The image of cars in a showroom
Although Firestone Indy Lights is about to return to his home country and city, David Ostella hadn’t given much thought to being the only Canadian in the series.
“Now that you bring it up, it’s starting to put on a little bit of pressure!” he quips affably.
The 20-year-old from Maple, Ont., is a sophomore in Firestone Indy Lights, the final rung of the Mazda Road to Indy driver development ladder before the top step, the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Ostella was raised to be very passionate about motorsport from an early age.
“Growing up, before I even got into racing, obviously I’m Canadian — what Canadian doesn’t play hockey? So, that’s the sport I started in, but I was watching F1 with my dad and the family. Big racing family — and Ferrari number one, background Italian. It kind of fits.”
After auspicious beginnings at eight years old, Ostella’s career took him through go-karting in the U.S. and Europe, Formula BMW, and Star Mazda.
Last year, in his first year in Lights, he drove for Jensen Motorsport, the only all-Canadian team in the series. His best finish with them came early: fourth place at the season opener in St. Petersburg.
This year, though, Ostella is with Team Moore, an outfit with a longer history and broader knowledge base.
“Jensen was a great team,” Ostella says. “I learned so much from that year, and that’s kind of what it was — more of a learning year than anything.
“This year, it’s just a lot more put together, a lot more organized, just because they’ve been around so long. They know how everything works.
“We came in to a rough start. We’re struggling with set-ups at a few tracks, and I had a few mistakes myself. But the last few races came off with two top fives, so we’re definitely going in the right direction at the moment.”
Another advantage for Ostella this year is his teammate, Gustavo Yacaman, a third-year driver in the series with whom he happens to have a long-standing friendship.
“I actually raced with him in go-karting,” Ostella recalls. “We were on the same team, so I’ve known him for a long time. After go-karts, he moved into car racing and we went on different paths.
“It was cool last year racing against him. And now being teammates, and with his experience in the car, it’s just phenomenal for my learning.
“It’s really good when we look at data and compare to see how he drives through the corner compared to me since he’s been racing it now for three years. So, it’s definitely a great help, a great asset for me.”
Ostella is also getting assistance from a place he hadn’t anticipated: Dario Franchitti, a man he counts among his racing heroes.
“I had a chance to meet him last year and continue to talk to him at the racetracks,” Ostella says. “He’s a great help for tracks I haven’t been to when we’re racing together. I never thought in a million years I’d be standing there talking to Dario Franchitti about how to drive around a track.”
Ostella is the recipient of some patriotic camaraderie as well.
“James Hinchcliffe is another help. He’s a fellow Canadian. I was always a few steps below him in my racing career, so it’s nice to see how he progressed and good that he helps me out as well. He helps me with certain corners and certain elements of racing that he’s already experienced but I have yet to.”
An aspect of returning to Toronto that Ostella is looking forward to is the track itself.
“One thing that’s pretty cool is driving 250 km/h on Lake Shore,” he laughs. “It’s an awesome track. One thing everybody says is that it’s really bumpy, and it is. It’s probably one of the bumpiest tracks I’ve been on. But the go-kart tracks are pretty similar, so I’m kind of used to it.
“It has great opportunities to pass, especially going into Turn 3 off the big, long straightaway, going into Turn 1, Turn 8. There’s just great competition and great racing.”
Ostella returns this year with the backing of LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
“It’s kind of an extension of the family,” Ostella says, “because my dad’s been a member there for about 20 years. It’s definitely good to have more support than I did last year.”
In conversation with Ostella, family is a common word. His memories of last year’s event centre on the encouragement he received from his own.
“Last year, racing at my home track was amazing,” he recalls. “I think my dad was probably more excited than I was to see his son on the streets of Toronto.
“One big thing for me is that I had the support of my whole family. It was crazy last year with how many people we had at the track, and it’s going to be even crazier this year.”
Although such an environment can be helpful, it can also put an enormous amount of pressure on a young driver.
But Ostella has his head in the game.
“It’s one thing I think about,” he says, “but I also have to push that aside. It’s just another race, so I have to focus myself on making sure I do what needs to be done.”