Your hands tightly clench the wheel; your ears flood with engines roaring. You’re seconds away from thrusting your foot on the pedal, but your mind? For Roman De Angelis, it’s completely still.
“It's almost blank,” says De Angelis, a 21-year-old professional driver who’s spent more than half of his life on the raceway.
“The second you begin rolling to the start line, everything clears and it’s really quiet and calm. Then, when the race starts, that's kind of when all the chaos breaks loose.”
De Angelis is a third-year mechanical engineering student who’s managed to find time to clinch first place finishes in the Detroit Grand Prix, Northeast Grand Prix and in both the U.S. and Canadian Porsche GT3 Cup Challenges, all while studying full time at the University of Windsor.
His team, The Heart of Racing, competes internationally with an Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and uses its platform to raise funds for children’s hospitals. They’ve raised more than $8 million to date.
“We put out commercials and videos just trying to support the kids. That's our big drive.”
De Angelis’s interest in engineering was piqued at a young age by the engineers who surrounded him in his motorsports career. They’d perform a data analysis on everything from his suspension to speed and sit with him to explain how to use it to improve his performance.
“I grew really fond of what they were doing and their level of knowledge,” he says.
De Angelis says his racing experience gave him a practical understanding beyond the pages of his textbooks, while his university education has given him a slight edge on the track.
“There's a lot of technical components in motorsports. I find I’m able to better relay information to our team of engineers.”
His humble beginnings go-karting on a small track in Leamington propelled him to a Canadian Karting Championship in 2014. From there, he wrote history at the age of 16 as the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge’s youngest driver and gold class champion in Canada. Two years later, in 2019, he again broke records by winning 18 of 24 GT3 races entered and becoming the first driver to claim both the Canadian and US platinum division championships.
From his Belle-River home, De Angelis is able to train for upcoming races using a driver simulator equipped with monitors, a steering wheel, pedals and laser scanned versions of the racetracks he’ll face.
“There's a lot on the line and not a big margin for error. It's definitely more mind based. It's a mental sport in general.”
With a middle name like Senna, a nod to famous race driver, Ayrton Senna, it’s only fitting De Angelis dreams of carrying the momentum of his prolific racing career for years to come, however, his education is just as paramount.
He hopes to join the Faculty of Engineering’s SAE Formula Team and cap his third year of study with an internship at an engineering firm.
“My team is very happy that I'm in school and getting my education, so they're really supportive when I’m doing my homework. I have a lot of open textbooks on flights and on the road,” he says.
“The nice thing about this program is that you can really move in any direction. I'm trying to find a place where I feel grounded and enjoy what I’m doing and then I'll stick there.”
This article was featured in the latest issue of WE, the Faculty of Engineering’s annual magazine. WE is distributed annually to alumni, students, faculty, staff and industrial/community partners of the faculty. If you would like to receive WE electronically and UWindsor Engineering’s quarterly e-newsletters, join the faculty’s mailing list.