YouTube star Dino Zamparelli ready to make another big impression
Dino Zamparelli has left tyre tread all over the internet after swerving at breakneck speed to avoid hitting the back of someone’s rear wing
When Dino Zamparelli swerved at breakneck speed to avoid smashing into the back of someone’s rear wing, his first thought probably wasn’t to market himself as a YouTube star. It was more likely of a variety containing four letters and no graces.
But a year on and more than a million views later, the 20-year-old racing driver has left tyre tread all over the internet.
Spa-Francorchamps is a circuit which undulates with menace, demanding its challengers to make a contortionist out of their bodies. Chuck a torrential downpour into the mix and it rides a bit like Space Mountain.
One element Dino did not expect to confront on the legendary track was a stationary car, like an apparition, cutting a swathe through the mist into his very immediate path. He veered, skated along the turf, adjusted and slotted back onto the tarmac – gaining a few places, too.
Cries of conspiracy poured in – anyone well-versed in social media knows a cynic’s hovel is entrenched in the comments page – but the Bristolian insists old-fashioned fortune was the force in play.
“There was a lot of luck involved, more so than natural instinct and pure reaction,” he admits. “But I was literally just driving along and suddenly it came into view.
“On that night I just asked my film editor to put it up. I was averaging 500-600 views on my videos before that so I was hoping for maybe double as many.
“But overnight it hit 2,000 views and within three days 20,000 – within a week, 100,000. It was all a bit of fun and you were wondering where it was going to stop.”
This is not a tale of an over-pampered boy racer adding fame to his fortune. In 2012, Dino was more concerned about chasing funding than podiums.
To even enter a Formula 1 team’s eye-line, big-money backing is a strict requirement. It is not a case of plonking down a swimming pool in an underprivileged area, or as Dino puts it, “kicking round a football to get a taste for it”.
Ironically, the rising price of petrol is the last thing on the mind of a driver rapping at the door of an elite members’ club. Who will pay for a bigger engine, a better chassis, the mechanics, the transport, the race fees?
Last year Dino competed in the FIA’s ‘lower-cost alternative’, Formula Two. It was nothing like a single-step down from the pinnacle as its name suggests, but without any capital to even practice – despite winning British Automobile Racing Club’s Formula Renault championship in 2011 – it was a way to keep the dream alive.
“It was a good series, it had its benefits and cons, but I didn’t know what I was doing with it except that need to keep racing,” he says.
“I had to just keep carrying on last year, not knowing where I was heading, admittedly, but raising my profile and using it as a kind of holding year whilst still racing.
“Success was going to be limited with not being able to know the tracks or car – all the behind-the-scenes things you wouldn’t necessarily think of. I had to accept it and do my very, very best.
“So I took that opportunity as well as working on the other side of the industry which is the promotional stuff. The video was timely and a blessing in disguise but it did not mean things fell into my lap.”
Perseverance proved a virtue. Dino found hometown backing in the form of Bristol Sport, a company spearheaded by Bristol City and Bristol Rugby owner Steve Lansdown.
The prize, a berth on Marussia’s Young Driver Programme and a chance to compete in GP3, of which three drivers have gone on to reach Formula 1 in as many years. It is a spit in the eye to the principle of Catch-22.
“It is a real horrible cycle,” says Dino. “To carry on racing to get the sponsorship you need to win the race, but you can’t do that because you can’t win.
“You’ve got to be really lucky and get that break, and fortunately I managed to catch one this year and have the opportunity to show people what I can do.
“In years gone by, I’ve had to rely on natural ability and to have a bigger hunger for the sport than those around me.”
It is not to say Dino was raised in poverty or forced to go without. His father, former Powerboat racer Mike, actively encouraged him into four-wheel racing once the six-year-old became enthralled with the antics of Michael Schumacher each and every weekend. “How many children at that age,” he asks, “get the opportunity to do that?”
But relative wealth is no match for the absolute. Ayrton Senna, a champion of an impoverished Brazilian people, was the benefactor of a near bottomless pit.
And though Formula 1 is exacting swingeing cuts in a pound-saving exercise, the ascent up its golden stairway remains paved in the alms of the rich.
Indeed, the closest most reach is in the realms of a virtual reality, with a controller, a PlayStation and an HDTV.
As the lines between the real and the simulated blur, could the gaming industry one day provide an exact enough experience for youngsters to showcase their skills from bedrooms?
“For me, a computer isn’t close enough,” insists Dino. “When I won [in Formula Renault] it was clear I was the quickest guy on the track.
“But on the simulation, a chap right at the back who was two seconds off my time was about three tenths ahead of me
“When it gets into a real situation out on track – where there’s danger involved – in practice, there’s difference.
“I think the only option is get a bunch of go-karts with exactly the same models and jump in.
“No one’s got any favouritism, no one’s got different mechanics – just see who wins the race. That probably is the closest you’re going to get.”
Dino, who tackles a sun-soaked Catalunya circuit on Friday as the GP3 calendar kicks off, is finally on even ground. Ability, in its purest form, will dictate his bid to earn Formula 1 racing stripes.
He’s certainly got a slick enough name for it.