An Interview with Ukraine’s Inessa Tushkanova

Guest blog by Thiemo Albers-Daly

Inessa Tushkanova is a Ukrainian born racing driver with a multitude of passions, racing related stories and ambitions for the future. From being addicted to motorsport from a young age to racing all over Europe and ending up on the cover of Playboy several times, there’s an incredible amount to unpack when it comes to Inessa.

In this interview, which we did before the war started, Inessa and I chatted about how she got into motorsport to begin with, if she sees herself as a role model for other women looking to get into motorsport, how she spends her time away from racing and much more. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

What first got you into motorsport?

“I was addicted to cars and to rallying so my first addiction was a computer game called “Rally” and I was playing day by day and night by night and I couldn’t stop! I don’t know why but rally was the thing that caught my attention the most. After that, I was watching WRC on TV and local Championships and I was crying so much because I wanted to part of this!”

What do you love about rallying so much?

“First of all, I love the cars! Second, I love to drive and third, I love to discover, travel and improve myself. So all of these things for me is what rallying is about! Rallying is always a way to get from one of those things to another and to get to new things. It’s always about getting to know yourself better and to know new people, new cultures, history and learn in a fast way.”

Is there a fun racing story that you can share with us?

I was invited to the 24 Hour TT race in Portugal and there were four drivers, including myself. I was the quickest in my team time wise and they decided that I would be the one to get to start the opening stint of the 24 Hours race. I had racing experience from circuit racing so I didn’t mind starting. Then, after three laps, I rolled the car because I was sliding too much in the hairpin corner. So we’d arrived to this race in a private jet and then were living in a fancy motorhome for the race and we’d prepared really well for the race but then the race for us was finished in less than an hour out of the 24. So it’s a funny story but also a sad story!

Do you see yourself as a role model for other women who want to get into motorsport?

“My way into motorsport was difficult and different. I started from bikes because I didn’t have a driving licence yet. So I started racing with the bikes and it was a big passion for me. After this, I got my diving licence and then started getting into rallying – and I was alone in Post-Communist countries where there’s no roads or racing tracks or rules, culture, people, etc.

It was a big passion for me though and so I was trying to do my best by changing from country to country and meeting new people and learning new languages. For example when I started to do motorsport in Europe, my English was very bad, you can’t imagine how bad it was! So, for role models in my country Ukraine, it’s still not great but here there are now a lot more women drivers getting the same opportunity so that’s progress. But my way was different so maybe I can be a role model for someone but we are all unique and have our way and our story. But for sure I want to share my knowledge and experience with other girls so that they can get into motorsport in a simpler way.”

Which was your favourite motorsport event to take part in?

“Arctic Rally and Circuit of Ireland. These were my best competitions but also my hardest ones and where I felt most comfortable, such as with the people in both countries and the energies of the people there. I had to work really hard but that made it more satisfying and there were really good vibes the whole time. Also it was nice in WRC Turkey. Hard, tough, interesting, adventurous and amazing!”

Do you have any racing plans for the future?

“Because of Covid, I didn’t participate anywhere and I feel quite retired from motorsport at the moment. One thing I want to do though is to figure out my life, my regular life without racing. But for me, it’s still a very important part of life and I’m still training so that I can keep my form in the top level and I can be ready. But I’m sure I want to race outside of Ukraine because motorsport lives in Europe and that’s where I want to be.”

Who is your favourite motorsport driver and why?

For Formula 1, I love Lewis Hamilton. Nasser is also a great driver. He’s a King of the Desert and really really fast – incredible!

Away from racing, how do you like to spend your time?

I’m a very active girl – I love to travel, discover, read, listen and improve myself all the time. So I go to retreats, fast for periods of time, I ride as I have my own horse. He’s also a superstar and would get a verified Instagram profile easily! I also like to run and love mountain skiing and cross-country skiing. I’m always very active and I do it all because I want to be in the best shape for motorsport. All my life, I was not doing enough so now I want to change that. I also do yoga about five times per week, sometimes two or three times a day but this can be too much and I’ll be exhausted.

I’ve got quite a long list actually! I love music, I DJ as a hobby and I also love knitting, making hats and scarves and I also love cooking, but I don’t do that as much. I’m a big health food lover though. I love to dance too but I’m not really a party person!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you visit and why?

“I’m a very experienced traveller so now I want to go to Tulum in Mexico. I also want to go to Brazil, Peru and Argentina and then also Norway. I went to Norway once and always wanted to go back. I love to travel. The best vacation I had was in Iceland, the vibe was incredible and it was an active vacation so it was perfect. It’s very important to me to be able to have this freedom to move because I love experiencing all the new cultures.”

As you can tell, there are plenty of rabbit holes I could deep dive into with Inessa in the future when it comes to conversation topics – so another interview sometime in the future might just be needed! Inessa is definitely a unique motorsport personality who carved her own path into that world and I get the distinct feeling that she isn’t done with it yet. So stay on the lookout for a motorsport return from her in the future – you won’t want to miss it.

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