Making the transition from amateur to professional race driver is nerve-wracking under normal circumstances. For Winnipegger Damon Surzyshyn, the missteps, trials, and achievements of his leap to the pros are on full display in the reality series Going Pro SRO America, airing on CBS Sports Network next month. Surzyshyn’s production company Nomad Digital produced the show.
“Racing is fun and also stressful,” says Surzyshyn. “Racing professionally for the first time with a camera documenting every move adds another layer, and when you’re also producing the show during a pandemic, well, that’s really over the top, as I discovered.”
Going Pro follows Surzyshyn’s amateur-to-pro journey as part of the Subaru Motorsport USA team competing on the sport’s most outstanding courses in SRO TC America. He created the docuseries after the success of his previous production, Grassroots Racing, which took viewers behind the scenes of amateur ice and road racing. The show aired across Canada and in the U.S.
“Grassroots Racing opened my eyes to the interest in this type of show,” he says.”I realized that I was in a unique position to create an exciting and unique TV series based on my racing experience.”
Surzyshyn had the amateur experience to qualify for the licence to compete at the pro level, and the reality series enticed the Subaru team to take him on.
Shooting season 1 of Going Pro SRO America came with a heavy workload. Every track on the schedule was new to Surzyshyn, as were the car and its slick tires. Between races, when other drivers were relaxing or going over video and data, he was busy producing, directing and even shooting some of the footage for the show.
“It was overwhelming, and I’m sure my race performance suffered, but then again, my opportunity to race was partly due to the show, so I just did what I had to do.”
As shooting season 2 was getting underway, the pandemic hit. Surzyshyn was in negotiations with Discovery Channel to broadcast the show, but they cancelled all new projects due to the virus. After a brief hiatus, TC America resumed its race schedule but with strict Covid protocols. Travelling to the US also came with a 14-day mandatory quarantine upon return. The challenges of continuing with the show were daunting.
Surzyshyn decided to soldier on and ended up crossing the Canada-U.S. border several times over the summer and early fall to complete the work.
“From July to October, I was in perpetual quarantine, with several weeks not being able to go outside beyond my yard,” he says. “In the end, CBS SN picked the show up, and no one got sick, making the sacrifices worthwhile.”
Despite the hurdles, Surzyshyn states that making the leap to pro racing has been exhilarating. “Amateur racing is about fun, and pro racing is about winning.“ he says. “It’s so much more competitive, and there is a ton of pressure to max out the potential of the car. Racing against huge talents such as Nick Wittmer, Mark and Mat Pombo, and Eric Powell just took everything to a much higher level.”
Going Pro SRO America starts season 3 production shortly, featuring a new milestone in Surzyshyn’s racing career. He’ll be driving the highly anticipated, recently released Toyota GR Supra GT4 at GT4 America as part of a new team.
About Nomad Digital
Nomad Digital is a Winnipeg based production company that creates content for broadcast television, commercials, web content, and corporate clients. In addition to the Going Pro SRO America docuseries, Nomad Digital also produced the series Grassroots Racing, which aired on US and Canadian broadcast networks. https://nomaddigital.ca/