DOWNTOWN — It’s undeniable that many of us in life have a calling. A passion and drive that wills us forward.
For IndyCar driver and Santa Monica resident Oriol Servia, that calling is racing. Being born into a family of speedsters, the urge to live a life on the track came early on.
The 38-year-old Spaniard began racing go-carts at age 13 and received his first off-road motorcycle when he was still in diapers.
Servia’s parents led by example, as his father Salvadore was a two-time Spanish rally champion, and his mother Montse his navigator.
“My dad used to race, and there was no turning back,” he said.
Aside from a racing heritage, Servia is also known for his flamboyant helmet, which depicts ants running up his chin and a portrait of surrealist artist Salvador Dali.
The helmet serves as a tribute to the late artist, who was born in the same region of Spain as Servia, who is ranked 16th in the 2013 IndyCar standings with 29 points, 50 behind the leader, according to ESPN.
“Dali was always very popular at home. He was famous when I was a kid. I liked his thinking,” Servia said.
After leaving Spain, Servia spent a decade in Miami.
“I never thought I would leave Miami,” he said. “But my girlfriend’s an actor, so I kind of had to.”
Servia still gets homesick now and then but finds comfort in similarities found on the West Coast.
“Of course I miss home, but I’m actually a lot closer than you think; the climate is very close to Barcelona,” he said.
And while the traffic congestion in Santa Monica may be annoying to the average commuter, it’s unbearable for a racecar driver with speed in his blood. “It’s something I cannot understand,” Servia said. “I try to avoid rush-hour traffic.”
While in Santa Monica, Servia said he prefers walking instead of driving. Some of his hobbies include water skiing, reading and racing cars in video games.
“I love Santa Monica because everyone is health conscious,” he said.
This weekend Servia sets his sights on the 2013 Toyota Grand Prix and a chance at glory. “You put in a lot of time and dedication and being a home race there’s always a little extra motivation.”
The race, which takes place on the streets of Long Beach is both exciting and daunting at the same time for the veteran driver. “Any time we do a street race it’s always fun,” Servia said.
“It’s not everyday people get to see IndyCars going 170 miles per hour on the streets,” he said.
Despite the novelty there is an added element of danger found in street races. Drivers have to be especially mindful of their surroundings to avoid disaster. “You pay a high price for any little mistake,” he said.
However, Servia doesn’t dwell on the negative aspects of racing and keeps his mind on the finish line and his loved ones. “My family’s raced all their life, it’s different when you know all about it,” he said.
“At the end of the day they get so involved with me winning and not anyone getting hurt,” he said. Win or lose “we’re gonna have a big old party.”
Servia is scheduled to race this Sunday at 1:38 p.m. For more information on the race visit www.gplb.com/