Motorsports has never been as big as it ought to be in the Philippines but young Filipina driver, Bianca Bustamante, is set to turn Filipinos worldwide into racing fans as she becomes the very first to represent the country in the prestigious W Series championship this year!
Bianca, who is only 17 years old, dominated local headlines ever since she was announced to be among the roster of drivers to compete in the 2022 W Series—an exclusive all-girls Formula 3-level racing series.
“W Series has always been a goal of mine. It’s my life, it’s my dream,” Bianca shared with When In Manila. “And ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always said to myself that I want to make it in the top pinnacle of motorsport. And W Series is a great step moving forward.”
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Having first been selected to participate in a pre-season five-day test in Arizona, USA, Bianca regarded it as her “make it or break it” moment knowing that she was the least experienced female driver of them all, having just known karting all her life and now driving a Formula 4 car for the first time in a completely unfamiliar track. “I knew that I was going to be the dark horse,” she admitted. “Compared to the other female drivers out there [who have] done a season in [Formula 3 and Formula 4] and they definitely had a lot of track time and seen the car. So when I went to the Arizona shootout, I try to keep it positive and just said to myself, just being invited itself is already such a big honor.”
But her determination and hard work to prove herself worthy resulted in an impressive performance wherein she bested the rest as the fastest driver on track! She was then invited for a second pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain where she stood out for being the most-improved racer of the lot.
It goes without saying that if you want something, you’ll do everything within your power to get it—and Bianca definitely got her reward: a seat with the W Series Academy team for the next two years.
Falling in love with racing
Bianca, who hails from Laguna, owes a lot to her father for igniting that spark to pursue a career in racing. At a tender age of one, she was already accompanying her father to his karting races and was eventually given her first kart at age three. By the time she was six, she knew that she wanted to do this sport professionally and started competing in her own races.
“[Passion for] motorsport has run a lot in my family. [My dad] was a fanatic of racing, he loved the sport so much, and he was also a karter. So everything I learned just came from him—the passion, the drive, the love, and the emotion for it,” Bianca shared. “He taught me everything I knew about karting. And he’s one of the reasons why I continue to push, because I feel like when I’m representing Philippines out there racing, it’s just it’s not just my dream. It’s my whole family’s dream. It’s my dad’s dream that I’m carrying there.”
The hustle and grind to get to where she is now was no joke for Bianca, who comes from a middle-class family and had to work hard just to get sponsorships and raise funds to sustain her career. She owes a lot to all the karting teams who have helped her along the way, particularly her management Craft-Bamboo Racing and her coach, British motor racing driver Richard Lyons.
“I can never take things for granted. That’s something that was kind of mentally engraved in my head, that I don’t have the luxury [that] other people [have] where they get to have another chance. This is my only chance and I need to work hard for it,” Bianca said.
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Girl on track becomes rising star
Growing up, Bianca has already been making a name for herself for winning multiple karting championships across Asia, such as the Macau International Kart GP (3-time champion), Junior Asian Karting Open Championship (2-time overall champion), and the China Grand Prix Kart Scholarship (4-time winner). She was also named the Philippines National Junior Karter of the Year in 2018 and the Philippines Driver of the Year – Karting from 2018 to 2020.
But what really got the attention and interest of fellow Filipino racing fans was when she received the stellar opportunity to race in the world-famous Circuit Paul Ricard in Marseilles, France as part of the Girls on Track Rising Stars program last October 2021 where the champion was promised a highly-coveted Ferrari Driver Academy scholarship. For the self-confessed Ferrari fan, this was a dream come true!
Unfortunately, her “lack of experience” and not being physically prepared enough for it prevented her from advancing in the program. “[But] I do believe in saying that you’re never rejected, only redirected,” she said about it. “So from then on, I said to myself, I’m going to do this, I’m going to come back stronger and, the next opportunity I’m given, I’m going to ace it and I’m going to give it my best. And I’m willing to do anything above and beyond.”
With a huge smile on her face, she gushed: “And that’s what happened. I got the W Series seat.”
Chasing the checkered flag
When asked about her strategy to win in this year’s championship, Bianca understands that it’s going to be a tough journey and that she’ll stay focused on learning and improving as she goes in every race.
“For sure, I’m going to take this time to learn from the other drivers as well like Jamie Chadwick, [who is] one of the most decorated female formula car drivers,” she said, referring to the reigning W Series champion. “She’s got a lot of years under her belt. And and I’m going to do my best to try to keep up with her and learn from the drivers, learn from the series, and keep on progressing all the way.”
Bianca will be competing for the W Series Academy team with Japanese teammate Juju Noda. The 2022 W Series will have 10 events which will all be part of Formula 1 Grand Prix weekends, kicking off at the Miami International Autodrome this May 6 to 8.
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