We interviewed Arianna Casoli for a series of questions regarding her career in NWES so far, her life outside of racing as a designer, and her involvement with sim racing during the lockdown.
With 47 starts on her name, Arianna Casoli is one of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series’ veteran drivers and is scheduled to enter her fifth consecutive campaign this year in the EuroNASCAR 2 class with the goal of defending the Lady Cup trophy that she won last year. Having joined the series in 2016 after a career in touring cars, she has become one of the series’ most popular drivers to the fans of one of the fastest growing racing series in Europe.
What is perhaps less known with Arianna is that she also has a passion for architecture, design, and advertising. These passions enabled Arianna to develop the gecko brand identity that she is known for as well as Geco Design, a motorsport graphic design company whose presence can be felt in the EuroNASCAR Esports Series as Geco Design created some of the schemes used by the teams participating in the Esports Series.
To help fans know more on Arianna Casoli, we approached Arianna to ask several questions regarding her career in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, the gecko branding and Geco Designs, and how she has adapted to sim racing with the EuroNASCAR Esports Series.
After racing in touring cars for most of your racing career, you made the switch to the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2016. How big was the jump that you experienced between the small touring cars to the big, powerful NASCAR stock cars?
The jump has been huge, also because I stopped racing for about 14 years and then I restarted with the small touring car of the SEAT Ibiza Cup in Italy in 2015. Switching to the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2016 was definitely a huge challenge! The car has to be driven old style having no electronics and the championship is one of the best in the European motorsport scene.
In terms of expectations, I just wanted to learn, have fun and work hard to improve and strengthen myself as a person and as a driver. Joining such an amazing group of drivers is something great. Not easy at all, but each season has been as strong and eventful as fun and “teaching”!
Your website states that a friend of yours gave you an opportunity to test a NASCAR Whelen Euro Series car in 2016, but prior of that have you heard about the series before or was that the first time you have ever heard about the series?
That was my first contact with EuroNASCAR. Before that, I just knew US NASCAR and I didn’t know there was a growing NASCAR series in Europe.
When you first started to race in NASCAR, were you expecting to stay competing in the series for this long?
Honestly no. I just loved the series from the beginning, but I thought it was just one more year racing before coming back to all day life working and following my son.
But sometimes life is strange and I tried year by year to follow my dream and continue racing, it’s not easy to balance everything but I’m getting on. For sure a big sponsor would help the journey, but in Italy it is really hard to find one.
You had been teammates with two-time Euro Series champion Alon Day for the last three seasons. Are you feeling honored to be the teammate of a two-time series champion?
Yes, it has been a big responsibility because we were sharing the same car in the same weekend and with so close races one after the other sometimes you feel the pressure. What should have been happened if I crashed the car or didn’t feel something could be damaged without telling it to the team? It is anyway teamwork 360 degrees and it has been great.
The car was always perfect, we worked with the team to have the best for both, sharing feelings and ideas for a standard so high is amazing and I was lucky to be able to learn from him from so many points of view. This year I will miss him, it is somehow like losing a member of the #54 team family.
As a veteran driver of the series, how do you feel about the series’ continuing increase in both the level of competitiveness in its field and popularity among the fans?
Good question. I’m a veteran of the Series but I still have so much to learn, my previous background was not so strong as the one of the majority of other EuroNASCAR drivers as each year the Championship level gets higher on both series (PRO and Division 2), my achievements have to be improved and the challenge is always harder.
The fans of this Series are amazing, no other kind of fans makes you feel part of a family: they follow all the NASCAR drivers and Series all over the world, not just a preferred one. In this way they allow us to feel part of the NASCAR family and this is something I never heard about in other Series.
Speaking of popularity, you’re certainly a very popular driver to the fans. How do you feel on your status as one of the series’ most popular drivers?
Maybe being a woman helps… Hahahaha…
Jokes apart, having fans is a strange and really good feeling. From a certain point of view, this helps to make me stronger from a point of self-confidence helping also to overcome some weakness, from the other side could be seen also as a responsibility. I really love that there are people out there who cheer for me, a really good feeling.
Outside of racing, you had an interest in design and architecture, and this includes your own design brand Geco Designs. Can you give us more information to the fans reading this on Geco Designs?
I graduated in architecture many years ago with a specific interest in amusement park design. I worked for some years in that field not only as architect but probably more as project manager, designer and graphic designer for a big Italian company that gave me the opportunity to work on many aspects of that business: from advertising to concept, production and even building amusement rides and parks.
The passion for design and advertising is far bigger than the one for architecture, I like to work with colors, images, and creativity. So, after a period of stop due to the fact that I became mother, I switched my target from architecture to design and graphic design.
Starting from the ground up, my new racing carrer gave me the opportunity to practice creating for myself a sort of new brand just from a small Gecko I liked to match with my name as a lucky sign. Now Geco Design is working in the direction of Motorsport Graphic Design (from hero card, logos, car livery, t-shirt, and others) to garden design that is my second big passion, even if each project that match with something new on design is always welcome. 🙂
Geco Designs is certainly an example of your usage of gecko as a trademark symbol of your career. Why do you choose a gecko as your personal symbol?
All started when my son found a baby gecko in the bathroom one summer, it was so cute. You can see that pic as my Skype profile still today.
When I started racing again in 2015 I wanted something to put on my car that represented me, a sort of “nobody knows but this is me”, so I begun to have a small Gecko near my name on the car and I inserted a glitter gecko on my new helmet design (that is another graphic full of personal meanings)… The gecko is me.
What is the meaning? I’m the same when wearing racing suit & helmet, a long dress with paillettes and high heels, or sneakers and shorts following my son on the golf course. For me, it is a symbol of how you can adapt when life gives you a challenge, small or big doesn’t matter, and you need to adapt yourself, your feelings and your way of life to deal with it.
I feel that the gecko is something positive that reminds me of so many events of my life and it also matches my personality.
Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns has brought real life racing activities into a halt, which in return have gave rise to the sim racing competitions around the world. Have you personally tried sim racing prior to this?
I’m trying to learn… Hahaha.
EuroNASCAR did an amazing job in only 3 weeks to organise the EuroNASCAR Esports Series (#ENES) on iRacing. So I decided, with the support of purasimulazione.it that sponsored my sim station and helped me in joining this kind of driving, to accept also this challenge as a complete beginner.
With no experience at all it is very hard because many drivers of the series are really skilled and used to that, but doing it with the team and friends is helping.
As I told in an interview to leadlap.de , I had to learn everything: From installing the program, register my profile to the procedures of the game and once you are in “the game” it is not just a matter of driving a car. You start to understand how you must set up your sim, adapt your feeling from physical to visual, learn how to react to new input and teach your instinct to follow other routes to “survive” on track and be more aware of how the car behaves. The lap time, the performance and the perfect driving line are not the priority at the beginning .
When you start to understand and adapt to it, the second step is “I’m not able to drive anymore…”, so you begin to watch the experienced ones, try to copy them and hit the barriers so many times you cannot count how often you press the ESC button each session.
If you want me to describe this with one word, it’s frustrating… Hahahaha, a new frustrating challenge. Even if I think these are two similar but completely different racing worlds, some skills learnt here might be useful for real racing.
Personally, what do you think is the biggest difference between racing an actual race car and racing via the simulators?
The main difference is the way you feel the reaction of the car (unless you have a 4D simulator with movements under the seat) that is based mainly on visual input. It is a great training for concentration and reflexes but in real racing you must deal with a lot more input on your body and mind.
Do you think sim racing can be used to help a racing driver to train their skills in the real world?
From a certain point of view yes, from other points of view we should be aware that real racing is much more.
It helps for sure to learn a track, to find out the tricky points, to identify the main points you should work once you enter in the real racing. It certainly helps to train concentration and gives the opportunity to make, with no danger, so many test over the limit, studying so many lines and possibilities in real racing you will never have the chance to deal with.
On the other hand, my feeling is that this is just a theoretical exercise not a substitute to real driving. Too many physical and psychological factors are not involved in sim racing or training. On the whole it is a good training, a tricky, funny, skillful, helpful “game” but still a game neither be completely compared or a substitute to reality.
We should anyway be conscious that in real life there are thousands more factors to add, also for safety reasons.
Finally, in the EuroNASCAR Esports Series, you have designed some of the schemes used via Geco Designs, such as your own entry and Solaris Motorsport’s entry. Not many drivers can claim that they’re both a racing driver and a scheme designer, even if it’s in the virtual world! How do you feel on this?
I feel great. It joins my two great passions 😉
Disclaimer: Unless noted, all photos used in this article are courtesy of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series / Stephane Azemard.