante is 16 years old from the US and the Philippines. She is the only driver from Asia on this year’s Rising Stars list. Biance won the famed Macao International Kart Grand Prix 3 times in 2014, 2018, and 2019. In 2020, Bianca won IAME X30 class champion in the Philippines. From 2018 through 2020, she won Philippines Driver of the Year three years consecutively.

Photos © Bianca Bustamante

Paddock Sorority (PS): Can you tell us about your first exposure to motorsport and how you started karting? How was your first experience in a go-kart?

Bianca Bustamante (BB): I started driving a go-kart when I was 3. I started driving because my dad used to be a racing driver and he would bring me the track and that’s how I got started.

My first experience was very fun. At first, it was a bit scary because I was little. I didn’t get much through the park, but as I progressed, I started getting the fun part, and that’s when I knew that I really wanted to do it.

PS: Your dad started your career for you, how are your family supporting you overall in your career?  

BB: My dad is from the US. I was raised in the Philippines. I would often be separated from my dad. He would be with me through race weekends. My mom is very supportive of me and she would bring me to the track. Race weekends are always family time for us, so I think it kind of bonded us together.

PS: Besides your father, is there a racing idol for you? How have they impacted you and your racing?

BB: I really like Niki Lauda. I used to watch a lot of old Formula 1 races and Formula 1 battles. I just instantly fell in love with watching his races. My dad is my very first coach, so everything I learned I just got it from him. I think I also draw inspiration from Niki Lauda, everthing he had been through, all the set-backs he was facing, he still managed to push through and win many World Championships.

PS: So have you seen the movie Rush? Do you think its a good portrait of Niki?

BB: It definitely showed very realistic racing, but like all movies, there’s always too much drama!

It showed how powerful as a driver he was and how tough the races were. We go and we drive on track in such speed, driving in such close contact. Our lives are always at risk. Racing has already took a lot of good drivers way too early and it just shows that it’s not a safe sport and we need to be tough both physically and mentally to be able to compete in racing. It really shows the passion and hard work put into it.

PS: What has been your best memory in your career so far?

BB: Because I’m chosen this year, I think this is definitely one of the best experience I will have. In my recent years, I’ve always looked at every race ais a big opportunity for me. As a woman, it’s very difficult. Everyone is so competitive, so I think one of the best memories for me was when I raced in Las Vegas, there were around 90 drivers and I managed to qualify 4th. It was a big gain for me. I learned so much during that time. My dad was also my mechanic. It was very memorable.

PS: How are you juggling school work, training, and racing?

BB: Right now I’m doing a home studying program, which is really relevant to athletes. I can just attend classes whenever I want, do my modules, and pass exams regularly. Now, I’m almost finished with Year 11. I’ll be in the university in a few years.

I usually sleep very early because I find it very healthy, especially my body is very relaxed and well conditioned. So I sleep around 7 or 8 PM. I wake up at around 3 to 4 AM to go run. After that, I hit the gym between 5 to 10. And then, for the rest of the day, I just study or watch on-board. If there is a race weekend, I wake up pretty early as well. Stretch, and then I hit the track.

PS: Did you follow the selection progress from last year? How are you preparing for the selection in October?

BB: I’ve been driving Formula 4 for a few months now. I’m very confident that I prepared really good. I’ve been preparing for this almost my whole life. Training-wise, physically I’m very strong and confident. So it’s just the driving side I’m working on right now.

I’ve been following the program since they released it last year. I would watch the videos, all of the episodes. It helped me a lot because it showed a lot of insights of how they train and the step by step program and how they were doing it. I always review it to watch all of the clips, and see how competent they all were.

PS: What are your strengths as a driver? If you want to keep going up the ladder, what do you need to still work on?

BB: I think the very good side of me is that we’re actually not rich. We came from a very mundane family, my parents both have a day to day job. We couldn’t always afford racing. That’s why my dad quit after doing some karting, he couldn’t afford it himself. So I always learned to savor every race as if it’s my last, because I never really know when my career ends. So I always just work hard and make sure I put in my best effort always. And it’s given me a chance to grow and show potential without always having the best equipment. Racing is a very expensive sport, not everyone is always given the money to fund this sport, which is why I’m always grateful to everyone who has helped and supported me.

At the moment, I think I need to be a complete package because I can drive, but I still lack experience. Because of the lack of funding, I can’t really race in Europe. Actually, this would be my first time going to Europe. So it’s a very big thing for me. Because of that, I’ve never experienced driving an OKJ, or driving in France, the tarmac would be pretty different with a bit more grip. This shoot-out will give me a lot of experience in boosting my confidence and see how actually I can compete with the European drivers.


Laura Bubenova

Laura Bubenova is 11 years old from Slovakia. She started karting training at age 6. Laura is a SWS Junior Cup race winner. She currently competes in Slovak Karting Cup (Slovenský Kartingový Pohár) and Slovakian National Championship Rotax MiniMax class for LSR racing.

Photos © Laura Bubenova

Paddock Sorority (PS): Can you tell us about your first exposure to motorsport and how you started karting? How was your first experience in a go-kart?

Laura Bubenova (LB): I always had an affinity to speed, cars and motorsport. The Real first touch was at my 4th birthday party held at karting arena. Since then my path was totally clear. I started indoor karting course at 6years of age and outdoor karting at 10 years of age. 

I am absolutely in love with karting and racing. I feel blessed that I can live my dream.

PS: What made you decide you want a career as a professional driver?

LB: I love the speed and adrenaline and the fact that racing makes me happy.

PS: How are your family supporting you in your career?

LB: I am lucky, my parents and other family members supported me from the very first day. They believe in me and they accompany me sensitively to progress while still having fun.

PS: Is there a racing idol for you? How have they impacted you and your racing?

LB: If I have to pick one my choice would be Ayrton Senna. His determination and attitude were inspiring.

PS: From whom did you learn the most about racing and driving?

LB: I have had a few great coaches who taught me a lot about karting, racing and motorsport from all different angles.

PS: What has been your best memory in your career so far?

LB: When I got my first podium at one of the Slovak Championship Tour race this year.

PS: Has there been a very difficult time in your career? How did you get through it?

LB: I haven’t had any really difficult time yet. I face some ups and downs, but it is an essential part of the sport. I always manage to breathe it out.

PS: How are you juggling school work, training, and racing?

LB: I am organized and it pays me off. I have successfully completed 2 school years in 1 year, trained physically, mentally and on track.  But all this is possible because of the family support and that my school came out to me.

PS: What are your strengths as a driver? If you want to keep going up the ladder, what do you need to still work on?

LB: I have a strong sense not to give up and work hard. I need to gain more experience; I am literally only in my second season in outdoor karting.

PS: Did you follow the selection progress from last year? How are you preparing for the selection in October?

LB: Yes, I was following the previous year of Rising Stars program and posted on my Facebook that participation in this project is my dream, my goal. The Slovak karting season is still on I am gathering experience and strengthening body and mind. The only special preparation is studying the Paul Ricard karting track from the map and video.

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