The fastest female karter? Tereza Babickova plans on making it all the way
Tereza Babickova has been pitted against the fiercest of competition - her own two sisters. Best friends off the track, as soon as the visor went down, they were there to win on the karting circuits. This pushed her to go faster, to drive better, and that is one of the reasons why the 18-year-old has secured a seat in this season’s W Series competition.
Her father originally allowed them to go karting to gain some discipline - he wanted them to be sensible drivers when they gained their licences. Little did the family know just how big of a part motorsport would play in their lives for the years to follow.
“We tried it and there absolutely wasn't any way of coming back,” Tereza tells Females in Motorsport. “It became a huge passion for the whole family and what we enjoy about it as well.
“We were so much together as a family because our parents would be at every race.”
Her journey to the top levels of international karting didn’t come without a fight. Due to financial reasons, she was forced to stop competing in 2017 and went over a year without racing.
“My karting career started when I was seven and first I’d say that we only practised every Sunday and took it more as a hobby,” she says. “Then we started getting more and more into it and I started racing in the Czech championships.”
Her abilities went from strength to strength last season, accumulating in what would have been a victory in Bahrain. She came tantalisingly close to becoming the first female winner in the Senior Max class of the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finales. She was handed eight seconds of penalties and ultimately finished fourth - a notable finish nonetheless.
“After I came home from Bahrain, that's what got me the recognition,” she says. “I’d assume that’s why W Series sent me the invite to test in Arizona.”
In a whirlwind of circumstances, Tereza found herself jetting off to America for the first selection test with the all-female single-seater championship. Prior to this, she had never set foot in an F4 car.
“I wasn't sure how I was going to do in Arizona because I knew people were coming there with quite a lot more experience than me,” she says. “My first session really wasn't good and then as we went on, it was getting better and better, and I really enjoyed the experience.”
With a positive first test under her belt, Tereza arranged to test the Formula Regional-spec cars before the second stage selection with W Series in Barcelona.
Having gone from never testing a single-seater to being successful in earning a W Series drive for 2022? Now, that is talent.
“It was a massive step for me,” she says. “On the first lap I immediately spun because I didn't realise the weight transfer and how quick it is. It's an incredible step in speed and the things you need to think about.
“You need to think about your brake shape, which in karting, we don't really do. You need to think about the downforce, how you can improve, and what's the most efficient way to go through the process.”
Her determination to succeed is evident in her driving style - something which she refers to as “aggressive”.
“When I started, Matt Von de Brand was coaching me,” she says. “He needed to tone me down because I'm way too aggressive. Sometimes I still struggle with it to this day.
“Sometimes I just go for the gap even when there’s obviously not a big enough gap. That's one thing that's sort of my advantage and disadvantage at the same time.”
Tereza was always hopeful that her hard work in karting would pay off. After all, only a few women have achieved the results she has.
“Not many girls could have achieved what I did,” she says. “This is an amazing opportunity because it gives you a great platform to go to higher tiers of motorsport.
“That's sort of the plan! Try to do every higher FIA series after W Series, but W Series is a great platform and removes the budget issues.”
With the spotlight also comes another aspect: the media. Prior to W Series, this was something Tereza didn’t have that much experience with.
“I would do a few interviews here and there in karting if I won something or before the race or on the track, but it's never anything that big,” she says. “It's definitely new for me. I'm still learning - still learning not to get nervous when I don't know how to answer a question, but I’m getting better and better.”
Growing up in the Czech Republic, Tereza didn’t learn English in school. Instead she picked it up at the kart tracks.
“Everyone was speaking English and I couldn't understand,” she says. “I don't even know how I learnt it, actually! I think I learned it in like five months or something.”
Wanting to better her skills, Tereza applied to attend an international school where all of the subjects were taught in her second language.
“It was quite a big step since I couldn't speak the language properly and I got accepted,” she says. “So I did my whole school in English.”
There is no doubt that Tereza has big ambitions for on and off the track. Outside of motorsport, she is aiming to attend university in the future to study business. On the track, Tereza is preparing to be fighting fit for the W series season that starts in May.
“I do want the results but with this little experience it's also really not that expected to finish in the top five,” she says. “I want to learn how the car works so I can drive it properly and get better and better throughout the season.”
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Photos are courtesy of W Series.