In 2023’s year-opening traditional event – Dakar Rally, eighteen-year-old Yasmeen Koloc will venture onto her first Dakar effort. Together with her twin sister Aliyyah Koloc, Yasmeen used to train to become a professional tennis player. However, when injuries interrupted their dream to collect the Grand Slams’ trophies, Yasmeen and her sister followed their father’s path onto motorsport. In the past two years, Yasmeen gathered experience in Renault Clip Cup, GT4, cross-country Bajas to get ready for Dakar. We recently had the opportunity to interview Yasmeen, let’s see what she has to say about chasing the dream of Dakar Rally.
Paddock Sorority (PS): What was your first exposure to motorsport? What made you decide you wanted to be a driver?
Yasmeen Koloc (YK): My father used to race, so motorsport has been a part of my life since I was a kid. After my tennis career ended, due to injury, I watched my sister race and I thought the cars looked great, it looked like a lot of fun. I was fascinated by the speed, so I decided I wanted to try too. When I tried it myself, I really enjoyed it. I love being in the car, I want to keep on learning and getting better. It helps coming from a motorsport family, with my father having been European truck champion in the 90s.
PS: Who did you learn the most from about driving and racing?
YK: I learned a lot from my current mentor and teammate David Vrsecky. He taught me nearly everything that I know about racing. I also learned a lot about racing from my father. Both are training me to be the best driver that I can be.
PS: When you switch between off-road and circuit racing, what are some of the biggest things you have to adapt to?
YK: For me the biggest thing is switching driving styles between different racing cars. In rallying, you have to be extremely flexible, going from being very precise to going with the flow of the terrain. That certainly is one of the biggest differences. Then of course the different surfaces. Driving on asphalt is completely different from driving on sand or lose terrain. So, when switching from off-road to circuit, you constantly have to adapt to a different feeling in the car and behaviour of the car. I enjoy that very much – it is very versatile. It’s also difference to have a co-driver in rallying. In circuit racing you have somebody talking to you over the radio from time to time but I really enjoy the constant exchange with the co-driver. It is somebody to guide you in the literal and figurative sense of the word.
PS: Could you talk a little about the thought process of choosing to race in T3 category of Dakar?
YK: I have always been fascinated with the Can-Ams, from the first time I went to a Dakar, as a mechanic with my team, to learn about how the cars work. When I then tried the Can-Am for the first time, I just fell in love with it. I have tested a lot of cars but I prefer the Can-Am. I am really happy with my decision.
PS: What are your expectations of your first Dakar? What do you think might be some of the challenges you would face in the two weeks?
YK: For sure there are going to be a lot of challenges in the Dakar. I have seen other drivers experience a wide range of issues. I am prepared for challenges, with the car for example, but also physical ones as it is a demanding event. I am trying to be as prepared as possible. I am going there with a clear head to stay focused on finishing the race.
PS: What has been your best memory in your career so far?
YK: That is a difficult question but I think my best memory so far is finishing my latest rally raid, the Baja Qatar in March of this year. Even though the last stage was cancelled, I was very happy with that rally because I did my best there, I was the best racer that I could have been at that moment in time and finished P4 in my category.
PS: Has there been any difficult moment in your career? How did you overcome it?
YK: I would say that currently I am facing a difficult time. I injured my wrist and back a few months ago at a race and it is taking longer to heal than I expected. However, I am doing a lot of physical training and am working with the doctors to get back in shape as quickly as possible. That is why I haven’t been racing recently as I haven’t been able to go a full race distance. I have been testing though and will continue to do so to get back into the car as soon as possible.
PS: What do you think are your strengths as a driver? What do you need to work on at this point?
YK: Definitely a strength of mine is off-road driving, reading the terrains and adjusting my driving style. Managing the car is quite challenging in rally raids. I also work well with my co-driver. Definitely one thing that I need to improve on as a driver is my technical knowledge of the car. It obviously helps to feed back as much information of the car to the technical team and you can never know enough about your car. That is still something I am learning a lot about. I am always around the mechanics asking what they are doing and why!
PS: After Dakar, what is your next goal/milestone in your career?
YK: Definitely a dream of mine is to race in the 24h of Le Mans. But until I get there I’ll focus on rallying and GT racing and of course doing more Dakar events in the future.
We also had the chance to interview Yasmeen’s twin sister Aliyyah Koloc. We will bring you her interview later this month!