25 Oct 2014

Ryan Verra acquits himself well on a loop that’s been a stepping stone for some of auto racing’s biggest stars

Calgarian overcomes eye issue to make waves

25 Oct 2014

Ryan Verra F3 Podium Brazil

Calgarian overcomes eye issue to make waves on Formula 3 circuit

Race car driver Ryan Verra worried he’d never get behind the wheel again when his laser eye surgery went horribly wrong.

But months of struggle ended in triumph for the 31-year-old Calgarian when he reached the podium during a Formula 3 race in Brazil last month.

For Verra the third place finish in his first attempt at Formula 3 racing was the latest success in a remarkable journey behind the wheel of blindingly fast cars.

Unlike many top drivers Verra came to the sport as an adult but quickly caught up with racers who had been behind the wheel since childhood and by last year he had worked his way up the rankings in the North America Indy tour’s USF2000 championships.

Formula 3 Brazil Podium Ryan VerraHe was then offered a chance to jump to the more powerful cars in Formula 3, but before he could start this year’s series in South America in the spring he was — almost literally — blindsided.

“I used to wear contacts but they always gave me problems so I went for laser surgery. Afterwards my right eye didn’t do so well — my vision was off and I didn’t get cleared to race,” he said.

Eventually in a bid to recover he started wearing swim goggles to bed each night.

“I read that wearing swim goggles at night helps because it keeps the moisture in the eye. So and I did that for about a month and it finally allowed the nerves in my eye to heal,” said Verra.

“It was a tough road. At times I thought I would never get in a race car again,” he added.

When he did make it back onto the track in September he faced the daunting task of racing F3 for the first time in the pouring rain at Brazil’s Autodromo do Velopark as the only Canadian on the circuit.

He was happy enough just to get through that first race unscathed but the next time he hit the track he placed third.

“I basically got there and had half a day to practice and then race the next day. The first day was in the rain and I survived, which was great because it’s tough in those cars in the rain. The second race I finished up on the podium, which is the first time a Canadian in the series has done that.”

“It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Most drivers go through a full few years in one car — but I have been jumping into all types of cars to move up quickly so I suppose that created a skill of being able to adapt,” he added.

The F3 series has been a first major stepping stone for Formula One hopefuls and has launched drivers such as Nelson Piquet, Ricardo Zonta and Helio Castroneves.

Verra will be going back to Brazil to race in the final event of this year’s series in November and is invited back for 2015 — an offer he is almost certain to take up.

However he has not turned his back on the Indy car world but likes the versatility driving F3 is giving him.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald
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