Lance Woolridge, South African rally driver, gets ready for his third race with Extreme E in the upcoming double-header along the breathtaking coast of Sardina, Italy.
The 31 year old driver moved up from reserve to driver with Team Veloce, racing alongside the always smiling Christine Giampaoli Zonca (or GZ as most know). Although currently in 10th place, there is still a big chance of racking in points at the Island XPrix and moving up the ladder.
With just over two weeks to go, we caught up with Lance a day before the teams testing in France with a game of 7/11, 7 minutes counting 11 questions. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Veloce, one of my first interactions with any of the drivers in Extreme E at the Island XPrix was with former team member Emma Gilmour (now in McLaren XE) and Sara Price (Chip Ganassi Racing, for Extreme E). His teammate Christine will be back in action next race, after a nasty tumble in Neom. Read interview below!
Nina: Hi Lance, thank you for joining us! Let’s start off by getting to know you a little bit better. What was your first job?
My first job, my only job is working in our family business, so when I finished studying, I’ve gone into our family business. We’re in the motor industry, we’ve got a 4×4 accessories center, and a normal car workshop where we service road cars. We have a petrol station, and then we build race cars for Ford, internationally, all of the cross country cars, and then a race in one of them as well.
Nina: Were you shy as a child?
Yeah, yeah. I’m still shy, I’m not an overly outgoing guy, I am a bit reserved until I get to know people, yeah.
Nina: When did you know that racing was going to be a career path that you should follow?
It’s always been something I wanted to do, racing, I didn’t ever know if I’d be able to make a full career out of it, and I’m at that twilight zone now where it’s a bit difficult having to still have a day job, and race and train, and kind of trying to do a few things at once, but they all kind of go hand in hand as well. And the training was good to keep my mind clear after a day’s work, and good for racing, so yeah, it all goes together, I guess.
Nina: 100%! Let’s dive into Extreme E, what is it about this championship that excites you most?
I think it’s, first of all, for me, from a pure racer point of view that, the level of competition. I like the fact that the cars are equal – that’s really good, so it’s down to the drivers. In Formula One, for instance, there’s so many good drivers, but the car makes such a difference. So, that’s the most exciting part about Extreme E, that the cars are really level.
Nina: You now have two races under your belt, Jurassic XPrix and Desert XPrix. A little bit of difficulty, third time is charm in Sardinia?
Yeah, I certainly hope so, the terrain is something I feel a lot more suited to my driving, quite similar to Dorset from a hard ground and track point of view. I was at Sardinia last year too, I did the track walk and everything, so really exciting, and confidence in the terrain, and I think, obviously, Christine is too having sort of grown up in the city and knowing that area pretty well. So yeah, I think we both are quite excited and hoping for a good result that could change of fortune for the team as a whole, I’d say.
Nina:Let us let us in on a dynamic between you and Christine!
Terrible. No, I’m kidding. It’s really good, we get on very well, she’s pretty easy to get on with anyway. But we had a preseason test, wasn’t really a test, it was more sort of team building, before Saudi, we went to Dubai for a week, her and myself, Ian, our team manager, our engineer… There we all got to know each other more, outside of racing, it was really, really nice! We get on very well, we both fiercely competitive and we both want the same thing, so it’s very nice to be on the same page then.
Nina: You mentioned earlier that the terrain in Italy doesn’t alarm you, however having two races in a row on different terrains, do you anticipate any challenges in regards to switching over fast for yourself and as a team.
I don’t know, I guess we’ll have to see when we there, how they’ve laid the track out and what it looks like. But I think coming from a rally grade background, I’m very used to and comfortable going fast in new terrain and reading it as I go. So I think that’s something that’s a plus for me and for guys like Carlos and Loeb, it’s a lot, comes a lot easier for us initially, I’d say. So I’m looking forward to the two rounds, hoping we can have a good weekend to maximize some points and get ourselves back in the fast.
Nina: No doubt! How do you plan on maintaining your focus with the two races being back-to-back? A much longer period of time to test and set that focus.
Yeah, it is. I think it’s going to come down to compartmentalizing, where we going to focus on the first event, focus on the usual practice quali, getting through the heats, the semis, and into the finals. Once we’ve got that first race behind us — put it behind us…and then focus on the next race, whether we have a good or bad results. And in the first race is going to be done to resetting and going again for the second one.
Nina: Who do you see as your biggest competitor?
Sure, I’d say, the whole field is very, very competitive, but I think specifically X44, RXR, Saints, and Cupra, I think are going to be really, really strong. But as I say, the rest of the field is extremely strong as well. McLaren, Ganassi, Andretti, you really, you can’t really give anyone a free pass! It’s really an intense thing. I was saying earlier, we’ve got to really minimize our mistakes and limit anything as a team, and just really do our best because it’s those little things that are going to make the difference. Everyone’s fast, it’s those little things where if we miss out on something, will make the difference between us getting through on a heat or not.
Nina: There were quite a few team changes from first season to the second. Last year I was at the Island XPrix too …
Yes, I remember meeting you.
Nina: Yeah! Thank you! I had the opportunity to meet teams as they were last season. So I couldn’t wrap my head around the team changes at first, but now I’m loving the new dynamics created. Speaking about drivers and their driving, what essential qualities make a good driver in your opinion.
You got to be dedicated, that’s for sure, you’ve got to train hard and just be very, very focused, a lots of sacrifices happen to a lot of us. Time away from family, missing birthdays and holidays, missing going out with friends…there’s a lot of things you need to sacrifice. But I think from a pure driving point of view, knowing when to attack and when to, perhaps, back off a bit, look after the car and how I like to say, “Driving smart”: driving with your head, not necessarily just all-out attack all the time, I think that does make a difference in results.
Nina: Absolutely. Coming from a rally background, you’re not unfamiliar with driving in a variety of terrains. What differentiates the handling and drive, in comparison of the Odyssey and Ford Ranger, apart from them being electric, of course?
The electric side is a big part of it. Ford Rangers are heavier, so that’s something you can feel when you’re in the Odyssey car, that it is lighter. The suspension in our Rangers, I’d say, is a lot better, it’s something that sort of specked and controlled for us all at the moment, and extremely and understandably. But we’ve got some new upgrades now, which is why we’ll be testing this week, so I’m very, very excited to see those and see how that’s improved the car. Then, yeah, although you said electric aside, the electric side would be the big difference and, the big learning curve that we all had, to get to know the car, to be able to set it up and understand what all the different balance, and talk changes do on the car. We’ve all learned a lot there, that’s for sure.
Nina: Let’s chat about sustainability! What aspects of your life has Extreme E made you reconsider a more sustainable future?
Just in general, I must say I’ve personally been exposed to a lot of information and learned a lot, coming from South Africa, that’s stuck in a bit of a twilight between first and third world, there’s very much third world things and very much first world things. But there’s a lot of, just ways of life, and things that we’ve learned at the Legacy Program, that I’ve brought back and spoken to family and friends about.
I think the big thing from Extreme E that I’m learning is sustainability, and that’s not a quick change. It’s a slow change that needs to be spread and communicated, feel exposure to it.. I’ve learned a lot with Extreme E. In that same sense, I’m passing [what I know] on to all the people I come into contact with! If we all start to do that, and keep on doing that, it’s a big ship to turn, but I think there’s change that will come for all of us.
Nina: On that note, maybe it might be a good idea to bring electric into Woolridge Motors, right?
Nina: Sustainability can mean something different to us individually. What does sustainability mean to you?
I don’t think we’re going to get away from ever having no pollution and no combustion engines, things like that in the world. Sustainability to me is trying to minimize that, it comes down to reducing your carbon footprint, saving water, recycling and the basics.
Nina: Sustainability leads us into being healthy! Health not only physical but mental health, all stems down to what you put in your body! Break down what a typical meal day for you might be.
Okay, so in the morning, I’ll have a coffee with some, I’ll have oats with some peanut butter, nuts, and a banana. Then at my sort of 10:00 or 11:00 AM, I’ll have another coffee, obviously lots of waters through the day, and an apple or a nectarine. Lunchtime is a chicken breast and some salad, then train in the evening, I’m not really a morning person, so get my training in the evening, and then, the sort of a dinner will be some roast vegetables, sweet potato, and a lamb chop, or some steak, or something like that.
Nina:Sounds delicious! Thank you so much for your time Lance and good luck to you and Veloce in Sardina! I really hope to be able to see you in Italy again.
What is your favorite vacation spot or your city around the world, currently, of course?
I’d say somewhere tropical, I’d say, I have not been there, but I really, really want to go, is to Bora Bora.
What is something that you always travel with?
Always travel with my portable hand massager, it helps with backs and necks after long trips.
Least favorite terrain to drive on?
I don’t really have one, to be honest, if I had to say one specifically, would probably be muddy terrain. I don’t like when I’m not in control of the car, although I’ve had some of my best results in muddy terrain, so I guess that’s a thing that I’m not comfortable with, but once you always get into the groove, and in mud terrain, then it does end up going quite well.
Daily commuter, pick one: truck or a sports car?
I’d drive a truck, I think, more practical.
Early mornings or late nights?
Late nights, I’d say, yeah.
What would be your superpower?
Superpower? Well, I’ve always wanted to fly, I’ve always thought if I could be a bird, that would be pretty cool. So yeah, I’d fly like Superman.
Extreme E Championship points
1st: 25 points (winner of the Final)
2nd: 18 points (2nd place in the Final)
3rd: 15 points (3rd place in the Final)
4th: 12 points (4th place in the Final)
5th: 10 points (5th place in the Final)
6th: 8 points (3rd place from Semi-Final 1 or Semi-Final 2)*
7th: 6 points (3rd place from Semi-Final 1 or Semi-Final 2)*
8th: 4 points (2nd place in the Crazy Race)
9th: 2 points (3rd place in the Crazy Race)
10th: 1 point (4th place in the Crazy Race)* The team finishing third in Semi-Final 1 or Semi-Final 2 that sets the faster Continental Traction Challenge time shall be deemed to be the 6th place finisher.