European Rally Championship (ERC) driver Rachele Somaschini was born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). Her condition has never been an obstacle for her in her chase of a motorsport dream. In reality, the 28 years old Italian made her WRC debut in 2019, and she has leveraged her motorsport career to start the #CorrerePerUnRespiro (Racing for a Breath) campaign and help others with CF who are in need. We had the opportunity to interview Rachele recently, let’s see what she has to say about her career and raising awareness of the disease she battles on a daily basis.
© All photos provided by Rachele Somaschini
Paddock Sorority (PS): What was your first exposure to motorsport? What made you decide you wanted to be a driver?
Rachele Somaschini (RS): My first exposure was in 2013 in my home race in Autodromo di Monza partnering my father, with Giulietta sprint. I had the opportunity to race and I really wanted to do it, even if in that period I was studying for my high school graduation exam. While I was racing, I understood that it was the best thing I had ever done, and that I would have tried my best to repeat the experience as soon as I could. In order to be a driver, you have to try your best to get the best opportunity around you, and this is not always easy.
PS: You started racing on track, what aspect of rally attracted you to switch?
RS: I started racing on track because my father came from that, so I raced for four years in the MINI Challenge also with good results. I won the Cooper S trophy in 2016. After that, thanks to a sponsor and an Academy I switched to rally and it was not very easy. I shortly realized that it was a very different sport but I enjoyed it and I wanted to work hard to achieve great results. One of my favorite aspects of rally is that it is very complete, complicated and you must be good at problem solving because it’s very unpredictable.
PS: Besides your father who led you into racing, is there any other racing idol for you?
RS: Probably it is obvious, but my heroes are the two women who made history in rally, Michelle Mouton and her co-driver Fabrizia Pons who I know very well. They are the only women who have won WRC events and, even if times have changed, my goal is to get as close a possible to their results.
PS: 2022 is your first full ERC season, how have you been preparing for the season during the winter?
RS: In the background work of the season, in my case, I have to personally look for sponsors. 2022 should have been a full ERC season, but unfortunately sponsors were not enough, so I had to settle for the most beautiful races, even if I really wanted to do all of them. I kept myself trained with the Ice Challenge, between December and February, then I worked on pacenotes method with my co-driver Nicola Arena.
PS: What were your expectations of this season in ERC?
RS: For sure I have a clear plan for this season and the next one in my mind, even if there are always a lot of variables to face. My expectations for this season were to compete as much as possible and I started with a four-race program with the hope to find the budget for the others. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to. There is a lot of work to prepare for the season even if everything looks easier from the outside. What is important to me is improving everyday, doing the best sport ever!
PS: So far, what has been some of your takeaways from the season, especially the ones you haven’t been to before?
RS: The first rally of the year was Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras, and it was a new one for me. From that one I learned to pay attention to all the details and to take the race step by step because the mistakes I made there were caused by the too many variables to manage. In general, in these races I’ve learned not to be in a rush and result-focused because you need to gain experience in order to go as further as possible until the end.
PS: Could you share with us your current training schedule of a typical day or week? What would a race weekend be like?
RS: I always plan my weeks around my work commitments and appointments. Everyday I start with a big breakfast, I take my medicine, do my treatment and then I go to the gym for my daily workout, like every professional athlete would do. Then, depending on the day, I can have meetings or events with my sponsors or I work as a safe driving instructor in Arese. For a rally, you always have to be in the location of the rally at least 5 or 6 days before. In this way, you have to do scrutineers, tests, recce, free practice, qualifications and then… the race! I always have to do my treatments twice and also short workouts in addition to competition commitments.
PS: When you start working with a new co-driver or a new crew, what are the key things you pay attention to to get the working relationship start well?
RS: When you are part of a crew, it’s important to find balance between friendship and professionalism. During the race, you have to spend a lot of time together and this is why beautiful bonds are created. It is important to have the same achievement goals, and what I want from the other person is for them to put in all the efforts as well as I do, in order to achieve the goal we have set.
PS: What has been your best memory in your career so far?
RS: My best memory is the Rallye Monte-Carlo. It is always a beautiful experience. First of all, because it is considered one of the most difficult races in the world and also because the environment is always special. It was my first WRC race in 2019 and it has taught me a lot. It was even harder because before getting to Monaco you have to compete for more than one thousand kilometers, this makes it very special!
Another best memory is the special stage on the Volcano in Azores Island, in September 2021 when I competed in the ERC event Rally Azores. It’s crazy to think that you are driving on the top of a volcano!
PS: Has there been any difficult moment in your career? How did you overcome it?
RS: In the beginning of 2022 I had set myself many expectation about driving with an R5. But the situation in the ERC were difficult, also for the crazy weather that I faced, sometimes there were difficult races and therefore bad results. Then also in 2020 when I was hospitalized for a very long time for a new bacteria and I was worried I couldn’t come back to racing like before. I always did what I could in that moment trying to keep a positive attitude and also with luck I was able to overcome everything.
PS: When you started #CorrerePerUnRespiro , what was your mid- to long-term goal? So far, has it reached all your goals both as someone with CF as well as someone pledged to help those in need?
RS: We would have never imagined the success of #CorrerePerUnRespiro. This project has grown together with me and my career and I am so glad and grateful that many people who are passionate about motorsport are supporting us in many ways. In these years it has been found finally a treatment for the 70% of cystic fibrosis fighters but we need more support in order to make sure that everyone has “the cure” for CF. We were able to contribute to the Scientific Research with 300K euro thanks to #CorrerePerUnRespiro.
PS: Is there a dream racing event/racing championship for you at this moment?
RS: Rally Sweden is my dream race because I’m very passionate about ice driving and high-speed special stages in the forest. I hope to be able to participate in the upcoming years.