Had Moises de la Vara followed a different path, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires driver might have become an American football player. But when the 6-2, 190-pound native of Guadalajara, Mexico, was introduced to a race car for the first time – at the relatively late age of 17 – motorsports quickly eclipsed football as his life’s choice.
Moving from Guadalajara to San Antonio, Texas when he was 4, de la Vara spent his youth playing soccer, until his friends convinced him to use his size to his advantage.
“My family was very soccer-oriented, so I’d played soccer all my life,” he said. “But in grade school, all my friends played football, so I decided to try out. I only played for a year, in eighth grade – it was a lot of fun, so if I wasn’t racing, I would probably have tried playing football!”
Before football could take hold, de la Vara’s uncle invited the young man to come join his cousin who was karting, just to look and see what it was like. As is often the case, it was a fateful moment.
“At the end of the day, he asked if I wanted to jump in his kart, so I went out and drove five laps,” he said. “When I came back in, he told me I’d gone a second faster than he had so the next weekend, I went racing. I finished fifth out of 12 drivers and was happy not to have finished last! I started going every week, then moved into state competition, then nationals, then into formula cars.”
De la Vara began his karting career on the team managed by Ernesto Martinez, a move that would change the trajectory of his career. Ernesto and his nephew, David. were contemplating merging their talents into one team, with both moving to the Houston area and beginning to make plans for the team that would become DEForce Racing.
“I did my first season of NACAM F4 in Mexico with MOMO F4 and Ernesto was the team manager,” he said. “When Ernesto stopped working with them, he suggested I move to David’s team. That’s when the talks about moving to the States and forming a team began. David and Ernesto formed DEForce Racing in 2016, and Kory (Enders) and I started driving for them. We all wanted to start as rookies together and really grow the team.”
Knowing he was missing the early seat time that most other drivers his age had gotten, de la Vara grabbed onto racing with both hands to try and catch up. He competed in 40 races in 2016, in FIA F4 NACAM, F4 US and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires (then the Pro Mazda Championship). He split time between the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and the US F4 series in 2017 and finished fourth in F4 NACAM. He went on to capture the F4 NACAM championship title in 2017 and appreciates the lessons learned from the substantial amount of seat time.
“I think that was the best choice we could have made,” he said. “It was a lot of driving, and I gained a lot of experience. I learned a lot and it made me a smarter, more mature driver. I was focused on finishing the races and being consistent. And winning the F4 title was awesome. I won a race as a rookie, but I made mistakes in the second year because I was a bit too eager, too aggressive. That taught me a lot going into the third year. I maintained my calm and I feel as though that whole experience really helped me.”
De la Vara and Enders, who is from the Houston area, form the nucleus of the DEForce driving team that has expanded across USF2000, Indy Pro 2000 and US F4. The Indy Pro 2000 pair work well together, though de la Vara notes the rather significant differences in their personalities.
“Kory and I are literally on opposite sides of the spectrum as people go, but we get along so well,” he said. “Our personalities mesh. He’s so outgoing and I’m pretty quiet. I love talking to people, but I don’t have to with Kory around!
“It’s been awesome to see DEForce Racing grow from the beginnings to where they are now. And it’s family. All the guys are so much fun – I’ve always been with David and Ernesto, so I don’t have much experience with other teams, but I feel like this is a great place to be.”
Indy Lights returns to action this weekend in Toronto. The Cooper Tires Grand Prix is a doubleheader, with races Saturday and Sunday.