Drift
Karolina Pilarczyk
In today’s interview, internationally acclaimed drift driver Karolina Pilarczyk talks to us about discovering her perfect discipline, her family’s incomprehension of her passion, and how being a drift driver is just a normal job.
WHEEL SISTERS: Karolina, please introduce yourself.

Karolina: My name is Karolina Pilarczyk and I live in Warsaw, Poland. I won Queen of Europe in 2016 & 2017, and drive in the Polish Drifting Championship, European Drifting Championship and Formula Drift.

WHEEL SISTERS: Karolina, you are a well-known international drift driver and in 2016 and 2017 you won the “Queen of Europe” title. Can you tell us a little bit about your way to the top? How did you get introduced to motorsport? And when?

Karolina: I have a quite interesting story. No one in my family had anything to do with motorsport, no one had a workshop, any connection to cars – nobody even really liked cars… my family and friends treat cars as metal boxes for moving from A to B. My mom is an actress. My dad is an IT programmer. They don’t understand my hobby at all. In fact, they don’t like it because drifting destroyed their expectations for my life. My mom was hoping that I would work at a management level for some corporation, that I would have a husband, two children, a cat and dog. My dad was expecting that I would get a Nobel prize in the IT sector. For a long time everything went according to their expectations: I finished the best high school in Poland, I finished one faculty at the University, second faculty, I was working for IT companies at a management level… and at some point I went in a different direction. After doing my driving license, I wanted to improve my driving skills, that’s why I went to a Driving Academy. Driving on a slippery surface, when I was learning how to control slide, I fell in love with it and I wanted to become a racer.

Professional racer Karolina studied management and at the same time – computer science. Right now, she is doing a PhD at Warsaw University.
Picture: Karolina Pilarczyk
WHEEL SISTERS: With which car did you learn to drift?

Karolina: It was a BMW E36 328. I bought this car thanks to a credit. I couldn’t afford to buy it, but it was my dream – that’s why I took out the loan. It was beautiful, silver, with an M package. I didn’t have money for modifications, so I only welded the differential, I made a harder suspension – that’s all. This was my first drift car.

WHEEL SISTERS: Have you tried other motorsport disciplines too? And why did you choose drift as your main discipline?

Karolina: I have! When I decided to be a racer, I didn’t know that drifting existed. I started with an amateur rally. And I was quite successful! I won a few podiums. But I was using the handbrake too much! I loved to slide with the car and all the time my codriver was screaming at me: “don’t do that! We are losing time!”, and I was yelling: “fuck the time, it’s more fun that way” ;) when I saw drifting, I knew that this was my motorsport discipline.

WHEEL SISTERS: At the time you decided to start a racing career, what were the reactions of your family and friends? Did anyone try to talk you out of it?

Karolina: Of course! As I mentioned earlier, my parents didn’t like it. For many years, my mom was trying to convince me not to do this: “you don’t have the knowledge about cars, you don’t have money for this, you are a woman…”. She is afraid that something will happen to me. They still don’t understand why I am doing this, but I think they have started to accept it…

my family and friends treat cars as metal boxes for moving from A to B
WHEEL SISTERS: You are now a professional drift driver. So, you achieved something many other girls dream of and can pay your bills from your biggest passion. But what is your education?

Karolina: I studied management and at the same time – computer science. Right now, I’m doing a PhD at Warsaw University. My PhD thesis is about the role of communication between business and IT department platforms in IT projects.

“The truth is that you should look at my profession more as a marketing service. I spend maybe 20% of my time in the car”, says Karolina.
Picture: Karolina Pilarczyk
WHEEL SISTERS: What does a normal working week look like for you? And what challenges do you have to deal with in your daily business?

 Karolina: This is really funny, because when I say that I’m a professional drift driver, everybody thinks that I am only driving the car. The truth is that you should look at my profession more as a marketing service. I spend maybe 20% of my time in the car. The rest of my working day is a normal job: meetings, presentations, conferences, preparing offers, photo sessions, commercials, marketing campaigns, interviews, etc. The challenges are the same as in a normal business – we need to win contracts, find customers for our services, manage all the logistic issues, maintain the cars and be ready with services.

WHEEL SISTERS: How did you get sponsors?

Karolina: I do a lot of PR and marketing activities – I’m very often in the media, I’m very active on social media and I take care of the sponsors’ visibility. This means that sponsors see that they gain concrete value from cooperation.

To get sponsorships Karolina is doing a lot of marketing and PR activities.
Picture: Karolina Pilarczyk
WHEEL SISTERS: Which cars do you use for the competition and why did you choose them?

Karolina: I drive a Nissan 200sx S14a, but with a Chevrolet V8 engine – a LSX 6.2l with over 700hp. The car is a machine for drifting so most of the car parts are performance-focussed and selected for drifting. I have had experience with various cars and this is the best setup for me.

WHEEL SISTERS: Do you work on your cars yourself or do you have mechanics?

Karolina: I have a team of mechanics, who are specialists in their area. As I mentioned earlier – I don’t have any motorsport education or background, so I leave this to the professionals.

WHEEL SISTERS: In general: how does a drift car have to be equipped to be competitive?

Karolina: It depends on the league. Right now, the cars are really professionally built. But still – there is a difference between leagues. In some, it’s enough if the car has a roll cage, good suspension, locked differential, hydraulic hand brake and, in terms of power, at least 400hp. In other leagues, all car components have to be modified. The car has to perform and to be competitive it has to have at least 700hp.

… when I saw drifting, I knew that this was my motorsport discipline.
WHEEL SISTERS: If you look back – what had the biggest impact on improving your driving skills?

Karolina: The support of competent people. I always tell everybody that if they want to learn drifting, they should start with somebody who knows how to drift. It’s very easy to learn bad reactions. It is very difficult to unlearn muscle reflexes. I know something about this. When I started my adventure with drifting there were only a few people who knew what to do, so we were learning by trial and error… I made a lot of mistakes…

WHEEL SISTERS: Since 2019 you have participated in the Formula Drift PRO2 series in the USA. Can you tell us about this series and point out the differences to European races?

Karolina: Formula Drift is really amazing. Of course, I love European leagues, but motorsport in the USA is very popular. People love it. And you can feel it. That’s why you can see much greater support from companies, producers and the audience. I loved watching what is happening in the machine park. Most of the teams have amazingly equipped trailers. Producers of tires, suspension companies and car producers are involved… they are checking every detail – the temperature of the tires, weight of the car, suspension behaviour, etc and they are adapting products to the drivers and race track… you will not see anything like this in Europe. Only in a small way maybe. And the audience – this was amazing – so many people of various ages, all very involved in what is happening on the race track, who come whatever the weather.

“And the audience – this was amazing – so many people of various ages, all very involved in what is happening on the race track, who come whatever the weather”, Karolina about the races in America.
Picture: Karolina Pilarczyk
WHEEL SISTERS: Let’s talk about your second passion – dogs. In your free time, you work hard for animal rights and help rescue street dogs. Please tell us about your charity work.

Karolina: Yes, that’s true. I love animals. All of them. I’m vegan. I am fighting to improve their living conditions and situation. I spend a lot of time in dog shelters taking care of homeless dogs. I promote adoptions, fostering and volunteering. If somebody cannot adopt a dog, it’s also really important to spend some time with homeless dogs, pet them, take them for a walk – they really need it.

WHEEL SISTERS: What do you find most fascinating about drift?

Karolina: The feel of it! It’s really difficult to explain, but controlling a 700hp machine in a slide at 160km/h – there is nothing better than this ;)

WHEEL SISTERS: In your opinion, what does a successful drifter need to have in order to become successful?

Karolina: Stubbornness and patience… drifting is very demanding. Only one mistake can destroy a great battle and not everything is dependent on the driver… sometimes it’s very frustrating, fighting with budgets, with technical problems… you really need to love it.

Karolinas second passion are dogs. She is fighting to improve their living conditions and situation.
Picture: Karolina Pilarczyk
WHEEL SISTERS: Who is your role model? Who inspires you?

Karolina: There are a lot of great drivers I like to watch and learn from… James Deane – my teammate from Falken Team. He is a machine. I love to watch his on-boards and how he is driving. Fredric Aasbo – he is an amazing driver and person. Chelsea Denofa – his drift style is insane! I love to watch him. Vaughn Gittin Jr – I love his contact with people… I can go on and on.

WHEEL SISTERS: Have you experienced any sexism during races and, if so, how did you deal with it?

Karolina: I haven’t experienced it during a race, but I have experienced it on the Internet. I ignore it. It’s not worth my attention or time.

WHEEL SISTERS: What can be done to encourage more women to get involved to motorsport?

Karolina: We need initiatives to help with the budget. I think that more women would be interested in trying a motorsport discipline if they got support from the beginning. A lot of women still have in their mind that “this is not for girls” – I think if they could try without financial consequences, they could experience that “it is for girls” and we would have more women in motorsport.

Only one mistake can destroy a great battle and not everything is dependent on the driver
WHEEL SISTERS: What advice would you give to girls or women looking forward to getting into motorsports?

Karolina: Do it!! It’s a beautiful sport and it’s not true that it’s not for women. The emotions are worth everything. Don’t think about the problems, which you can solve – just do it! Every problem is a challenge for which you will find the solution laughing

WHEEL SISTERS: What are your sporting goals in the upcoming months or years?

Karolina: I want to focus on podiums in European Drift Championships – Drift Kings and Polish Drift Championship Drift Open. But I’m not talking about ladies’ series here. I also wanted to collect enough points to get a Formula Drift Pro1 license. I hope that it will be doable taking into consideration what is happening right now…

WHEEL SISTERS: Community question: When will you come to Austria again?

Karolina: I really enjoyed driving in Austria – Melk and Greinbach are amazing places. The racetracks, organisations, people… I really miss them. Unfortunately, I don’t know when we will come again… I am taking part in Drift Kings and Austria was not in the schedule for this year…

“We need initiatives to help with the budget. I think that more women would be interested in trying a motorsport discipline if they got support from the beginning”, says Karolina.
Picture: Karolina Pilarczyk
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