In just 10 Ginetta Junior races, 14-year-old Sophia Floersch has done enough to suggest she has a bright future ahead in top-level motorsport. Jamie Klein spoke to her about her future ambitions.
As the BTCC circus descends on Snetterton this weekend, there will be one key member of the supporting cast absent – much to the disappointment of her loyal legion of fans.
In just half a season of Ginetta Juniors, Sophia Floersch has made quite an impact, a superb brace of victories at Thruxton in May transforming her into the talk of the TOCA support paddock.
Coming in just her fifth and sixth races out of karts, those wins, backed up by a string of top-four finishes in the two following rounds, have marked the German out as one to watch.
Nonetheless, Floersch and her backers have since chosen to call time on her Ginetta campaign in order to begin preparations for an assault on the German-based ADAC Formula 4 series in 2016 – the next step towards her ultimate goal of competing in F1.
If next year goes well, it could change my whole life, so it’s important that I prepare as much as I can.
Sophia Floersch on quitting Ginettas
“It’s so competitive in ADAC F4 and starting testing early gives me the best possible chance,” she explains, speaking with a maturity that belies her tender age of just 14 years.
“Besides, nobody is really interested in Ginettas in Germany, and because of the exchange rate between pounds and euros it has cost more than we thought it would.
“So we thought it was better to use the available budget to test F4 instead – if next year goes well, it could change my whole life, so it’s important that I prepare as much as I can.”
To that end, Floersch has racked up 700 kilometres in testing this week alone – and she says learning the tracks on the ADAC F4 calendar will be crucial.
“The more laps I do, the better I get,” she says, “and then there’s knowing the tracks I’ll be racing on, because I only know the two that I’ve tested on so far, Oschersleben and Spa.
“There are drivers who did Formel Masters [the forerunner to ADAC F4] last year and the year before, so they will have a big advantage over me knowing the circuits already.”
Getting used to the spotlight
Because of her age, Floersch was unable to start her single-seater journey this year, forcing her to make a choice between Ginettas and another year in karts.
As well as helping to further develop her racecraft, she says the best thing about opting for the former has been the considerable following she has gained from her Ginetta exploits.
“Maybe a hundred people come to watch a kart race, but there I was in front of 40,000 fans at Brands Hatch for my first race weekend. I was so nervous!
“But by the time we got to Donington Park for the next round I had learned to cope with it, and then when I won those races at Thruxton I suddenly got another thousand followers on Twitter.
“All the support has been amazing, and I wouldn’t have got that just carrying on with karts for another year – so I’m really glad we chose Ginettas.”
Floersch is certainly aiming high in her first year of ADAC F4; asked about her specific targets for 2016, she says: “I think being in the top five or six in the championship is realistic.
“At the start it will be tough because of my lack of experience, but I hope I can get one or two wins before the end of the season.
“We have to see – if it goes well next year, we could change to F3 for the following year; if not I’ll probably stay in F4 for a second season.”
Catching Red Bull's eye
It’s become increasingly expensive in recent years for young drivers to ascend the single-seater ranks, but fortunately for Floersch, she has already succeeded in catching the eye of a certain energy drink company renowned for its backing of emerging talent.
Scouted as a young go-karter by Red Bull three years ago, she enjoys a loose affiliation with the Austrian firm, something that will stand her in good stead for the journey ahead.
“I go to the factory eight times per year to do two hours of simulator training and two hours in the gym,” she reveals, “although I’m not a Red Bull athlete as such.
“Being a part of their young driver scheme in future is certainly possible, although nothing is decided at the moment.”
Nobody better than Floersch herself knows that there’s an awfully long way to go between where she is currently and potentially becoming the first woman to start a Grand Prix since Lella Lombardi.
But, the buzz she has generated in less than a dozen Ginetta races has been nothing short of remarkable – a sure reflection of a prodigious talent, which, combined with the necessary backing, could well see her go all the way to the top.