The Rising Star of Gabby Chaves

by Joe Hudson

For many drivers, competing in one Daytona 24 Hours is a dream come true but for 21-year-old Gabby Chaves, he is about to make his second start around the banking.

That sums up a remarkable rise in the talents of the young Colombian who finished his first full season in cars as a runner up in the Skip Barber Eastern Regional Series in 2006, the same year – in the winter of 2006 – he won all 10 races in the Skip Barber Southern Regional Series. A remarkable feat for anyone, never mind someone barely into their teens.

Showing he was destined for good things, he won the Formula BMW Americas Championship in 2009 with five wins and 14 podiums. After that he moved to Europe where he was Italian F3’s rookie of the year in 2010 and scored top ten finished in GP3.

However, it seems as though Chaves seems to do better in North America – as if the climate assists his lightning quick pace. In 2012 he finished second in the Pro Mazda series with his worst result being eighth place.

Forward on a year and he, as well as 2012 Pro Mazda champion Jack Hawksworth, graduated into Indy Lights. A second and first place in the championship in his two seasons showed that Chaves wasn’t a man to be messed with and perhaps that was what caught the eye of Don Panoz…

That was because Chaves was tasked in 2014 with driving a car only a select few have ever raced, the DeltaWing. Indeed he wasn’t even tasked with starting off his endurance racing career at a shorter race, but a full twice round the clock classic with experienced hands Andy Meyrick, Katherine Legge and fellow rising star Alexander Rossi.

He told after the first test in the DeltaWing: “My first time in the DeltaWing, what blew me away was how fast it was in a straight line, especially when you compare its horsepower to the cars I was just blowing by on the straightaway. That’s what really blew my mind and that’s when I knew this project really had something going for it.

“The DeltaWing coupe handles pretty close to an open wheel car so that was very easy to get used to. It’s almost like a hybrid between an open-wheel car and a go-kart. In a kart, you have a very small front wheelbase, so when you move to an open wheel car, it takes a lot more movement in the steering wheel to do the same amount of steering. The DeltaWing has a small front wheelbase, so it’s similar in that respect to a go-kart – a small amount of steering goes a long way in the DeltaWing, which I thought was very cool.”


DeltaWing at the Roar Before the 24 (Credit: IMSA)

Sadly he had to retire in the race itself, but he would carry on to complete the rest of the races in the North American Endurance Cup and finish a brilliant fourth place at Petit Le Mans – which was the cars best finish in the race.

It is important to remember that at the same time, he was also winning the 2014 Indy Lights title and receiving $750,000 to assist in getting an IndyCar drive this year.

This is where Chaves’ timeline gets scrambled, he definitely wants to do the Indy 500 but doesn’t have anything confirmed just three months out from the first round at St Pete. Tests for Schmidt Peterson Motorsport in Miami have not led to a drive at the time of typing, but with his speed in the DeltaWing not in doubt we could just as easily see him full time in Endurance Racing.

One thing is for certain, with his talent and raw speed it would be a travesty if he wasn’t out racing in something…

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