Catching Up With DEForce Racing
 February 22, 2019| 
  • Series News

David and Ernesto Martinez were anything but newcomers when they formed DEForce Racing and joined the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires in 2017. The nephew-uncle duo bring years of racing experience to their Houston-based team, which fields squads in both the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship and the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

David Martinez, 37, enjoyed a successful 20-year driving career, beginning with karting and junior formula in Mexico, then formula racing in Europe, and Barber Dodge and Formula Atlantic in the U.S. His career culminated with two top-10 finishes in the 2010 NTT IndyCar Series – including a ninth-place finish in his series debut at his home race in Mexico City. Ernesto Martinez, 34, founded Falcone GP driver development to help young drivers move up from karting to open-wheel racing and sports cars and represented Mexico in the Rotax World Finals on 10 different occasions. But it wasn’t until 2017 that the pair decided to join forces and form DEForce Racing.

“I was born into a racing family,” said David Martinez. “My dad was a race car driver in Mexico, back when racing was huge there and there was plenty of sponsorship.  I raced in Mexico and in Europe, and while most of my fellow drivers wanted to go to Formula One, I always dreamed about being an IndyCar driver – or Champ Car driver, as it was back then. There was no ladder like there is now, but I was a fan of Greg Moore and Paul Tracy and had a picture of the blue Player’s car in my room growing up. One day, I got a call from Jerry Forsythe (owner of Forsythe Racing) and I was able to make the jump to Champ Car in the Mexico City race. It was the best debut for a Mexican driver in Champ Car, equaled this year by Patricio O’Ward.”

While Martinez was pursuing his driving career, he was leading by example in his home country. He began to give back to the sport by coaching young karting racers – who in turn taught Martinez a great deal about himself and what he would need to do to prepare for a life after driving. He earned a degree in electronic engineering while racing and the future looked bright – until Champ Car (and Forsythe Racing) folded in 2008. The young racer found himself fighting for seats with much more established veterans and knew he would have to make a change. His work as a driver coach and engineer for several teams, including the Juncos Racing driver development program, plus several young drivers who wanted assistance making the transition from karts to cars helped make his decision about what would come next. 

“Ernesto is my dad’s half-brother, which makes him my uncle, but he’s younger than me and more like a brother. We grew up together when we were young, until I started racing. We had a special bond and always wanted to do something together, so when my racing career was done we decided to form the team. I was already in Houston and had a very good relationship with the MSR Houston track – it was where I did my first Champ Car test. I had a small school there and was coaching two young drivers, and they wanted to go racing – and they wanted to go racing with us. So we decided to do it ourselves.”

Those two drivers – Houston native Kory Enders and Mexican-born San Antonio resident Moises de la Vara – began with the team’s USF2000 squad and will graduate this year to full-time Indy Pro 2000 seasons. Their progress parallels that of the team, as DEForce earned the first USF2000 pole position of the season last year in St. Pete (with Jose Sierra), another with James Raven at Mid-Ohio (who went on to finish second), and Enders captured his first series podium at Portland. De la Vara returned to the Road to Indy in the Indy Pro 2000 series last year fresh off his F4 NACAM Championship title, and took a fourth place finish at Gateway. The team will also field a USF2000 car for Manuel Sulaiman, who is currently leading the F4 NACAM Championship, with more announcements expected before the start of the season.

While Martinez is pleased with the team’s development on track, the professionalism in the details remains as important as ever, as does the attitude inside the tent. “Fun” and “family” are two words you hear often in the DEForce vocabulary.

“We have been racing all our lives and that sets a benchmark. We want to be the best and off the racetrack and we have pride in our image and detail. I think we’re heading in the right direction with the on-track product as well. Look how far Kory and Moises have come: Kory had his first series podium at Portland and Moises qualified third at Gateway. There is a very special bond between them and the team, as we all started together.

“Everyone’s goal is to win, but we remind ourselves that this is also a great life experience. It has to be professional but it should be fun. Otherwise, you should do something else. The drivers help with the cars and are part of the team as well, so it’s a family.”

The Martinez duo brings a wealth of racing experience, information and background to their drivers, and David Martinez feels that is one of the foremost reasons of the team’s success.

“When you’re driving, there’s a lot of passion, a lot of adrenaline, and the will to be the best you can be. It’s hard when you get to the end but to be able to transition to running a team, to find that same passion in helping the drivers – if I can keep that feeling alive, it’s good. You learn a lot as a driver and understand how it feels in the cockpit; you can help the new drivers achieve their potential. I’m still at an age where I can drive competitively and I think it helps me gain the young drivers’ confidence. They believe in what I’m telling them and we have the experience on all the steps of the ladder, all the way to IndyCar.”

Have David and Ernesto Martinez considered taking DEForce on that same journey, all the way to the NTT IndyCar Series? They won’t rule out the possibility, but the here and now definitely remains the focus.

“Ernesto and I are a dangerous combination. We’re still relatively young for team owners. We started out just as a USF2000 team, and now we have USF2000 cars, Indy Pro 2000 cars, and even an LMP3 car in the shop. I can’t really say where we’re going to end up, but right now our goal is to be the best in the Road to Indy before we think about stepping up to Indy Lights and beyond. But you never know what can happen; we’re always open to new opportunities as long as we can keep the quality of our work.”

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