In October 2023 I interviewed Ellis Spiezia, a 17-year-old race-talent from the USA. I met him at the beginning of this year at a karting track and worked with him in the Rotax Max Challenge EuroTrophy, where he has raced himself. His career spans from sim-racing, indoor racing, outdoor racing and now electric race-cars. With Ellysium Racing, built with his parents, this talented driver is looking for his own, alternative path to a successful racing career. This is his story.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
It’s quite interesting that you have a real focus on electric racing. Did you choose this distinct focus on purpose? Or did it happen by accident and later, sort of decided this is part of your brand or your profile?
I think it we sort of just grew into it naturally started out as looking for an alternate alternate path. We knew we didn’t want to do the normal racing pathway because we couldn’t afford it. We found electric and just kept sort of falling along with it. And eventually now we found ourselves in ending the year after a fully done season in electric car racing and looking to next year to do some more. It sort of has not happened by accident, but it just naturally found his way to where we are now where we’re planning to go.
I’ve heard you say you like being a pioneer where the rewards outweigh the risks. What do you see as risks in your career and what are the rewards?
The main risk is it’s unproven. We’ve seen championships go under. ETCR pretty much just disappeared. ERA never got off the ground. So those are really the risks involved. But when it looks to the rewards, I mean, you look at the driver development I’ve had in the past few years, I would have never got that racing combustion. I would never would have had access to the materials and the competitive yield just from a budget and money perspective. That’s been the real reward in the sense that we’re sort of fast tracking a career. And we’re not spending time doing F4, F3 and F2. Then on the off chance, you get a shot at Formula One, a dying pathway that a lot of people are now realizing isn’t going to work. It doesn’t work for a lot of people. And it’s super expensive of course.
SUSTAINABILITY & ELECTRIC KARTS
Regarding sustainability and motorsports: how do you think motorsports can make a real impact? What do you see see as the main gains you can, you can get through motor sports?
I think it’s mainly just another way to get people interested, you know. The draw of motorsport from the spectator side is incredible: it’s probably one of the most fascinating sports in the world. So you have a platform to not only drive cool fast cars, but also to do a little bit of education, get the younger generation excited. The on track action is always going to be a really hard fight to get sustainable. And it’s gonna take a long time. But in the meantime, the small steps of driving the electric race cars, doing everything that they can, is really going to get people excited. It’s like sneaking vegetables in your kid’s dinner. You sort of have to bring them in with the cool racecars and then just teach them and do the education side sort of in the background.
I think you did race all the electric karts that were available at the time: Kinetic in Bulgaria, the championship in Spain, BlueShockRace and also Rotax. How did you find these ekarts in comparison? Or in comparison to combustion karts?
I got really lucky in the sense that I was at the height of each championship when I was doing the karting from around 2020 to the middle of 2022. It’s when the most championships were around. I did the DEKM and then went with the E20 for the European and World Championship, which was really awesome. I got to drive for a national Spanish championship as well. And then obviously, Bulgaria with Kinetic was awesome. The BlueShockRace stuff was more testing for us, club style racing, which I think the electric suits really well. The electric kart just has a lot of power, the speeds are insane: on the high power mode, you’re pushing 130hm/h, which is ridiculous. I know all about the speed because I flipped one over a fence. So it’s fast. And trust me, it’s a lot faster when you’re crashing! But now the platform, especially with BSR and Rotax, is incredible. Rotax is the highest end and I think they won’t even tell us how much that go kart is worth. It’s top of the line. The BlueShock is more accessible, a little easier to work with and smaller events. You don’t have to be at a European Championship to enjoy an electric go kart. That’s also a really important place that is often overlooked. Compared to combustion, I think one isn’t better than the other. They’re just unique. I know the vibe of combustion is very much there with the sound and the smell, and it’s really dirty. I know I love working on tuning an engine as much as anybody but when it comes to the easy use the competitiveness that you get with electric, I think that’s really where it shines.
For electric karting, technology has evolved quite a bit over recent years but still it’s quite new. Where do you see the main improvements, if there were to build the new electric carts for the coming years?
The main issue that we have even with the electric race cars is the same as the karting: infrastructure. The karts are pretty much at their limit, until we get a really big breakthrough, mainly with their weight (the batteries). When we have lighter components, that’s really where the performance is going to come from. The main thing that we see is we need a big battery as a buffer, to charge off. The battery plugs into the grid. At some tracks, like Wackersdorf, we get to plug into the solar grid that’s right nearby. But in Sweden we were at some tracks where the many parts of the electrical wire were lighting on fire because we were pulling so much power. The most we can do now is have more tracks support the charging and infrastructure side.
"IT'S LIKE SNEAKING VEGETABLES IN YOUR KID'S DINNER: YOU BRING COOL RACECARS AND ALSO TEACH THEM ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY"
NXT GEN CUP
Let’s switch our conversation to the Nxt Gen Cup, where you raced an electric car this year in a brand new championship. Are you happy or disappointed to finish third in the championship?
It’s mixed. I got to show what I could do. The last half of the season was just a storm of unfortunate events, and some of them were in our control, some were not. You can always trace back to whether it’s qualifying or practice and what you could have done, but I got some unfortunate tire punctures twice, two weekends in a row took us out, and then some questionable penalties along the way that set us back a large amount. I think considering what we were up against, it was quite a big feat. We were the only non Swedish driver in the top seven, and then the only non Scandinavian driver within the top 10. So to be an American driver is an uphill battle in its own way. No one likes us. They already don’t like us because we’re not European. And when you tack on the American side, they’re just not happy. Everyone just thinks we’re just NASCAR drivers and like to drink beers and wear denim overalls. The local drivers all do the same races. To them it was just any other weekend and we were sort of a wildcard in there. But I think they definitely won’t underestimate another American driver that comes in there again.
How was the step for you from electric karts to this electric car with a roof?
The same mindset, you know, a lot of power on the bottom end, managing temperature, driving smooth, the cars a lot more to deal with mentally. There’s a lot more weight transfer going on, there’s a lot more systems in the car, you have front brakes so also brake balance, we had our own unique Push-to-Pass system and tire management was a lot more important. You can’t just push hard the whole way. I’m always better in the car. I started in sim racing. So it was a lot easier of a jump for me. I feel like I have that little extra in cars. I can mix it up a little bit better than the rest.
What did you learn from this season? Where can you still improve yourself or maybe working? And how can the championship grow and improve after it’s first year?
I think we had a really solid year. Mainly for me, it’s just more time, more experience. You can’t really recreate racing scenarios in practice. The main thing that held us back this year was the track knowledge, having never been to any of the tracks in the calendar besides the one in Germany. We don’t have the means to go all the way to Sweden to go testing every weekend at these circuits, while for most of my competitors it’s an hour drive up the road. For us, it’s 15 hours and a lot more money. Apart from points in the end, I don’t think it tells a whole story, I think we were easily the best driver on that grid. And we proved it: we had Oschersleben qualifying where we didn’t have a lap until there were four minutes left in the session, and then still put it on pole.
The championship ran great, I wouldn’t really change much. I think maybe having a rookie subclass, sort of like the Fiesta Cup, where the drivers are in their first year holding a car racing license, so they’re fighting with themselves, as well for podiums. That would be good for a driver that, you know, is not going to be fighting for wins. It’s a little more achievable if you’re fighting with seven or eight drivers that it’s their first year in cars. It’s their own little podium and their own classification. But that being said, if you are quick enough to mix it in with the top, you’re still in the overall fight. So I think having this rookie class would be really cool.
Would you be interested to race in the Nxt Gen Cup again next year, either in Sweden or in the Benelux if that new championship becomes reality?
I say no. I think we got what we needed to get out of it this year. You know, fighting the equal materials, right up front. To get that experience. Next year, we really need to keep stepping up. I think, if you look back at any of the drivers that really made an impact is they always spent a year in one championship. And when they got what they needed two out of it, I don’t think fighting for two positions more than a championship to be a title contender is worth it. Not only for the time and the investment, but just from what I’m ready for, you know, I’m ready for more speed, bigger fields, more competitive fields. I think next year, we’re going to be trying to step it up as much as we can and beyond on the limit of what I’m able to do.
My obvious question then is, what would that be? What are your options or your wishes?
We’re looking, we have a few talks in different places like nitro rallycross in the States, they have 1000 horsepower. When it comes to off road stuff, I’d be interested to do maybe a round or two just to get the experience under my belt. We have a lot of great connections now in the German racing championships, so VLN and NLS at the Nurburgring would be another cool idea. I plan to get my Nurburgring racing license as soon as I can just to have it in the pocket just in case. It also depends on what’s available. I’m not worried about being able to handle a certain type of car. If you check me in at DTM tomorrow, I think I’d be fine and figure it out. So it just depends where the right feeling is, where we’re going to be wanted the most and importantly, have the most fun.
You seem very flexible in your plans for the future. Now I wonder, what is success for you in your career in general? And maybe if things don’t go well, would you consider that as failure?
There isn’t really like a Plan B, like I’m gonna go to college and do whatever. We’re building Elysium Racing as a business alongside this so that, when it’s time to hang up the helmet when I’m however old, that’s going to be what I have to keep doing, through driver coaching for example. For now, I just want to be the best in whatever top level category I find myself in. I’m not dead set on a certain goal, necessarily of a category, but I just want to be in a top level field and winning. That’s the goal. Getting paid to drive fast is always the dream. And that’s the only one I have.
QUICK FIRE ROUND
Race in the US or race in Europe?
Connections in the paddock all the way
Your idol driver?
Ayrton Senna. The greatest of all time.
Formula One or Formula E?