A racing driver from Windsor will be racing at Daytona.
Roman De Angelis is racing with the Heart of Racing Team in the GT Daytona (GTD) class at this weekend's 24 Hours of Daytona, an endurance race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., that lasts 24 hours.
But the road for the 21-year-old started long ago.
De Angelis started racing go-karts when he was eight years old before transitioning into sports cars when he was 14. From a young age, De Angelis knew he wanted to participate in endurance racing.
"That's what I was most exposed to growing up," he said. "I really enjoyed the endurance aspect of it. It was very different to what was common; single-driver sprint racing like Formula 1, NASCAR or IndyCar."
His father, Max De Angelis, helped nurture his interest in endurance racing from a young age.
"When Roman was 6-7 years old, we watched the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans," he said. "We would clear out the family room and get sleeping bags and pillows and watch that type of racing."
As he grew up, Max said he would support his son's racing career as long as he kept his grades up. Roman kept his end of the bargain and is about to finish his final semester in mechanical engineering at the University of Windsor. Max said he cannot help but marvel at his son's determination.
"We spent a lot of time on the road together," Max said. "Roman has even been traveling alone since he was 12 years old, having to get to and from race tracks if I wasn't able to attend. Juggling travel, racing, school, life, family and friends, it's pretty remarkable what he's been able to accomplish this early on in his life."
Roman has enjoyed a successful racing career so far, having finished third in the GTD class championship in the 2021 IMSA SportsCar Championship, North America's most prestigious endurance racing series. Last year, he won the drivers' championship. His points haul also helped Heart of Racing Team win last year's GTD class team's championship.
His co-drivers for this season include Marco Sørenson and Darren Turner, drivers who have experienced success at the biggest endurance race in the world, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Roman said this gives his team a big advantage.
"I'm with the most experienced lineup on the grid," he said. "I'm definitely the under-experienced one, but I think having guys like that in the team with me is a huge benefit to excel my learning and learn from them."
His fourth co-driver is Ian James, the team principal. Despite racing alongside his boss, Roman said there is no pressure that comes with it.
"We have a really good relationship," he said. "He's the one that got us in the position where we are now. He's more of a friend than a boss at this point."
James also appreciates having Roman on the team.
"In the last couple of years, he's gone from strength to strength," said James of Roman. "He becomes more and more accomplished after every race and he's now one of the top sportscar drivers around."
Despite his teammates' vast experience, Roman set the team's fastest time of 1:47.088 in qualifying. While that was only enough for the team to start in seventh place in their class, he is optimistic about making up places during the race.
"To pass seven cars isn't a huge feat for that amount of time," Roman said. "It's a really good place to start. [It's] far enough up where you're staying out of the chaos in the beginning and you don't have that much ground to make back up."
Roman said he is hoping for a top five finish this weekend.
"It's great points for the season and a great way to start the year," he said.
In the future, Roman said he wants to continue racing in endurance racing. Although he admitted that he wants to race in Europe, he is not heading there anytime soon.
"I'm very happy where I am within the team," he said. "They have a lot of plans for the future and I hope to be involved in all of them."