(The Jakarta Post): Impatient machines roared. Heat simmered off the tracks in waves. A flash of red lights. A wave of green flags. And off went the racecars. Except for one. A bold red car with a strip of white jolted into life at the fourth grid. The driver behind the wheels, Rio Haryanto, then sliced deftly past opponents twice – at the start and in the fifth lap – to gun down the tracks into victory in the AutoGP Valencia. “I feel like I’m in a different world. I can’t explain,” the 18-year-old Indonesian racer remarked on what zooms past his mind as he goes past speeds of 200 kilometers per hour during races. “It’s extremely exciting for me,” he said, adding that he enjoyed the speed he attained by racing. Up to today, his need for speed has whisked him to victory not only in the AutoGP Series in Valencia, Spain, but also the GP3 Series in Nurburgring, Germany, and Budapest, Hungary. However, he does not let his time during the victory lap sway him. “Even if I win a race, I still have to work to improve for the next race,” Rio, who defined the art of driving as a combination of “speed, confidence, perfection”, told The Jakarta Post. On the other hand, Rio sees losses as minor speed bumps to attain his ultimate career goal – racing and winning in the prestigious Formula One Series. “Losing is part of the process to be successful,” Rio, who was the youngest driver to test drive for the Formula One in 2010, said on not always coming in first. Although he won in the penultimate race in Valencia, Rio took second place at the AutoGP closing race in Mugello and even though he has won two GP3 Europe Series for the Marussia Manor racing team, Rio is still trailing in seventh position with 31 points. In the lead is Valtteri Bottas from Lotus Art with 62 points, followed by teammate James Callado with 55 points and RSC M?cke Motorsport driver Nigel Melker with 38 points. Rio admitted that, in the case of the GP3 series, he was “struggling a lot in the beginning of the year” but was able to come back well at the end of the season. The GP3 series holds importance for many racers as it is the feeder series for the GP2 Series – the ultimate training ground for drivers and teams looking to break through into Formula One. “So, overall this year, my ranking was not what I wanted but that is the way in racing,” Rio said. Chasing ranks in races around Europe, however, meant that he must be away from his family whom he said he kept in touch with on the telephone or Skype almost every day. Under this situation, his team has grown to become his surrogate family, making him feel “at home”. “I am very close with my mechanics and engineers. They are very good people to work with,” he told the Post. It is with this team that Rio spends most of his days as they work together on racing. He added that, in addition to work, his daily grind includes hitting the gym, swimming and running. “I usually spend my spare time with family and friends,” he said, adding that “to be disciplined” was the most challenging part in constantly carrying out his day to day activities. And it is this collection of teammates, family and friends whom Rio calls his motivators. “My family, my coach and my fans”, he said when asked who had inspired him the most. Rio sure does have his followers. A Twitter account was created by fans to post supportive shout outs to the Surabaya-born youth. Fans also give him the thumbs up and pat him on the back through online posts and YouTube videos featuring the racer. He added that the corporations that agreed to be his sponsors, state oil and gas firm PT Pertamina, state-owned airline PT Garuda, Indonesia’s largest cell phone operator PT Telkomsel and Kiky Creative Products, Inc., have been instrumental in the continuation of his career. “I hope they will continue to support my career,” Rio, who started his career at the age of six, remarked. Rio recounted that around that age, his father bought him a go-kart. He fell for racing right then and started to participate in go-kart competitions, describing his first win as “nothing special”. After close to ten years of participating in local and foreign go-kart competitions, he made his debut in formula racing at the 2008 Asian Renault Formula Championship in China, taking podium finishes in the sixth and seventh round. He finally made it into the GP3 Series in 2010 after competing in the Formula BMW Pacific in the previous year. Although he has raced many times, he said he did not have any lucky charms or pre-competition rituals like some athletes, except saying a prayer “to give me the right way to win”. He then admitted that he had been through “a lot of things” in his road of life, especially in his winding career. Yet personal belief has guided him to continue to keep driving. “One thing I learned the most is to never give up when things are not working well.”

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