Friday, 29 April 2016

Julia Ballario

Julia in Star Mazda

Julia Ballario is an Argentine driver who competes in both single-seaters and touring cars, at home and in the USA.

She was born in 1992, in Marcos Juárez near Cordoba. Her father was a racing driver who had competed in Formula Renault. Taking advantage of rules allowing very young drivers to race as seniors, he got her start in senior motorsport in Formula Renault in Argentina, in 2007, competing in the Plus series. This followed six years of karting.

2007 was a learning year, and although she was not among the frontrunners, she was nominated for a driver award. Detailed results for Julia in 2007 are not widely available. The Formula Renault season itself was shortened that year, due to the death of a competitor.

It was another learning year on the tracks in 2008, but she got on the leaderboard, finishing thirteenth. She was driving for the Baypal Scuderia team. They kept her on for 2009, and she was thirteenth again.

In 2010, she entered both the Plus and secondary Interprovencial series, finishing fourteenth in both.  Judging by her points tally in both, her performances were roughly equivalent. Detailed results are no longer readily available, as before.

2011 started with Formula Renault, driving for the Baypal Scuderia again. She took part in the first four rounds of the Argentine championship, with a best finish of fifth, at Alta Gracia. After that, she took her first steps in saloon racing, driving a Renault Clio in Class 2 of the Argentine National Touring Car Championship. This was somewhat of a baptism of fire for Julia, who finished two of her four races, and had a best finish of 19th at Posadas. Undeterred, she signed up for the last three Buenos Aires rounds of the Turismo Carretera Pista Mouras series, in a Chevrolet. Her finishes were slightly better, with a fifteenth her highlight. At about the same time, she rejoined Formula Renault for the last two races of the season, adding another top-ten to her tally, a sixth at Marcos Juárez, her home track.

Julia’s career was now at something of a turning point. She chose to pursue tin-tops further in 2012, and was signed by the HRC Pro-Team for the TC2000 championship in Argentina. This was only the second time a female driver had raced in the series, after Delfina Frers in 2000. In an interview, she admitted that she might not be able to progress beyond Formula 3 if she persevered with single-seaters. This was a move which paid off, as she was on the pace very quickly in her Peugeot 307, describing it as easy to drive. Her second race, at Rosario, led to a fourth place, and although the season was marred somewhat by DNFs and one disqualification, she was a regular top-ten finisher, and managed her first podium at Salta, in third place. She was fifth in the championship.

Although she had proved a success in touring cars, she still harboured hopes of a single-seater career, perhaps outside Argentina. Her season began in the popular Top Race tin-top series, driving a Ford Mondeo for Schick Racing. Again, it was a steep learning curve, and she managed a thirteenth place at Junin as her best result, from five races. Mid-season, she travelled to the USA to compete in Formula Star Mazda, the entry-level series for the “Road to Indy”. She was driving for the Juncos Racing team, who were running three cars that year. This followed a series of tests in late 2012, in which she performed well. Julia’s four races showed promise, with three top-tens: a seventh at Trois Rivières, and ninths at Trois Rivières and Mid-Ohio.

Her second series of Star Mazda, in 2014, led to better results, the best of these being a fourth place, at Houston, on a wet track. Still with the Juncos team, she had eight top-ten finishes, and was eleventh in the championship. There were three female drivers in the series that year, and Julia was the best of them.
She returned to Argentina for the Top Race series in 2015, and was second in the Copa Damas, just behind Violeta Pernice. Her car was a Chevrolet Cruze, and she was thirteenth in the overall championship. If it had not been for a few DNFs mid-season, she would have been higher up the rankings; she scored three podium positions, including a second place at Río Cuarto.

She also did some TC2000 races in a VW Vento, making guest appearances at Buenos Aires in May. She was fourteenth and seventeenth.

In 2016, she raced a Mercedes for the 3M Racing team, in Top Race. It was something of a topsy-turvy year for her. She won two races, at Chaco and Rio Cuarto, the first of these from pole. At Rio Cuarto, she recorded the fastest lap. However, for the rest of the season, a fourth place at Concordia notwithstanding, she struggled for pace, and did not reach the top ten. Still, she was eighth overall in a competitive series.   

Her 2017 Top Race season was a disappointment. She ran in the V6 class with the GT Racing team, driving a Chevrolet Cruze. Her best finish was a tenth place at San Juan, her seventh race of the season, but this was her last event of the year. She pulled out due to a lack of sponsorship.

She attempted to get her career back on track in 2018, entering the first five Top Race rounds in a Volkswagen. Sadly, she only finished two, both in 15th place. In a different car, a Chevrolet, she made a guest appearance in Argentine Turismo Carretera, at Buenos Aires. In another car again, a Ford, she did the Olavarria round of the TC Pista Mouras series, finishing in sixth place. 

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