After beginning his career by karting in Brazil, Matheus Leist is one of the rising stars of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires this season.
Leist comes from an open-wheel background, having raced in Formula 3 since 2014. He began with Formula 3 in Brazil, followed by Formula 4 in England. In 2016, he captured the championship for Double R Racing over Carlin’s Ricky Collard.
“The championship was very good; I had a lot of podiums and a few wins and won the title,” he said. “There were some good weekends: like Silverstone, where I was a bit faster than everyone else, and the final round at Donington. I went into that last weekend 15 points behind the leader and won the championship in the final race.”
His success caught the attention of Trevor Carlin, who took on Leist for this year’s Indy Lights season. The Brazilian feels the Mazda Road to Indy is the right approach as it “gives a driver more opportunities to become a professional race car driver” with the scholarship program, as well as his confidence in Carlin having won the title last year with Ed Jones.
The first weekend didn’t pay out as hoped with a pair of finishes outside of the top-10 at St. Petersburg, but Leist knew it’d be tough at the start.
“Everything will be different for me, so I need to learn the car and learn to drive on ovals,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to working with the team and hope to become the champion at the end of the year.”
For Leist, the interest in racing began at the age of eight as a result of a friend having a go-kart track nearby.
“My father bought me a go-kart, and I stopped playing tennis – but I did keep playing soccer,” he said. “I decided to make it more serious, so I tested for about a year. There aren’t any races in the south of Brazil where I live, so I flew to Sao Paulo to go racing. My brother also raced karts so we could fly together, which was nice.
“When I started traveling for races, I stopped playing soccer and focused on racing. I think I’m a better driver than soccer player anyway.”
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