Belén García is a rising star who has a passion for anything with engines, after spending her childhood surrounded by motorsport. The 22-year-old studies engineering at university in Barcelona and made her single-seater debut in 2019 with a season in the F4 Spanish Championship.
She quickly turned heads by winning in her debut weekend - an impressive result for the rookie. It was only right that Belén would be one of the talented drivers to score a W Series seat for the 2021 season.
As well as competing in the all-female series, Belén attended select Formula Regional European Championship (FRECA) rounds for G4 Racing. Her time in both championships was testing, something which the Spaniard is very open about.
“I struggled in the first few races and then in Paul Ricard I was good,” she tells Females in Motorsport at the W Series pre-season test in Barcelona. “Then with all the W Series races I had a break and went back to Valencia and I struggled a lot. I’m trying to reduce my gap between my races in FRECA because it’s really tough.”
Belén views her 2021 W Series campaign as a “disaster” due to not having confidence in herself.
“I didn’t know what the car was doing and I also had some bad luck, like at Spa where I had some problems with the car,” she says. “We were alone here. Being Spanish between all the British people is difficult. Now it’s not so, but in the beginning, it’s a barrier with language.
“Even if it’s good, I struggle to communicate.”
On the surface, one would expect the FRECA car and W Series machinery to feel relatively similar to the driver - after all, they are the same car.
“It’s like it’s not the same car,” Belén says. “You have to change all of your driving style - everything. It allows you to get to corners much faster and here you have to be so calm. It took me a while to understand that.
“You can’t brake hard here, you have to be very patient - slowly going in. I tried to push too much on the new tyres and then I realised that I can’t push that much.”
Although motorsport is where her commitment lies now, Belén has had vast experience with pole vaulting and her skill set there carries through to four wheels.
“I can take everything into motorsport - sport is sport,” she says. “I love athletics and I competed for a long time. It gives you tools to train and compete. Everything is complemented.
“I was very into track and field and started with running. I always tend to go for the most difficult things and I like a challenge. My dad raced in rallies and he’s done everything and we also have a company in timing. We’re timing here [at Barcelona] actually. Since I was born, motorsport has been a part of our life.”
With such a demanding lifestyle due to her competition schedules, Belén’s friends have had to adapt to her not always being around.
“Friends didn’t really understand although they thought it was super cool,” she says. “When I started competing more, it was difficult as I lost a lot of contact with them. It’s still like that but now they understand and I have a very good relationship with them.
“Motorsport gets you in every way - you’re always thinking about training, preparing, doing time on the simulator and looking for sponsors and opportunities to race. It’s your whole life. You do have breaks and you have different things but nothing compares.”
Whilst still studying for her engineering degree, Belén hopes to combine both W Series and FRECA into her 2022 racing calendar. However, that isn’t all - always looking for a new challenge, Belén will partake in her first rally next week alongside her female co-driver. The 70 Rally Motul Costa Brava will present new and exciting challenges for her.
“You know, why not!” she says. “This is my first rally and I have no idea how it’ll go but we shall see! It’ll be in the historic category with regularity so you have to set speed through the stages.
“It’s something different and I have a co-driver. I don’t know yet if I’m good at taking instructions from people! I have to trust my co-driver.”
Continuing with this season and beyond, all Belén wants to do is to enjoy her racing.
“That’s the most important thing as when you’re enjoying racing you’re fast,” she says. “Things start falling into place. That’s my goal.
“I know my future in motorsport - I’m not going to F1 but I like the fight. What I enjoy the most is learning and progressing. I have progressed a lot at this test. I get my elbows out and I love that.”
Her friends and family will be keeping her focused, but Belén also has a role model in the form of fellow Spaniard Laia Sanz.
“I met Laia and we were here for the F1 testing in 2020 and we had a chat - she’s my idol,” Belén says. “Sometimes I dream that she takes me as her protege and she teaches me how to ride a motorbike. But imagine that!”
With W Series and Belén on such a global stage, the driver is aware that what she's doing is inspiring the next generation of women in motorsport.
“It’s incredible that little girls can come up to me,” she says. “I’ve fought for this. It’s amazing that younger girls take you as an example. It’s something I never would have dreamt of.
“I’ve had to work a lot on my physical shape and that’s the part I’ve had to work most. It’s difficult for everyone to get opportunities. Nowadays with rules in motorsport, it’s all money. It’s okay if you don’t have it but you just have to fight for it. It’s the same for everyone.”
Images are thanks to W Series and Lou Johnson.