breaking news

Magazine Covers

Magazine Covers

Magazine Covers

Magazine Covers

DeFrancesco’s Father : Saint Francis of Assisi and Ecological Consciousness ; Verbum et Ecclesia 35(1), Art. #1310, 9 pages.

May 13th, 2018 | by Richard Paul
DeFrancesco’s Father : Saint Francis of Assisi and Ecological Consciousness ; Verbum et Ecclesia 35(1), Art. #1310, 9 pages.
Business and Finance


‘He somehow made it through’: How a Canadian teen who weighed one pound at birth became an auto racing prodigy

Devlin DeFrancesco’s father remembers one stat: If — IF — he survived his premature birth, his odds of living a healthy life were less than five per cent

Devlin DeFrancesco.Handout

Given what he has been through, what he has done and where he is going, Canadians should know about Devlin DeFrancesco.

The Toronto-born 18-year-old with an inspiring backstory has been climbing the motorsports ladder for a decade and, based on his trajectory, the sky’s the limit.

If all goes according to plan, he could be in a Formula 1 seat sooner than later.

First, though, is the FIA Formula 3 European Championship series, which revs up this weekend in Pau, France.

Get acquainted with DeFrancesco quickly, because he has one default setting. Fast.


The first thing  you need to know about Devlin DeFrancesco is that he was never supposed to make it.

DeFrancesco was born prematurely on Jan. 17, 2000. At 15 weeks early, he was a mortality risk. Doctors worked around the clock as the resilient one-pound newborn battled brain bleeds, heart complications and significant lung disease.

His father Andy remembers one statistic: If — IF — DeFrancesco were to survive, he would have a less-than-5% chance of living a healthy life. He was severely underdeveloped.

“Smaller than a square pound of butter,” his mother Cathy recalls.

DeFrancesco spent four months in an incubator, requiring surgery and special care at Sunnybrook Hospital in downtown Toronto. His last rites were read on multiple occasions. He persevered. Fought.

“Every single day, he somehow made it through,” Andy said.

Devlin DeFrancesco as a newborn in Sunnybrook Hospital (HANDOUT)

Today, 18 years later, DeFrancesco is thriving. He is a globetrotting, career-advancing race car driver whose worst days were his first days.

“I don’t know if I really understand it, or will ever understand it,” DeFrancesco said during an interview from London, England. “I don’t remember experiencing it or going through it, but from the stories I hear from my parents, it’s pretty wild. It’s pretty crazy how close I was to not making it or surviving without a massive issue.”

Aside from a nervous two-year period highlighted by frequent appointments, DeFrancesco has lived a rather normal existence in regard to health. He couldn’t do puzzles as a toddler, had trouble sitting still at times while growing up. But, according to Cathy, that’s about it.

“It’s so tough to describe,” Andy said, when asked for the parental perspective. “Whenever we’re alone together, or at some major event, it comes back and hits us like someone is hitting us in the head with a bat.”

Earlier this year, DeFrancesco competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona, a world-class race in which drivers of a team climb in and out of the same car over a 24-hour grind. He was one of two teenagers to participate in the marathon.

Driving at the iconic Daytona International Speedway was an improbable milestone for DeFrancesco, who presently measures up at 5-foot-6 and 129 pounds, carries two passports (Canadian and Italian) and, most importantly, is free of health problems.

The second thing  you need to know about Devlin DeFrancesco is that when his visor is down, he means business.

There are two versions of DeFrancesco. The single-minded motorist and the charismatic teen who would give the shirt off his back to just about anybody.

DeFrancesco, whose interest in racing piqued upon seeing a shaving commercial featuring a member of the famous Andretti family, has known only one sport. While six-year-old Toronto pals were preoccupied with hockey, he played follow the leader on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

In those early days, his off-track personality followed him into the go-kart. Childhood coach Dave Tennyson tells a story about DeFrancesco, not yet 10, pulling over mid-race to help unhook a pair of tangled drivers. A 10-kart pileup had thwarted the race and he felt compelled to lend a hand.

“His immediate reaction was, ‘How can I help these guys?’ I’ve never seen it before and I’ll probably never see it again,” said Tennyson, a former pro who owns Formula Kartways in Brampton. “That really defines who he is.”

Devlin DeFrancesco during the 24 Hours of Daytona in January (HANDOUT)

Now? DeFrancesco would never dream of devoting time and energy to help out one of his competitors on the track.

“They are the furthest thing from my friends, to be very honest. They’re definitely not my friends,” he said matter-of-factly, adding later that the pro-racing world can be a “mean, nasty place.”

The attitude switch is part of the maturation process.

As DeFrancesco’s devotion to the sport ballooned — at 12, he left his family’s home in Florida to live and train in Europe, first billeting in Italy and later moving to England for boarding school — the on-track intensity grew.

Tony Kanaan, a decorated IndyCar driver with 70 podium finishes, can relate.

“People used to tell me there’s two types of TKs,” the 43-year-old said. “And now there’s two types of Devlins. There’s Devlin, the race car driver, and Devlin, the person. He will do anything for you. He is just a kind person.”

Kind — until go time.313674

The third thing  you need to know about Devlin DeFrancesco is that he’s fast as hell.

Once upon a time, Kanaan was on the cusp, too. He learned the sport’s basics in a go-kart. He sharpened his focus in FIA F3. He earned a spot in IndyCar and flourished. And, along the way, he developed an eye for talent and the specs required to make it.

“Devlin’s fearless. Extremely fast, but sometimes too fast,” Kanaan said, offering a scouting report on his protege.

“I think he needs to learn how to control that aggressiveness and that speed. Sometimes it hurts him a lot. He’ll be fast, but will try to go over the limit. That’s my biggest challenge with him. But, I always say, with racing it’s always easier to slow the horse down than to speed it up.”

That’s the thing: DeFrancesco, while raw and unpolished, has established himself over the past few years as both a speed demon and a winner. Among other exploits since 2013, he has captured a Canadian national junior karting title; taken the checkered flag three times at the Formula 4 level; won the Spanish F3 championship; and been hand-picked to join the esteemedGeneration Ganassi Driver Identification Program.

Devlin DeFrancesco makes a pit stop during a 2017 race (HANDOUT)

The late teens are critical in motorsports. The experience DeFrancesco gains and the adjustments he makes to kickstart his single-seat formula car career will greatly impact his long-term path.

“One of his problems, in a good way, is that he’s so smart,” explained Geraldo Rodrigues, whose company, XYZ Talents, manages DeFrancesco. “He’s very quick in the way he understands things, but sometimes he thinks too much. That’s not good. He’s doing one corner, but already thinking about the next corner.”

Big picture, DeFrancesco is checking off all the right boxes. He recovered well from a 2014 wrist injury, is not cutting corners in the gym, and is spends an inordinate amount of time with his track simulator. He has dedicated his entire life to the sport and its adrenalin-pumping qualities.

“I always push 100% to the limit, sometimes over the limit, and it doesn’t end well, but that’s part of it, that’s how it goes,” DeFrancesco said. “Driving is something I’ve always really enjoyed. And driving quick is something I’ve always really, really enjoyed.”

The slogan at Born Fast.

The final thing  you need to know about Devlin DeFrancesco is that he has a burning desire to succeed.

DeFrancesco, who steers the No. 17 car for Carlin Motorsport and idolizes Lewis Hamilton, finds himself two rungs below Formula 1 in 2018.

FIA F3 is a super-competitive, 10-stop championship designed to showcase the sport’s elite youngsters. The probable next step would be the more advanced F2 circuit. From there, F1 might be on the table, although there is a bundle of options for aspiring pros, including IndyCar and NASCAR.

There’s Devlin, the race car driver, and Devlin, the person. He will do anything for you. He is just a kind person.

Tony Kanaan

Asked where he envisions himself in five years, DeFrancesco paused, then said, “At the minute, to be honest with you, I really don’t know.”

It’s a proper attitude, really. While F1 is “the pinnacle of motorsports” — the ultimate goal — DeFrancesco acknowledges a harsh truth: A driver’s performance isn’t the lone variable. Business, politics and timing all play starring roles in securing an F1 seat.

“Formula 1 is the most cutthroat business in the world,” said DeFrancesco, who has a tattoo that reads ‘Through Adversity Comes Strength.’

“It’s not about being good enough. There’s loads and loads of drivers that I know who are definitely better than some of the people on the Formula 1 grid right now.”

Devlin DeFrancesco chats with mentor Juan Pablo Montoya (HANDOUT) HANDOUT

Lance Stroll of Montreal is Canada’s lone F1 driver. In NASCAR, D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas, Ont., is the top Canadian. There are a few other Canucks scattered among the pro ranks, all following in the footsteps of Jacques Villeneuve and Paul Tracy.

DeFrancesco, whose parents bought Tracy’s old home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., when he was seven, wants to be next.

“It’s 25 hours, eight days a week,” he said of a schedule filled with conditioning, treatment and simulation. “I’m doing what I love. I’m so focused and so busy that it’s just normal to me.”

Like Kanaan, Juan Pablo Montoya has wisdom to impart. He has appeared in F1, IndyCar and NASCAR, reinventing himself over an illustrious career spanning three decades.

“He needs to understand that he needs to want it more than anybody else. And he needs to be willing to push harder than anybody else,” Montoya said.

“People think, ‘Oh, you’re going to be living in Europe, how exciting!’ It’s not exciting. You’re going to the gym every day, you’re spending time with your engineers — you’re not there to party, to go out … It’s not a fancy life being a race car driver. People think it’s fancy, but it’s not. If you want to be good at it, the less fancy it is, the better you’re going to be.”

If anybody knows a challenge, it’s DeFrancesco.

From one pound to the top of the podium.

THE BOOK ON  Devlin DeFrancesco
Full name: Devlin DeFrancesco
Age and size: 18 years old, 5-foot-6, 129 pounds
Birth story: Born 15 weeks premature, weighed one pound
Famous connections: Great nephew to late Maple Leaf Carl Brewer
Citizenships: Canada and Italy (U.S. residency)
Main mentors: Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan
Racing hero: Lewis Hamilton
Current series: FIA Formula 3 European Championship
Racing trademarks: Speed, smarts, fearlessness

Leave a Reply