In the world of motorsports, speed, precision, and unyielding determination to cross the finish line first are the ingredients that forge a champion. But for Isaac Tutumlu, the goal – ever since he entered the racetrack – was not just to see the checkered flag waved but to fly the Kurdistan flag.
Tutumlu is a Spanish-Kurdish race car driver with many international titles. Born and raised in Barcelona by a Spanish mother and a Turkey-born Kurdish father, Tutumlu has always felt a strong connection to his Kurdish identity. His passion for car racing was formed early in life. Despite his parents’ objection to the risky sport, he never wavered in his passion and worked hard to enter the international circuit and win acclaim.
Tutumlu started his racing career at the Karting Championships. After progressing in auto racing, he joined the Mitzette Series in 2007 and proved his skills on the track. The following year Tutumlu cemented his reputation as a rising star by winning the Catalunya Touring Car Championship. In 2009 he then took up grand touring (GT) racing, competing in prestigious championships such as the Porsche Supercup, where he demonstrated his skills in five races in addition to the International GT Open and the Spanish GT Championship.
In 2011, the Kurdish-Spanish driver took on a new challenge by entering the Superstars series, driving a BMW M3 for respected Spanish team Campos Racing. Though his season was brief, limited to the opening three quarters, he made an incredible impact. Later that year, Tutumlu returned to the Porsche Super Cup, continuing to showcase his talent and commitment to the sport.
Asked about his greatest achievements during an exclusive interview with Kurdistan Chronicle, Tutumlu proudly stated that the turning point in his professional career came in 2011, when he crossed the finish line with his Porche GT3R painted in the colors of the Kurdistan flag.
However, making this dream come true was no easy task. The first steps were taken in the summer of 2011, when he visited the Kurdistan Region for the first time. He describes his feelings after landing in Erbil as “moments of joy and pride” that were followed by a warm reception by Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani. This meeting, as recalled by Tutumlu, marked the beginning of a new era in his professional career. President Barzani enthusiastically welcomed his idea to establish the Kurdistan Racing Team and hoist the Kurdistan flag on international podiums.
But the efforts later were met with multiple rejections for political reasons. Race organizers were reluctant to allow teams registered under the name and flag of Kurdistan “because Kurdistan is not an independent state, and it might provoke political backlash,” the Kurdish driver explained. Therefore, the team was initially named Barzani Racing Team to honor the Kurdish leader’s support for the promotion of Kurdistan on international stages.
One thing that Tutumlu has learned from his experiences on the racetrack is that determination is the key to success, and just like when he is at the wheel of a race car, the Kurdish driver grew determined to paint his car in the colors of the Kurdistan flag one day. He was not ready to give up on his dream.
Finally, the moment came – Tutumlu whizzed past the finish line in a Porsche GT3R emblazoned with a yellow sun and the red-white-green Kurdish flag to top the Spanish Championship Iber GT. It soon became the headline of many prominent Kurdish newspapers and websites and, obviously, opened a new chapter in Tutumlu’s life.
“Between 2011 and 2014, we had to race under the name of Barzani Racing Team because we were told that the name of Kurdistan could trigger conflicts with Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. Nevertheless, we put the Kurdistan flag on our cars and named the team after Barzani until 2019, when we finally received approval to rename the team as Kurdistan Racing Team,” Tutumlu explained.
Since that day, Tutumlu has gained international fame for his performances and significant achievements and titles on the track, which include the Spanish GT Championship (2012), the International GT Open (2013), the Dubai 24 Hours and International GT Open (2014), the DMV GTC Championship (2019), and the World Championship (2022-2023).
Tutumlu might be considered as an exceptionally skilled driver, but he is not alone in his ambition of statehood for an independent Kurdistan. The largest stateless nation in the world is known for its resilience and determination to never give up the cause of securing its legitimate rights. Tutumlu has nonetheless set an example as a sportsman and patriotic Kurd from whom future generations will learn that fighting for one’s people does not have to occur only through politics.
Sardar Sattar is a translator and journalist based in the Kurdistan Region. He has an MA in English Studies from the University of Lodz, Poland. He has translated several books and political literature into Kurdish and English. He writes regularly for local and international newspapers and journals.