Aliyyah Koloc has had quite a whirlwind life in her 18 years of living. Until three years ago, she was on a straight path to becoming a professional tennis player. But then injury struck. And Aliyyah had to look for an alternative to her beloved tennis. That’s when she discovered race cars. Today, she is a professional race driver. And if that wasn’t unusual enough, she isn’t just concentrating on one series. No, Aliyyah is driving in sports cars endurance racing as well as off-road rallies. Try to find two motorsport series more opposed than that. So how does she do it – and why?
“My father was a two-times European truck champion in the 90s, so I have grown up with motorsport. Until recently though, I was fully concentrated on tennis. Motorsport hadn’t even crossed my mind. But since I started racing three years ago, I have tried a lot of different cars and series, like trucks, Can-Ams, short GT sprint races, endurance GT and rally raids. And it turns out that I like both rallies and endurance racing,” Aliyyah explains.
Her first time in a GT car and a Can-Am
The 18-year-old’s first time in a GT car was at a private test in Most in 2020 in a Mercedes GT3. At the time, she drove in the French Truck Championship. “All I remember is spinning. I was very stressed. And I remember thinking how hard the brake pedal on the GT3 was and how fast the car was. I was very impressed as well with the electronics, the ABS, the traction control and all that,” Aliyyah remembers her first time in a GT car.
But before she tested a GT car, Aliyyah had already tried a Can-Am, the buggy used in off-road racing. That was in in the desert near Ksar Ghilane in Tunisia, when she was just 14 years old. “It was a lot of fun,” Aliyyah remembers. “It was raining and very muddy. I think it was probably one of the very first cars I tested when I started racing.”
Martin Koloc, team principal of Buggyra ZM Racing explains: “Aliyyah is a quick learner. I have been impressed with her skills and how quickly she adapts to any car, plus she has the speed. I have been in motorsports for over 30 years but I am not sure I have seen a racer like her. Aliyyah is racing in two very different series this year. Many people in motorsports have said that it is impossible to do and be good at both. Aliyyah is proving them wrong. She is becoming a very accomplished driver.”
The differences and similarities
So why would anybody want to drive in two so very different series? Aliyyah explains: “I like the contrast between the two. Endurance racing is team work and long-term strategy but it is also quite chaotic as positions change constantly. Off-road rallying is challenging as you are alone with your co-driver for long periods of time in the middle of nowhere where anything can happen. Making this constant switch between GT and off-road rallying helps me to adapt to new situations really fast. I like that a lot. I also feel it helps me become a better racer.”
When asked how she makes that switch from GT to rallies, Aliyyah replies: “I just do it. And I trust my teammates in GT and my co-driver in rallying a lot. I couldn’t do it without them. They are all more experienced than me, so they help me all the way and I continuously learn from them.”
But it is not all differences. Some things that Aliyyah uses in GT help her in rallying and vice versa. She explains: “In GT racing, you need to be very precise and follow the track, and to judge distances to break at the right point for example. That knowledge also helps a lot in rallying. On the other hand, you learn to be more independent in rallying, to take your own decisions really fast. That again helps me a lot on the track.”
Aliyyah’s motorsport goals
For the last couple of years, her motorsport goal has been to participate in the Dakar Rally, something she has accomplished this year, finishing 33rd in her category, and becoming the youngest woman to enter this iconic event. Her other goal is the 24 Hours of Le Mans one day. To reach her goals, she needs to be good at both offroad-rallies and GT circuit racing.
Aliyyah knows that long-term she has to make a decision as it will become increasingly difficult to run in two series as different as endurance GT and offroad-rallying. “At the moment, I enjoy being able to race in both categories. But I know I have to make a decision at some point. However, I can’t’ make that choice just yet. I like both.”
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