Q&A: Calvin Ming opens up about his NACAM F4 success
Calvin Ming created history last weekend, becoming the first Guyanese to win the NACAM F4 Championship Series in Mexico. Driving for RAM Racing, Ming emerged as the only competitor with over 300 points in the eight-round series, notching up 350.
Mexican Jose Sierra of Telcel RPL Racing, with 296 points, finished second. Ming also ended the series with the most wins (7), most pole positions (3), most podium finishes (17), and joint-most fastest race laps with Sierra (5). The NACAM F4 Series attracted drivers from Mexico, Colombia, USA, Guyana, Uruguay, Ireland, Brazil, Australia and Panama. News Room Sport Editor Avenash Ramzan interviewed Ming after his success and the champion driver was more than happy to provide some insights into his campaign in Mexico.
Avenash Ramzan (AR): Firstly, congratulation on becoming the first Guyanese to win the NACAM F4 Championship Series. Explain the feeling when you stood on the balcony and the National Anthem was being played.
Calvin Ming (CM): I was ecstatic and lost for words. I worked very hard for it, and to be able to stand at the top of the podium and listen to my country’s National Anthem was amazing. Whenever I hear the anthem it always takes me back to my younger days in Guyana and it makes me proud just knowing I am able to represent all the good Guyana has to offer. Time seemed to move slowly, and it was a great feeling to look down from the balcony and seeing everyone who made it possible. At that point in time I just wanted to say “Thank you everyone, WE DID IT”.
AR: Describe the experience of competing at such a high level with drivers from different parts of the world.
CM: Ever since I moved over to America to further my studies and also continue my racing career, I knew it would not be easy. Competing at such a high level is very demanding and a lot of preparation has to be made. I immediately recognised that there was a lot to learn, including different driving techniques, how to set up the cars, providing detailed driver feedback, how to read data and more. I have been working very hard and doing everything I can, because I love to race and enjoy the adrenaline and intense competition. Racing with a lot of great drivers from all over the world has thought me that even though you may win one race, there is so much more to improve on and you should always strive for better. There is no room for making mistakes because one mistake can be the difference between winning a race and being last. The best part about racing against drivers from all over the world is that each driver is unique and brings his own style of racing to the track each time. Not to mention the different languages that always makes for interesting stories later on during the season.
AR: At what time did you realise that you had the title in the bag?
CM: From the beginning of the championship I knew it was going to be a hard one. They had so many great drivers and winning wasn’t going to be at all easy. However, from the start of the championship I managed to take the points lead and I never gave it up. It wasn’t easy keeping it as my main challenger Jose Sierra, who was second in the championship points, always stayed within 15 points of me throughout the championship, until the second to last round. I knew one bad race would have cost me the title. However, during the second to last round at San Luis Potosi I had a very successful weekend picking up two race wins and a second place, while Jose Sierra finished fourth in all three races. This was the point where I felt that I had a really great shot at winning the championship, because going into the final round, I had finally established a 55 points lead ahead of second place in the championship. However, I didn’t want to celebrate too early because I knew many things could go wrong and I needed to stay focused. Before the final round in Mexico, I had calculated every possible scenario by which I could win the championship, and during the last lap of race #1 in Mexico City on Saturday (June 17), I knew I had done it. My rival had brought third and by me bringing fourth I knew I had clinched the championship by two points, regardless if I raced in the final two races the next day. It was the greatest feeling of my life and so much pressure was lifted.
AR: What was your best moment during the series?
CM: My best moment in the series was winning the supporting F4 race, during the Mexican Formula 1 race event at the world famous Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit in Mexico City, last October. To be able to stand at the top step of the podium, where some of my idols stood, and also hear the Guyana National Anthem play in front of over 100,000 spectators, was a great feeling. Another moment that was close to that, was during the third round of the series in Merida, where I came close to making a clean sweep of all three races, but came up just short. However, the car set-up during that round was so close to perfect, that I could never forget it.
AR: Looking back at the Series, what are some of the areas you think you need to improve on going forward, if any at all?
CM: I think I can improve in every area. There is always something more to learn. For example, I can work on increasing my stamina, being more consistent and improving the technique in putting together a perfect lap for qualifying. I can also improve my public speaking, for when I am off the track. However, I think the biggest thing I need to improve on going forward, is probably my Spanish, which I only began learning in high school.
AR: Your family has been a constant source of encouragement. How important was that support in you eventually coming out on top in Mexico?
CM: Yes, my family has been a constant source of encouragement. But so have been my team members, my friends, sponsors and fans. I feel that they all played very important roles in making me come out on top. Whenever, I felt like I had hit a wall when training, they always encouraged and nudged me to keep pushing to get better results. They also kept me calm in high-pressure situations, and knowing that there are persons who are always supporting you, is a great feeling.
AR: How much of a role your father, himself a champion driver in his heyday, has played in your development?
CM: Without him none of this would be possible. He played a major role because he was the one who got me into driving at the age of six. He was the one I raced against and trained while growing up. He was also the one who taught me most of what I know today. He has taught me what it takes to be a champion on and off the track. He has also supported me by coming to all my test sessions and races, and driving me from place to place before, during and after each race weekend when I am tired. He has also financed most of my racing programme with some assistance from his business associates, without which I would not be racing today.
AR: Many persons believe motor-racing is just about getting into a car and trying to be as fast as possible. As you would be aware, it’s much more than that. What’s your routine in terms of preparing for a race?
CM: Yes, motor-racing is about being as fast as possible. But when racing at a professional level, everyone is fast and that is where the hard part comes in because one little mistake can cost you everything. My routine for preparing for a race starts at least a month in advance. However, I have been training for the last two years non-stop when it comes to racing. Since the start of the season I have been doing the same routine weekly. Every week I go to the gym five times, usually Monday to Friday. On cardio day I usually mix it up with running or sometimes trail riding in the area near my home, on a mountain bike. One day every week is set aside for simulator training, when I practice on the track I will be racing at next, in the type of car that I will be competing in. A month before I also receive track notes along with videos from my team manager that I have to study, and carefully look at, in order to learn different key aspects about being fast on the particular track. When it comes to the race weekend itself, I always do a track walk the day before, to ascertain that nothing on the track has changed, and to make sure I can be fast from the first session, after putting in several hours on the simulator and looking at the notes that were provided.
AR: Now that the NACAM F4 Series is over, what next for you?
CM: Currently, I am also competing in the USF2000 series in America, which is equivalent to Formula 3 in Europe. I haven’t had the best of luck since l was unable to be competitive in four out of the first six races, due to mechanical problems or incidents, which took me out of the race. However, I have shown I have the pace, as I have always been in the top 10 and have also picked up my first P2 podium of the season in a field of 26 or more cars. Moving into the 2018 season I have yet to decide on what I will be pursuing. My future programme will undoubtedly depend on the financial support that becomes available through sponsorship, along with any suitable offers that may become available to me. However, I am looking into the possibility of moving up to Formula 3 next year, should the necessary financial resources become available. There is still a lot of time left in 2017 to do testing and decide what is the right move for the future.
AR: Obviously, you’re always looking to improve and make strides in the sport. Where do you wish to see yourself in another five years from now?
CM: Holding the Guyana flag on the top step of the podium of a world series. My dream is to be in Formula 1, Indy car or LMP (Le Mans prototype) cars. Racing is a sport I love, and if I can get the opportunity to compete against the world’s best and make it my full time career, I will be very satisfied.
Editor’s Note: News Room Sport would like to express gratitude to Calvin Ming for taking time out from his busy schedule to facilitate this interview. We also wish him the very best in his future endeavours.