The return to motorsport, under the sign of domination
In 2012, he received an Award for his motorsports performances, his merits being recognized in all the three sports he has successfully practiced: karting, motorcycle racing and car racing. He is the only Romanian pilot to achieve multiple performances and records in motorsports, a field in which he made his debut at 12 years of age. Whether motorsport is a passion or a profession for Daniel Onoriu, you can find out by reading the exclusive interview taken by our magazine.
You’ve returned to the championship with a resounding victory and have drawn again everyone’s attention. You are currently a top pilot in the National Road Rally Championship, the absolute national champion in 2009. When and how did your passion for speed begin?
I was 12 when I first found out about karting. Although my parents were against it in the beginning, I registered for the domestic championship and I ranked 6th out of 10 at the first stage I participated in. I thought it was a shameful result compared to my passion. I trained almost continuously for 4 days for the second stage and I fell asleep at night exhausted, in my racing suit. But every second of training was worth it, because I won! You can imagine my childish pride, to win the first place on the podium in the second stage, against the others with much more experience.
Between your debut on four wheels in 2007 and now, you have surprised everyone with a lot of performances and records. Which of them remained most deeply embedded in your memory?
Before registering in the domestic championships for rally and mountain speed racing, I took pilot training courses with Titi Aur. I felt I was going well, I was helped by my karting and motorcycling experience, but I needed a confirmation from a professional. At the beginning, Titi Aur tried to talk to me and teach me the theory behind the art of piloting. I was never an iron patience kind of guy and I asked him to show me what he was talking about in a car, so that I may do what he did. I copied him without fault from the first try, and afterwards Titi said to me: “Most pilots in the championship were my students, but Onoriu is the best student I’ve ever had.” And then I knew I was ready for the domestic championship. Indeed at my second participation I also achieved my first record: a victory in the general standing, at Câmpulung. I was just a debutant and I had won against so many experienced pilots! As a matter of fact, the first year I participated in the National Road Rally Championship, I achieved another record: although everyone regarded me as an unimportant debutant, their opinion quickly changed, as I finished the season as the Absolute National Vice-champion! This was followed by over 12 “King of the Hill” titles, and I still hold records on many tracks.
You told us about Titi Aur, your mentor. Have you ever had the opportunity to meet as adversaries?
Oh, yes. 2009, the year I was the absolute national champion, brought at the start line the “heavyweights” of Romanian sports car racing: Horațiu Ionescu Cristea, Titi Aur, Heinz Goellner, Lucien Hora. I managed to beat each one of them and thus to obtain the title of absolute, indisputable champion. I beat Horațiu Ionescu Cristea even though he brought to the start line a formula car, net superior to amateur cars: Osella PA20S, I beat Titi Aur in Alba Iulia by 6 seconds, even though usually the differences between pilots are by tenths or hundredths of seconds, I beat Lucien Hora on his own home track, in Reșita, something no other pilot has managed to this day.
We talked about the good times in your career. Which was the hardest moment in your life? Did you ever think to abandon motorsports?
There was an incredibly hard moment in my life. In 2006, I had a motorcycle accident and was in a coma for 9 days. After I got out of the hospital, I sold every motorcycle and sports car I owned and bought an off-road car. I had to resign from participating in the motorcycling championship, where I was a Superbike top pilot. I walked on the street and thought how empty I was, with no passion. I couldn’t recognize myself. Then I saw the Rocky Balboa movie. His girlfriend tried to stop him from returning to boxing, because he was old and without strength, but he told her: “Even though my body is old, my soul will always remain that of a fighter.” I cried and I felt powerless like him. This is the line that brought me back to motorsports, but on 4 wheels, to protect my body, which had already went through over 20 surgeries.
It’s said about you that when you participate in a stage, the championship comes to life and all the spectators set their eyes on you. How was this special connection between you and the fans of this sport created?
I have a special connection with the fans because I was also a fan, before becoming a professional pilot. I was a kid and I went to the races with my cousin, the pilot Edu Stan, an emeritus master of sports. There was there a top pilot, a direct adversary of my cousin, who was extremely arrogant, and I promised to myself I will beat him badly when I grew up. I kept my promise. But I also learned that you also have to respect the fans: how many people would wake up at 5 in the morning, to stand in the cold, rain or scorching sun, in the mountains, until late at night, just to see us pass for a few seconds? Also, they know I make a spectacle for them as well. There are spectators who follow me all over the country, at all the races, and I thank them!
You came back in 2013 and you came back in force. The specialized press wrote you indisputably dominated your adversaries. What motivated your return and for how long are you planning to remain in the championship?
In 2012, in the middle of the championship, I was the absolute leader, with an advance of 21 points. But, in one of the stages, my motor exploded and the season was compromised. I started to work on a new project, EVO ROCKET, which took longer than I expected. The project was developed in our country and in Hungary. The carcass of the new car, a Mitsubishi EVO 6 of approximately 1,000 kg, was made lighter and redressed by cornel Năstase, the body kit was prepared at BD Tuning (Sebeș, Romania), then painted at Motivo Service Group (Bucharest), while the HKS 2.3 motor was prepared at X Motors (Bucharest). The electronic part was only partly set, in Hungary. I decided to participate at Rașnov this year with the car set at only 70%, because I very much wanted to come back in the championship. My adversaries were on fire, in the decisive battle for the national champion title.
This was exactly what we wanted you to tell us about. You went to Rașnov and to Alba Iulia, to the last two stages of this season, and you obtained 32 points, while your direct adversaries equally scored 30 points each. Were you more motivated or maybe better prepared than they were?
I definitely wasn’t better prepared. They went to the full season, they were trained and they were very motivated, because in these stages the champion would be decided between them. I went to the start line without a 100% set car, untrained, after a pause of almost 1 year. I had to be cautious, because I didn’t know the care at all, and the motor wasn’t worn-in yet. Even so, I won. Maybe it’s because I only like to run for victory. That’s the way I’m built.
Is piloting a passion or a profession for you? Can we talk about a “piloting profession” in Romania? What is the difference between Romanian motorsport and international motorsport?
There is a huge difference. Both in organizing competitions, and in the competition material. You need to consider that in many countries, to be a pilot is a profession. You have sponsors, real budgets, managers, tracks on which you may train between stages, to set your car. In Romania there isn’t a single track for training or car tests. It is very hard to reach notable achievements without at least the elementary training conditions. That’s why you could count with your fingers the pilots who live by motorsport, and even then you can’t talk of a piloting profession. In my case, this is a passion that has been leading my life for a long time.
Will 2014 mean a full season for you? Do you wish to make any other changes to your car?
Currently, some finer details of the car are being worked on. We will finish the electronic part in the Czech Republic. I can say that for 2014 I prepared a car that can stand against those in the European championship and that next year I would like to also participate to a number of foreign stages. I will focus, as in any competition, for a higher standing as possible. I hope that my team and I will be able to raise the necessary budget.
You talk about a team standing behind you. What do you think that would be the weakest link?
I have had many people beside me that were sorted in time and I think I remained with a team of professionals: the team of mechanics with which I won the title of absolute national champion (X Motors, led by Gabi Țiura). The youths in Sebeș from BD Tuning work with many foreign pilots and will prepare another body kit for the training car, which will be painted by my partners from Motivo Service Group. I also have a very well prepared marketing an PR team with whom we will achieve another innovation in Romanian motorsports: in 2014, we will make short films and video communications after each stage for a better exposure in the media. We’ve had a test after the Alba Iulia stage this year, when we made a film of the stage. In the first 3 day after uploading it on YouTube, we’ve had over 1,500 full views. Standard communication was also used, resulting in over 20 media appearances after only 2 stages. The stage organizers benefit in many instances from the exposure my team brings to the championship. In 2010, at a conference on promoting motorsports, it was discovered that I had, as a pilot, a greater media exposure than the entire championship. This means an intense effort for my team, which fosters raising awareness regarding this sport. Everyone has something to win: we bring the championship closer to the fans, their sympathy and interest rises, and sponsors communicate more easily through us. The weak link is those who do not understand the mechanism or who mar it.
This is a dangerous sport. It may be said you like extreme risk. Do you think you would make a good gambler?
I was a gambler for a very short time. As in the races, I went for high stakes. With me, it’s all or nothing. I like the adrenaline that chance games generate, but patience is not one of my strengths. So no one will ever see me waiting for hours around a poker table. I come, I bet, and I go. That’s why I preferred the roulette, where it’s all finished fast, with a maximum adrenaline level. I remember it was 2001 and I had bought plane tickets for Dubai. Because I was always scared of flying, the night before leaving I couldn’t sleep and I chose to spend my time in a casino until morning. I lost 5,000 dollars.
What other passions do you have? How does a day of Daniel Onoriu’s life look like?
I like to travel a lot and I especially like exotic destinations, as far away as possible from civilization. In day to day life, over 90% of my time is spent together with my girlfriend, Simona, who is also my best friend and who I work with side by side in my family business: we check the stage of constructions, we supply the workers with the necessary materials, we meet with the clients, we go to the garage to the race car, in the country or outside the country, as many times as needed.
What would you have been if you were not a race pilot?
That would mean not having been born at all!
What thoughts would you like to convey to our readers?
To live their lives intensely and never censure their passions.
Thank you and I wish you a great success in the future!
I also thank you and wish you success in what you do, because you do it very well!