“When I was young I used to do ballroom dancing,” Ira says. “I wore pretty dresses and I was happy, but then I went to the cinema and saw the movie Cars. That changed everything.”
Ira Sidorkova is just 16-years-old and is preparing to tackle this year’s W Series championship - a huge opportunity for anyone so young.
Her way into motorsport may not have been conventional. She didn’t come from a racing background and she was, in fact, a dancer until an unlikely trip to the cinema changed her path completely.
“I told my dad that I wanted to race like Lightning McQueen and take part in competitions - he was in shock,” he said. “I then went for a test day and the rest is history.”
Now, she will tackle W Series in her biggest racing challenge to date. Not only will she compete against 17 other fiercely competitive women, but she’ll also race in support of Formula 1 at the Mexico and US events.
“I’m excited,” she says, grinning. The euphoria is still evident. “I’m really happy and it makes me smile every day.”
The Russian driver has had Formula 4 experience, but nothing in the Tatuus Formula 3 cars until the W Series test last year where she was successfully selected.
“2019 was my first season in Formula 4, doing the Spanish and Russian championships,” she says. “After that, my team SMP Racing said to me that I have an invitation to the W Series test. Oh, it was amazing - I can’t describe my feelings!
“During the test, I had a new car - it is much, much faster. When I found out that I could race this year, my team, family and I were so happy!”
When she found out, this joy only continued. Ira had succeeded; she was going to be a part of the 2020 W Series championship and the youngest driver on the grid.
“My dad saw the email first, so he was the one who told me,” she says. “We had a little celebration and a party!”
Despite still studying at school, Ira has been largely independent in her travels around Europe and beyond since aged just 11.
“My parents have supported me since I was six-years-old but now I travel alone,” she says. “Of course, if the competition is in Russia they come and support!”
Her debut race in the W Series will be her home round, held in St Petersburg.
“I can’t say that it makes me nervous,” she says. “This round will be really important for me though. All of my friends, family and Russian followers will come to the race. I need to have a good result.”
Ira has a big following on social media, in particular on Instagram where she has over 100,000 followers.
“They message me every day saying that they can’t wait for me to race,” she says. “They’ve got tickets and they’re excited to support me. They want me to have good results and I think they want to see me in Formula 1 one day.”
Ira is definitely paving the way forward for Russian women involved in motorsport.
“We don’t have many female racers,” she says. “I’m the only one who’s doing single-seater racing. However, Russian people support me. There’s no sexism.”
In the future, she would like to fly the flag for women in Russian motorsport.
“I want little girls to look up to me and realise that they too can be a Formula driver,” she says.
Ira acknowledges that this year won’t be easy - going up again 12 women who’ve had experience racing F3 cars before.
“All of the girls will be strong,” she says. “It’s going to be hard for me but I’ve been training so I’m prepared for the season. I do a lot of cardio and gym, but I also have school work to do.”
At the W Series four-day workshop, she was doing her school work in the evenings ready to send back to her teachers in Russia. She has been studying English for five years in the classroom, but has been racing on home soil so hasn’t had to use her language skills until now.
“I started to speak English out loud when I raced in Spain,” she says. “It’s good for me to do this. I had to communicate with the engineers so English was really important for me then.”
Despite her hectic schedule, she feels the hard work will all be worth it in achieving her goal of being a Formula 1 driver.
“Every driver wants to be a Formula 1 driver - that’s completely normal to have that dream. In the meantime, I’m going to do everything I possibly can.”
Images are courtesy of Ira Sidorkova and SMP Racing