UMD Voice Interview: Life in the Fast-Lane with Race-Car Driver Kristian Talevski

Generation M Global Co-Chair, Kristina Dimitrievski, interviewed Kristian Talevski, a Formula 4 race car driver originally from Bitola, Macedonia. Talevski has had a lifelong love for cars and racing, inspired by his father. Today, Talevski still competes in races and works in the IT sector, as well.

Kristian, thank you for taking the time for this interview! Can you tell us a bit how your Macedonian heritage influenced the way you live your life?

Growing up singing songs, learning traditions and experiencing the warmth and kindness of my people is really something I am so grateful for. I believe it’s definitely apparent that us Macedonians are hard workers and even harder fighters when it comes to finding success. One thing that stands out in any Macedonian I meet is the sheer courage within them. Through my family and friends, I see a steadfast group of people who know who they are and stand for what they believe in. We are people of action. Looking back through my family records and my ancestry, I can’t really say that information surprises me! Our country’s history has been a very positive influence on me, and now I’m thrilled to have a chance to give back to the place I love and hold dear. 

You have been interested in racing since you were about 14 years old. What were the main causes of that interest? 

Going back to when I was much younger, I always loved and found joy from cars. Hearing stories of my dad’s plucky old Fiat 750 carving up hill climb events and his mechanical and driving skills, I always looked up to him. That’s where my love of all things fast began.  When he saw I had that competitive drive, he took me to go see races in person. But after he took me karting a few times, watching from the sidelines just wasn’t the same. I wanted to drive faster and faster karts! The chance to really pursue my dream, however, didn’t come until later because my family simply couldn’t afford it at the time.  Both my mother and father taught me the valuable lesson of prioritizing your happiness in life and chasing your dream, so I started saving money where I could. Then with enough hard work, I knew the rest would eventually follow. 

Losing your father at such a young age must have been tough; what does following in his footsteps as a professional driver mean to you?

It’s certainly been one of the hardest times in my life. Although I was saddened by his passing beyond words, I was surprised that everything he taught me wouldn’t be the last gift he gave me. I became motivated to pick up the reigns in my household, pick myself up, and to be the person he needed me to be. He gave me that push to work hard, which turned into the drive to pursue racing. You have to grow up so fast after losing a loved one in that manner, but I know he is still with me in my heart and we will always race together. It means the world to me to know that he would be proud of me no matter where life takes me. I hope to continue to make him proud. I was blessed to have my mother throughout everything. I think the greatest gift I received from my father was the same thing that gave my mom the courage to beat her cancer scare. Anyone who has ever been through a cancer scare knows that you need all the support you can get. You truly understand who will stand with you to give you the push to beat this thing. I learned what it means to be a good person, and hopefully one day, a good father too. It’s beyond measure on how grateful I am to continue in this world of motorsports and carry on my father’s memory. I hope I can do my part, share his story, and honor him and his legacy by inspiring others to fight for their goals and truly cherish the happiness in life.    

As you work towards becoming a professional driver, are you going to continue your education at NJIT or will you focus on racing? 

I have a good relationship with learning now more than ever. Racing has actually been a major disciplinary exercise that keeps me focused on my studies. Currently I am working in information technology, but I plan on attending New Jersey Institute of Technology  (NJIT) in the future. I really enjoy my field of study and it’s certainly been a great springboard for other opportunities. I’m hoping to branch out and become proficient in cyber security, but I’m still young, so there’s always time to learn more. 

Speaking of your interest in IT, how did you know you wanted to work with computers? Do you think this is still something you would like to pursue during or after your racing career?

Oddly enough, I think it’s something that came from cars too! I’m the type to try and fix something and generally do things on my own, which is something  I learned from both my mother and father. Honestly I prefer computers to working on cars because dealing with rust is awful. I commend mechanics for the patience, knowledge, and experience they have to have! It’s really as simple as that. I found I enjoyed it quite a lot and had a real interest in video editing and video games. It’s a very hands on field, so naturally, I began to learn more and more. I have even been asked to take a look at computers on track before so that’s a plus! 

What would you want to do if you never discovered your love for racing?

Perhaps, I would actually start my own residential or business IT service. I’d expand on that or learn to program better. I can also still see myself doing more with other hobbies of mine, like playing guitar or making music.

That last endurance race you did with Jarett Andretti; if it had not ended in Mechanical Failure, how do you think you would have done? 

We had good positioning to start that race, and I had an excellent start retaining my position in the front of the pack. After we got into a rhythm the first few laps I was attempting to hold my position to give Jarrett a chance on the restart to catch up with the leaders and go for the overtakes on his leg of the race. If that worked out the way we had planned, we would have been able to challenge for the lead for sure. Jarrett is unmistakably talented. If you give someone like that breathing room, he’ll get in rhythm and catch up. This kind of thing happens —it’s racing of course —everyone I know had that same thing happen to them at one point or another. There were still plenty of good things to take away from that event.

What would you consider your biggest accomplishment to be?  

I’ve had so many awesome accomplishments in my life so far, but nothing will beat the second I sat in the Formula 4 car on a beautiful day at Palm Beach International Raceway. Looking back, it was something that required all of my skills and my time, as well as networking, managing, finding the time and the funds, and having the will to bring my dream to fruition. It’s still one of the best experiences of my life and I’m glad I can continue. I am very happy I took that first step and got the chance to work with such wonderful people. Racing continues to be a challenge and I’ve made many sacrifices, but there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being in control of your own destiny.  

What’s next for Kristian Talevski and how can Macedonians around the world help you?

Now that I have the groundwork for my racing career, I hope to start up a full season in Formula 4 or F1600. I plan on doing way more testing days and working on my overall fitness after these two racing series, wherever that may be. Most importantly, I’m here to do my part to my country and to show the Macedonian people the truth: we are not only timeless, we’re limitless. I want to show them that barriers and limits are meant to be overcome and all of us are capable of achieving our goals with enough effort.  I want more than anything to see more and more Macedonian men and women thriving and continuing to prove themselves. I aspire to inspire a future generation to go out and join the chase and do what is necessary to succeed as individuals and as a whole. I hope to race under the Macedonian flag, represent a Macedonian company, and do what I can to help them with further development I would very much like to setup a kart track in Macedonia and give the next generation a chance to prove themselves in racing or just to have fun and be happy. All I hope for is a chance to fight for my home: Nasha Makedonija.

Any opinions or views expressed in articles or other pieces appearing in UMD Voice are those of the author or interviewees alone and are not necessarily those of the United Macedonian Diaspora and its young leaders’ program Generation M; the appearance of any such opinions or views in UMD Voice is not and should not be considered to be an endorsement by or approval of the same by UMD and Generation M.

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