Following your dreams can sometimes take you down an interesting path. In the case of California native, Connor De Phillippi, that led him to Germany for a full season in the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland spec-series with Förch Racing, and sponsorship by Roboscan Internet Security. Connor was born into a racing family. His dad Craig raced motorcycles, while his uncle Dennis Sigalos isn’t just a professional speedway rider but champion speedboat racer as well. When Grandpa Tony bought Connor his first kart, it fostered a love of racing that would become so much more than a mere childhood phase. Now he has his eye on the jewel of sports car racing – the 24 Hours of Le Mans, as the sports racing community has their eyes on him. Here’s our brief chat with the kid from San Clemente.
MH: Your interest in racing began when you were so little. What made you realize that being a race car driver is what you wanted to do for a living?
CDP: It all started when I saw some neighbors driving their karts at the bottom of the hill where my family and I live. Right from the beginning I was infatuated with the sport. The sound of the engine, the exhaust smell and the endless amounts of days at the kart track with my dad are some of the best memories of my career. Once the wins and championships started coming along, I knew it was time to start taking things serious. I’d say around age 13 was when my family and I sat down and decided that we were going to go 100% at racing. And since then we haven’t looked back!
MH: How did you end up racing in the Star Mazda Championship series at such a young age?
CDP: My jump up to the Pro Mazda Championship was truly only possible because of the Mazda Road to Indy. In 2009 I had a very successful year of racing in the Skip Barber National Championship, where I won 7 of 14 races and the overall title. Along with the title came a $350,000 scholarship to move up to Pro Mazda for the 2010 season, where I placed 3rd overall and rookie of the year in my first year of racing a full wing & slicks car.
MH: Was the transition to racing internationally difficult for you?
CDP: Making the jump to racing in Europe was quite a big transition. With all of the racing plans coming together quite close to the start of the season, there were a lot of areas to focus on besides just the pure racing aspect of things. Once the season opener at the Hockenheimring had finally arrived in early May, the big differences had finally set in. I’d say the most difficult thing about racing here in Europe was that there was not really a way to prepare for it. Making the transition to racing in Europe was purely going to come through experience and by the end of this season I believe that logic proved true. The more comfortable I began to get, my confidence level continued to rise and the overall result edged closer towards that podium result. This 2013 season as a whole was the most difficult and challenging year of my career, but certainly one of the most memorable as well.
MH: How did you come to join the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland with Förch Racing?
CDP: During the off-season I had the opportunity to meet with several of the top teams in preparation for this year. When I had my first meeting with my team boss Wieslaw, teammate Robert and engineer Frank, I immediately felt something different about them. Right from the beginning I felt comfortable with them in our first talks about the race season, and having an incredibly successful engineer like Frank on the team made the team that much more appealing. Never in a million years did I think I’d be racing with a Polish team in a primarily German championship, but it proved to be a great decision and a very successful year together. I cannot thank them enough for the amount of hard work they put in this year.
MH: You were mentioned in articles about Le Mans with Patrick Long and Cooper MacNeil this year. What does racing at Le Mans mean to you?
CDP: Le Mans is a dream event for me. The history of the event and the circuit is truly something special, and I hope to one day be a part of it. Over the last handful of years, we’ve seen it become essentially a 24hr sprint race since the durability of these incredible machines continues to improve every year. With a few more years of hard work and dedication, I hope to get my chance to head down Mulsanne straight flat out with a big grin under my helmet from ear to ear.
MH: Which is your favorite circuit to race on?
CDP: I’ve had the opportunity to race on many new tracks here in Europe, but also some of the most famous tracks in North America. As far as top tracks to ‘race’ on, I would have to say Road America for my USA pick and the Nordschleife for here in Europe. Both tracks are very fast yet have some very technical parts as well. And as far as my favorite tracks to simply drive and enjoy, I would have to say Mosport and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca are my favorites.
MH: How does it feel to be Rookie of the Year for the Porsche Carrera Cup Deutschland?
CDP: Winning the Rookie of the Year title this year in the Carrera Cup Deutschland was a very big accomplishment for my career. My first year competing in Europe as well as sports cars was quite challenging, and I did not expect to come in and have this type of success right away. The competition level in Carrera Cup is at a very high level, which makes it one of the best training grounds for young drivers like myself. There of course were areas that needed improvement, and the end of our season began to look very encouraging for 2014.
MH: What are your goals for next season?
CDP: At the moment, nothing is confirmed 100% yet for 2014. I hope to continue in the Porsche Motorsport Junior Program for 2014, and the ideal situation for me would be to race in Carrera Cup one more year since I know most of the tracks now after this race season. Over the next several weeks, I hope to hear more about my future in the program and then I can update everyone on the racing plans for 2014.