Loni Unser writes her own chapter in the family legacy
Even an Unser can learn a thing or two about racing, which is why Loni Unser (daughter of Johnny Unser) chose the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires.
But this 23-year-old doesn’t count on her name to take her place in motorsport, she works there.
Unser dipped her toe in the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup water for a few races in 2019. She returned to the series this year and has shown an impressive pace. Her progress is done the old-fashioned way, through study and practice, and she has surrounded herself with the perfect mentors.
Even though she isn’t in the top five in every race, Unser knows the Mazda MX-5 Cup gives her the skills to be successful in any form of motorsport.
“I’m super lucky to be racing in this series because I think it has helped me grow and develop as a rider is huge,” Unser said. “The amount of information I learn every weekend about the racing machine, driving these cars and racing at this level… I gain so much as a driver. “
As many riders have said, the MX-5 Cup is the perfect place to learn about door-to-door close-pack racing. This requires knowledge of how the draft works and also how to plan ahead, turn by turn and turn by turn.
“My racing profession has improved a lot,” said Unser. “I’m just learning to race when the draw in these cars is so huge, let’s learn to do some sticky passes. I have experienced at Road America that if you do a pass and you can’t get it to hold you are trained in freight in this series. Every mistake you make really hurts.
“Departures are something I’m still working on. It is so important to figure out how to gain positions rather than losing positions. Make the decisions and recognize when certain things are happening and what to do about it. If two people are passing in front of you, you have to be perfect in that corner, so that you can capitalize and pass those two cars. “
Unser has a wealth of resources to help him at Hixon Motor Sports. From driver coach Andrew Carbonell, to teammate and MX-5 Cup veteran Selin Rollan and team manager Shea Holbrook. Unser considers his team like a second family.
“André [Carbonell] has been an incredible help, ”said Unser. “He does a really good job preparing us for events by sending us follow-up notes and then we have long data sessions during weekends and testing. We focus on gaining speed and setting up passing drills. His expertise has been so invaluable.
“Also, running with Selin [Rollan] we get extremely valuable data. Selin is so kind to help me and our other riders evolve. He always tries to help us if he sees us in qualifying.
For Unser, not all learning is about taking turns.
“It’s super awesome to have Shea [Holbrook] as a model, ”Unser said of the Hixon team leader. “Hearing her experiences and how she leads the team has been invaluable to me. She’s a strong, hard-working woman, so it’s cool to be able to admire her.
One of Unser’s most impressive performances to date has come on a track it has never been before and on a temporary street circuit: St. Petersburg. She was in the mix all weekend, making some remarkable passes. She finished in the top 10 in both races.
“Coming into St. Pete I was pretty nervous because I had never raced on a street course and this is something I had worked on as a pilot, to be able to go to a new track. and learn it quickly, ”Unser said. “I did as much preparation as possible. I was able to spin the track in my head like I’m running it in real life and get the times that I want to see while I visualize. I would go around in my head and it would be very close to the target time I had set for myself. Then, to finish in the top 10 and run to sixth place, I was a little blown away and super happy with this performance.
Granted, it’s not just his track performance that makes people stop and notice, it’s also the last name engraved on his car’s windshield.
“A lot of people come in and ask, ‘are you a real Unser,’ and I explain the family tree to them,” she laughed. “It’s really fun to see that the fans can come back to the track and I love to connect with the fans and share the love I have for the sport.
“My family is cool and I’m so lucky to be part of the family, but when I’m on the track I don’t want to be known as a ‘Runner’ or an ‘Unser’, I want to be treated like no “Any other competitor. I’m super lucky to have the last name, but that’s for sure the pressure.
Unser is now set to complete his first full MX-5 Cup season. There are only the last two races left at Road Atlanta, Nov. 10-12, and she’s setting big goals for herself.
“I would really like to get more top 10 rankings,” she said. “It’s pretty ambitious, but I would like to finish in the top five. Everything should go well, and I should have some luck on my side. I should prepare myself as much as possible by spending time on the simulator. It’s one of my goals and also to be able to walk away from each race and say that I did my best with what I could control. Being proud of the way I have driven after each race is something that is important to me.