December the 30th, 2023 – Meet the Croatian automotive talent Jan Pokos, who has no less than World Rally Championship ambitions…
Croatian automotive talent Jan Pokos is a 20-year-old driver with great ambition to compete in the World Rally Championship (WRC) and stand on the podium. In order to achieve this, he launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Bona Fides Invest platform, through which fans of motoring and supporters of young talents can support the further development of his sports career.
Can you share more about your journey in motorsports and what inspired your passion for rallying?
I started competing in motorsport at the tender age of 5 in karting, thanks to my father Ivan, and over the course of the next 15 years, I have competed at the national, European, and world levels. My karting career ended with four Croatian champions, three Central European titles, and a 29th place in the World Championship. I have always been passionate about rallying, but it never seemed like a discipline that I would end up in because most of the drivers that are doing karting continue in other forms of circuit racing like Formula or GT cars. After watching the 2021 WRC Croatia rally and talking to other drivers like Viliam Prodan, I decided it was what I wanted to do, so I took a leap of faith and switched to rallying for the 2022 season.
You have achieved exceptional success in karting and recent victories at the Quattro River Rally and the WRC Rally Croatia, for which you even missed your graduation trip, which is an experience to be remembered for a lifetime. How did these successes shape your confidence and determination?
Every good result and every victory is a confidence booster. My victories in karting remind me that I have a good driving foundation, and the victories at the Quattro River Rally and WRC Rally Croatia proved that I can hold my own against world-class drivers like Romet Jurgenson and Matteo Fontana, and it made me hungry for more results.
What does it mean to you to aspire to compete in the World Rally Championship (WRC), especially in the WRC3 class? What makes this class unique, and how does it differ from other rally competitions?
Competing in the World Rally Championship is a dream come true. The WRC3 class is highly competitive and full of young drivers from across the world trying to make their mark on the sport. It will also be my first time competing in an all-wheel-drive car, having competed in front-wheel-drive cars up until now. I think the all-wheel-drive Fiesta Rally 3 will suit my driving style better, and I expect us to fight for podium positions constantly.
What hurdles have you faced in your journey, and how did you overcome them? Are there specific moments in your career that you consider turning points or milestones in your pursuit of becoming a top rally driver?
In my journey, there have been many hurdles and setbacks. Obviously, the pandemic has been a big one because I lost 2 years of my career not doing a lot of racing, and it also put a lot of financial strain on companies and people that were supporting me, so I lost a part of my funding. Other than that, my recent crash at the Velenje rally set me back and ruined the momentum we were building all season because I was forced to sit out the rest of the season as the damage was quite big. Every time I faced a setback emotionally and/or physically, my family, especially my father, was always there for me, and of course, being religious and reading the Bible daily has given me the strength to dig deep and overcome every obstacle in my way. That is exactly why I wear a verse of a biblical psalm on my helmet. The big turning point in my career has definitely been my last race in karting, the 2021 World Championship in Kristianstad in Sweden, where I was really competitive and on track for a great result until I was given a set of bad tires and lost the opportunity by no fault of my own. I lost a lot of motivation in that race, and that was the turning point where I decided to give rallying a try.
How do you prepare for the intensity and competition of the WRC, both mentally and physically?
Preparation for rally races is a lot different than for other sports. I cannot go and drive a rally car every day, so I have to get creative. A lot of my time is spent in the gym, training physical stamina and endurance. I also do a lot of other adrenaline sports, like wakeboarding and mountain biking in the summer and snowboarding in the winter. Then there is also the time I spend in the simulator, not to learn the stages but to keep my mind in “rally mode” listening to the in-game co-driver. And finally, before every rally, I watch the onboard videos from previous years to know what to expect from the stages because once we are there, we only have 2 passes with a road car to write the so-called pace notes before we go with the rally car at full speed, so it is important to be as prepared as possible.
Your crowdfunding campaign on the global crowdfunding platform Bona Fides Invest aims to gather support for your WRC ambitions. How crucial is community support for a young driver like yourself? What message do you want to convey to potential supporters and fans who are considering being a part of your team?
Rally as a sport is really expensive, and as I am currently a student without the means to fund it myself, it is crucial that I get good community support from people who love the sport as much as me and want to finally see a Croatian driver enjoy success on an international stage. To everyone who has contributed to my campaign, no matter how big or small, I would like to say a sincere thank you because, without you, none of this would be possible. Supporters can contribute to the campaign with any amount on the Bona Fides Invest platform via the following link, and for all donors, we have prepared exclusive prizes such as personalized thank-you notes, team clothing, and the opportunity to join us at a rally or event.
Are there drivers or individuals who have been particularly influential in shaping your aspirations?
Of course, my main support throughout all these years has been my father Ivan Pokos, who has never stopped believing in me. Other than him, there have been individuals like Daniel Šaškin, the man behind the WRC Croatia rally, who gave me a lot of support and advice in my early rally career; Mateo Butorac, whose car I raced; Juraj Šebalj, who shared his years of experience with me; all of my sponsors, like WIIP and Motul, who were there to support me; and, of course, all of my family and my girlfriend Sunčica, who keep making sacrifices to keep the racing dream alive.
Motorsports often involve teamwork. Can you discuss the importance of collaboration with your team and the dynamics that contribute to success? How do you build and maintain a positive and effective relationship with your team members?
In rallying, teamwork, like in most other sports, is essential. First of all, your relationship with your co-driver needs to be great because you spend a lot of time together and you need to work as one to achieve great results. It is also important to have an experienced team behind you that you trust to make decisions regarding tire choice, car setup, and fuel strategy. You need to constantly communicate with them and acknowledge and respect all the hard work they are doing to keep you in the race. Doing small things like bringing them coffee in the mornings will do wonders for boosting their morale.
Beyond the immediate goal of competing in the WRC, what are your long-term aspirations in motorsport? How do you envision your role and impact in the world of rallying as your career progresses?
Right now, I am mostly focused on the upcoming season. In the upcoming years, my ultimate goal is to get into WRC and drive a Rally 1 car, but we will see what happens. After my driving career finishes, I would like to stay in the sport in a management role or as a driving coach and push Croatian motorsport forward.
What advice do you have for young and aspiring drivers who look up to your journey and wish to pursue a career in rallying? Are there lessons or insights you’ve gained that you believe could be valuable for those starting out in motorsport?
Do it! It won’t be easy, and you will have to make a lot of sacrifices, but it is totally worth it. You will make memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. My number-one piece of advice is to enjoy the process, celebrate small victories, and always give it your all.