Black and red formula car driving to the left of the camera with another black and red car behind facing camera head on.

EFO rookie Vlad Lomko analyses season: ‘I have the speed to be the quickest’

The Euroformula Open championship has seen total dominance from the Motopark stable in 2022, with their cars currently locking out the top three spots in the championship. Vlad Lomko is the third driver in that lockout, behind Christian Mansell and Oliver Goethe. F1 Feeder Series spoke to him at Imola ahead of the series’ return from the summer break.

By Oorjit Mishra

Lomko was born in 2004 in St. Petersburg, Russia, and didn’t waste any time starting his journey in motorsport, a period that he looks back on fondly.

“It all started when I was four years old, when my brother got into rental karting. The minimum age was four years old to drive, so I [was] just looking and wanting to try, and as soon as I turned four, it all started in Russia.”

Lomko honed his craft in the Russian Karting Championship championship before he made the jump to European karting in the WSK Super Master Series in 2016. Reflecting on that step up, Lomko credited the competitive nature of the Russian national championship for preparing him for the ultra-competitive Italian series.

“I did a few years of Russian karting because the jump [to WSK] was big, even though the championship is quite competitive I would say it’s [good] now because looking at the Russian drivers who are doing quite well in Europe right now in WSK, the level of people participating is quite high.”

International career beginnings

Lomko’s first race in European karting marked the beginning of his international career and familiarised him with well-known names in the feeder series community. 

All the guys that are driving now are the same as then

Vladislav Lomko

“I remember my first race in European karting in Mini 60 which went quite well, I think I finished P7. It was a rainy race, I was quite happy with it and I remember I was fighting with Francesco Pizzi. Roman Stanek must have won this race, I think. So, kind of all the guys that are driving now are the same as then as well.” 

Lomko continued to race in European karting up until the 2019 season, when he did a partial campaign in French F4. He described the differences between driving a kart and a F4 car and the challenges that came with that shift.

Then you get to Formula 4 where driving philosophy is different, like, really different

Vladislav Lomko

“Well, for me it was quite difficult because up to that point, I didn’t try any different things apart from karting, and then you get to Formula 4 where driving philosophy is different, like, really different. In karting, you can allow a bit of sliding and rotate the car and go early, but the [F4] car must be as stable as possible. You should slide a bit, but not over-sliding and it must be smoother. It was quite a difficult thing to learn. The other thing was working with the tires, not to overheat them, to warm them up for the right moment. This took me quite a bit of time to learn.”

Maturing on and off track

Alongside learning how to drive a single-seater race car, Lomko also had to learn to live on his own, as he moved to the FFSA Academy in Le Mans in 2019. He recounted his experiences moving out at just 14 years old, and how he sees that 3 years on. 

You miss your parents, you miss your friends, but you just get used to it.

Vladislav Lomko

“Well, at first it was quite tough, I would say, because giving my mom the calls and asking how to turn on the dishwasher, it was not that simple. It was okay [later]. You miss your parents, you miss your friends, but you just get used to it. And also, there are many advantages of living alone, even at such an early age. So, yeah, you just basically get used to it and enjoy it. “

Costly mistakes

Despite having settled in France, Lomko set his sights on ADAC F4 for 2020, which was his first full season in car racing. He finished 8th in standings, going up against many of FIA F3’s current stars, including Jonny Edgar, Jak Crawford and Ollie Bearman. Lomko reflected on the experience he gained from racing in a grid of some of the best young drivers at the moment.

“We already had a chance to win the race in the first round of ADAC, it was the third race, a reversed grid. I was leading not comfortably, but yeah, I was holding the lead and then I made a mistake and that cost me the victory. So, yeah, I would say it was kind of a build up process, like, in all aspects.” 

Lomko also touched on how he worked past his initial struggles in F4 and kept his outlook positive.

I would say you kind of learn because it’s a strange thing to jump into Formula 4 and then not be able to win straight away like you did in karting

Vladislav Lomko

“I would say you kind of learn because it’s a strange thing to jump into Formula 4 and then not be able to win straight away like you did in karting. And this may hurt quite a bit. Well, that’s not really my case, but I suppose it may hurt quite a bit for the guys who were winning everything in karting. But yeah, I think if you’re not doing that great in the first years, you kind of learn to accept all the results you have and just work on improving them.“

(Not so) subtle differences

After a more successful second year in F4, which saw him finish 6th in ADAC F4 with one win, Lomko made the step up to Formula 3 level, racing in the Formula Regional Asia Championship (FRAC) before starting his Euroformula Open (EFO) campaign. He described the differences between racing the F4, FRAC, and Euroformula Open cars in detail. 

“I would rather compare F4 to Euroformula because with FRAC, well, it does have a big difference [as compared to F4], but it’s not that significant difference compared to EFO. So if we compare F4 to Euroformula, the car is basically better overall. It’s not [only] like you just feel more grip when you are driving, which is quite cooler. So [the] Euroformula car is good because it’s really light, and also the downforce level is just crazy on the braking.

“I remember I did wet testing in EFO just before the last race in Formula 4, and then on the first braking on the dry track in Formula 4, I felt like the car does not brake, even on the wet, the Euroformula is braking better because of aero and stuff. So, yeah, it’s quite a significant difference, I would say. And also the tires make quite a bit of difference because Michelin is quite a good tire. Even though they don’t really last longer in terms of [qualifying] push laps, they still last longer than Pirellis, so you can kind of change your warming up procedure.”

Mid-season review

After such a glowing review of the Euroformula Open Dallara F320, it’s no surprise that Lomko has been a consistent presence amongst the frontrunners in this years’ championship, where he leads the rookie standings and sits third in the overall standings, 41 points behind Mansell in second and 110 points behind leader Goethe. When asked for his thoughts on the season, he made it clear that he wasn’t totally satisfied with how the season has gone so far.

I would say the season is going okay, but it definitely could have been much better

Vladislav Lomko

“Yeah, well for me the season could have been much better because I have the speed at least on one lap, I definitely have the speed to be on pole, to be the quickest, but then during racing it [doesn’t always go] that well. So this is mainly the thing to improve for me because I would say on the speed we’re somewhere on the level together with Ollie [Goethe] and this is where I want to be fighting for the victory. I would say I’m happy with the season because it’s still not [a confirmed] victory yet, but it’s still first place in rookie standings even though there are not a lot of rookies. But yeah, I would say the season is going okay, but it definitely could have been much better.”

Lomko also laid out how he planned to make use of the lessons he’s learned in the first half of the season.

“Well, I’m already working to fix all of that this year because [these are] basically the things that you can fix during the championship. You just get better at racing on, improving, fighting, and everything for the next races. For sure you take it into the next year, it’s definitely going to help, but I’m trying to really fix all of that for this year and to perform much better for the last four rounds.” 

The benefits of experience

While Motopark only race in Euroformula Open at the moment, they are an incredibly storied squad, and have played a part in the development of drivers such as Yuki Tsunoda, Kevin Magnussen, Guanyu Zhou, António Félix da Costa, and Dan Ticktum. While Lomko races under the CryptoTower Racing banner, the cars are run by Motopark, so he spoke about the experience of working with an established top team. 

You feel the experience of people you are working with because the engineers are doing such a good job

Vladislav Lomko

“It feels great, I would say, especially you feel the experience of people you are working with because the engineers are doing such a good job, it always feels amazing because they have so much experience. [They taught me] some things on data and what you should look for and this sort of stuff, so I would say technically, we learned quite a bit of things together.”

A struggling series

While Motopark have run their team as well as ever, the rest of the Euroformula Open grid has had a much tougher year, with Van Amersfoort Racing’s mid-season departure leaving less than 10 full-season entrants. Lomko reflected on the nature of racing in a smaller grid and how this affects the value of his results.

The amount of people in the championship quite influences the perception of winning

Vladislav Lomko

“I would say for me it did not really change anything because you know you’re running against quite strong drivers like Ollie [Goethe], [who did] a good job on his FIA F3 debut already in the Campos. You know that you’re driving against great drivers and the level of the championship is quite good despite the amount of people driving in there. But still this feeling because it’s only ten cars and you’re in the top three, it does not feel the same to win in Euroformula than it felt to win, for example, in ADAC F4 last year. The amount of people in the championship quite influences the perception of winning.” 

Future plans

As he alluded to, Lomko’s main rivals Mansell and Goethe now have FIA F3 experience under their belt, and both have stated their intention to make a permanent move into the championship for 2023. Lomko, however, was less certain about his plans for next season.

“I’m definitely planning to move somewhere in some other category, but well, we don’t really have plans yet because I will give a typical answer. I’m focused on my season, but, yeah, it might [be] FIA F3, it might [be] endurance, it might [be] something else. But I would definitely love to drive in FIA F3. We’re currently in search of sponsors, I think, [same] as most of the EFO drivers, but still, F3 would be nice.”

Lomko was similarly realistic when asked about his future, and highlighted endurance racing as a goal for the future.

I enjoy motorsport and I would like to make a living with it

Vladislav Lomko

“For me personally, the goal from motorsport is to gain money, to start gaining money as soon as possible without sacrificing the career, because I enjoy motorsport and I would like to make a living with it. For sure you’re dreaming about Formula 1, but still, even if you don’t get to F1, there are many other series where you can become a professional driver. And endurance, I think it’s quite a good option for that.” 

Lomko will return to action at Imola this weekend, where he’ll be hoping to close the gap to championship leaders Goethe and Mansell.

Header Photo Credit: Euroformula Open

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