Dakar Sistaz – Aliyyah Koloc: Motorsport Turns Out to Be My Plan A and I Love It

Earlier this month, we brought you the story of one of the Dakar Sistaz – Yasmeen Koloc. Similar to her twin sister, Aliyyah Koloc also spent her childhood playing tennis. When injuries prevented her from continuing her pursuit of a career in tennis, she switched to motorsport, starting with truck racing in 2019. In the 2023 Dakar Rally, Aliyyah will also venture onto her first Dakar, together with Yasmeen. Here is Aliyyah’s story about experiencing a variety of racing categories and 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?

Aliyyah Koloc (AK): I have been around motorsport since I was a baby because of my father. I always loved going to the races and wanted to try to drive but I focused on tennis initially. It was only after I had an injury and couldn’t play tennis anymore that I tried racing. Actually, I once jokingly said that racing would be my Plan B. Now it turns out to be my Plan A and I love it!

PS: You have been racing in many different disciplines, can you share a bit about how each one attracts you?

AK: I started in truck racing. I have raced GT cars in the GT3 and GT4 series. I have also been racing Can-Ams in off-road rallies. I have learned something new from each of the cars I got to drive and I enjoyed them all. I enjoyed the contact and aggressiveness in truck racing. I love the speed driving of GT cars and especially in endurance racing you have to be consistent and think about strategy, which is what I really enjoy. In rallying, I love the adventure, as you never know what will come next. And as a plus, you also learn a lot about the mechanics of the cars.  

PS: How has each racing discipline helped you be the driver you are now?

AK: In only a few years, I have raced in many different cars and categories. This mainly has helped me to constantly adapt to new cars and new situations and to apply across all series what I have learned. In off-road rallies you have a co-driver which helps you to work as a team. In GT racing, on the other hand, you are by yourself, apart from some radio comments from the team now and then, so you learn to trust yourself and make your own decisions. And in GT endurance racing you need to learn to be patient and think ahead because you don’t decide a 24h race in the first hour!  

PS: This year you’ve been focusing more on sportscar/GT racing, what are some of the reasons in this change? Would you be continuing on this path next season?

AK: I have two goals: to race in the Dakar and to participate in the 24H of Le Mans. To get to this goal we decided together with the team to narrow down on the different racing series, to stop truck racing for example, in order to focus on GT racing to get to this goal. I enjoy GT racing very much. It is fast, challenging and competitive. So yes, I will be continuing in GT racing next year. However, I have also been preparing for the Dakar by participating in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies this year.   

PS: Besides your father who led you into racing (also a racing legend), is there any other racing idol for you?

AK: Apart from my father, I really look up to David Vrsecky. He used to race in trucks and was two times European champion. He is an incredible driver and engineer and he’s been mentoring me since the start of my racing career in 2019. I have learned a lot from him, but there is still so much more I can learn from both David and my father!

PS: Your team has been participating in Dakar for many years, what could you learn from the team to help you prepare for your first Dakar?

AK: I went to the last three Dakar rallies, and I have been trying to learn from everybody. I’d watch the mechanics, learn about the organization and set-up of the team at the Dakar but also the event itself.  The fact that Buggyra, my team, is one of the biggest teams of the Dakar with many years of experience gives me confidence, as I know that everything will be taken care of. When I participate for the first time in 2023, I’ll know much more about what to expect. The team has also been teaching me how to fix the buggy if necessary, so I am prepared as much as possible.

PS: Could you talk a little about the thought process of choosing to race in T3 category of Dakar?

AK: The T3 category is very competitive. My team has a lot of experience with these cars in the Dakar and I think that for my first Dakar, it is the best choice going with the Can-Am. It is also a good category to start with. I have been racing with it this year in some off-road rallies and it suits me well.

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?

AK: My first Dakar will be physically and mentally demanding, so finishing the rally is my main goal. I know that the Dakar is very hard and unpredictable, and many cars don’t make it to the finish line. You need to be consistent for two weeks, because if one day goes wrong, then it will only get harder and harder to catch up. I am also preparing as much as I can and have been training a lot, to get ready physically and in driving terms. It will definitely be a challenge but that doesn’t scare me. On the contrary, I like challenges!

PS: Could you share with us your current training schedule of a typical day or week? What would a race weekend be like?

AK: I follow a personalised training program from 321Perform which means six to seven days of training per week, switching between cardio and weights. I also practice on the simulator. On a race weekend, I do track walks and before I get into the car, I always do my warm-up of jumping, roping, juggling, and stretching with and without rubber bands. I also do some mental and relaxation exercises to be fully prepared when I get into the car.

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

AK: That is a tough question because there are a few. But if I have to choose, one of my top two would be at the beginning of this year when I won my category at the Baja Jordan, only my second off-road rally. My all-time favorite is also from this year in Brands Hatch at the EuroNascar. I had a crash during the first race of the day to avoid another car, and to see the hard work the team had to do to rebuild my car in a few hours for the last race was really very emotional for me. In addition, I started from the pit lane and was able to finish with a great result.

PS: Has there been any difficult moment in your career? How did you overcome it?

AK: Of course, there have been difficult moments and I try to use these as a learning experience. But as a person, I always focus on the positive. However, it was a difficult few months for me when I had to give up my tennis career. I wasn’t sure what would come next and felt a bit lost. What helped me then was to focus on something else. I started to follow my dad more to meetings and events and eventually the opportunity arose up to do a test. I haven’t looked back since. Also, what helps me to overcome tough times is that I have a great group of people around me.

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