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A Virtual Sit Down with Juan Manuel Correa

Chatting to What It’s Like… with Luce podcast, (Podcast below) the young driver shares his journey through the formulas, that near-fatal crash last year at the Belgian GP and how he’s recovering during the quarantine. 

Swapping four wheels for two as he allows the ten centimetres of missing bone reform in his right leg, JM Correa has certainly had one hell of a career. Rising through the ranks to secure a coveted spot as Alfa Romeo Racing’s development driver, things couldn’t have been more prosperous for the twenty-year-old athlete. Sights set on one day taking a seat amongst the best of the best, he strapped himself into the car on the F2 grid in Spa and waited for light outs – no-one could’ve anticipated it would be lights out on his time in racing, for the foreseeable future. 

Answering my Zoom call from his home in Miami, JM greets me with a smile and updates me on the current COVID situation in America. He’s coping with lockdown fine, video games and educating himself with a course from Harvard Business School are keeping him plenty busy and his home gym is perfect to continue his injury rehab. For twenty years old, this guy is extremely wise beyond his years and interviewing him is much easier than I anticipated… given the notorious attitude of some racing drivers towards the media! 

Talking me through his early days, he remembers the first time he sat in a Go-Kart at just seven years old,

“I began in Ecuador where I was born. It started as a hobby but then got more serious. I raced there in 2007 until 2011 when we moved to Miami. During that time, I won two national championships and then in 2013, won the national championship in the US followed by the world championships that same year.” 

The Correa’s have always been big motorsports fans, so it was no great shock that their predecessor would become a petrol head too – although his choice of vehicle came as a surprise to his bike-loving father,

“I was brought up with pretty much everything that had an engine and wheels on it. I started with motorcycles when I was four years old but then I tried Go Karts and I never wanted to go back on the bike again.” 

Sharing some more fond memories from the start of his career, JM lets me in on how difficult it was to relocate to Italy alone at just 14 and how he sacrificed a normal school life to pursue his love for racing. Despite it being challenging, the driver nods in agreement at the suggestion that it was all worth it when he got that life-changing call up to Formula 4. 

“It was very challenging and a lot different to what I thought it was going to be – it was another world totally. Definitely a steep learning curve but at the same time, really exciting, you feel like a mini Formula 1 driver getting into these big cars with your fancy helmets!”

The excitement of that first year travelling the circuit with a great team and ever better teammates brings back a few laughs from JM but then it comes time to mention the unavoidable talking point – August 31 2019. 

He takes me back to the details of the day that changed his life forever, remembering the instant pain in his legs and back, his struggle to pull himself out of the wrecked car and the months uncertainty that followed.  Turning the camera to show me the exoskeleton that holds his leg in place with the help of 19 external and ten internal nails, I am in shock. Through it all, the optimism and positivity JM has is infectious and days after our interview I’m still affected by his upbeat outlook on life. 

Ending our chat on a more lighthearted note as he tells me of his music producing dreams and a goal to follow up his return to racing with a retirement DJ-ing in Greece, I’m grateful to have spent my morning finding out what it’s like… to be Juan Manuel Correa. 

Written by Lucy Norris

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What It’s Like… with Luce is a podcast highlighting ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Hosted by Lucy Norris, these are the stories of people who felt the fear and did it anyway. Catch episodes every Monday at 7 am BST and Thursday at noon, on all your usual podcast streaming sites.

 

Listen to the full interview on Spotify below:

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*Image Credit: LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship
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