There is no doubt that the man marking the first round of the International GT Open, last weekend at the Paul Ricard, is Ivan Peklin. The young Ukrainian was virtually unknown arriving in France and left having written history, as the first Ukrainian driver having won a race in one of the top international GT3 series.
The tall teenager (he’ll turn 20 in October) from Kiev could claim being the first driver from the Ukraine to win an international formula race. That, also, happened in France, at Magny-Cours, in a round of the 2020 French F.4 Championship that he finished in 10th position. That was the first full season in his international career, after a few outings in F4 in the Middle East and Asia in 2019. He started racing in 2015 in karting, conquering two national titles.
At the Paul Ricard, he surprised everybody, but not Tancredi Pagiaro, the owner of Team Lazarus, who had the possibility to judge his skills during the winter tests with the Bentley Continental: “He is fast and talented, learns quickly and contrary to other youngsters, has a perfect feeling of the car, never crossing the limit.”
Despite winning his very first race in GT3 on Saturday, he didn’t lose the typical Slavic composure: “Winning at the debut is very nice” he commented, “I thank the team and my team mate Jordan Pepper for their support. Jordan, of course, knows the car very well and has great experience, his advice has helped me progressing faster. It wasn’t an easy race, with two long safety car periods in the first stint. I took over from Jordan and tried to do my best, avoiding mistakes and not taking risks.”
He clearly succeeded and the 5th position conquered on Sunday allows him and his South African teammate to lead the overall standings of the series, perfectly tied with Michele Beretta-Frederick Schandorff, in the VSR Lamborghini, who have obtained identical results, in reverse order, during the French weekend.
Reflecting more widely on his career aspirations, Ivan comments: “It’s very pleasant to drive a GT3 car, which is clearly very different from a single-seater, and to participate in such a nice championship as the GT Open. I feel very happy although I’m completely new to GT racing and I’m still on a discovery mode! I haven’t given up my formulae dreams but the overall long-time objective is to become a professional driver and race in major international series.”