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‘Young Guns’ are blasting through the motorsport ranks

When watching the world’s greatest drivers ply their trade, their mastery of the technicalities and nuances of driving around race tracks is extraordinary to watch. Whilst some people are naturally gifted, the only way to become so skilled at such a difficult thing is to start honing your skills at a very young age. And just about every professional motorsport driver was introduced to the thrill of zooming around a track as a child.

As such, the best – and maybe only – way to develop into a professional driver is to spend a lot of time racing as a child, and this is only made possible when parents and adults dedicate lots of time to it as well. Let’s take a look at the way children can hone their racing skills from a young age, and exactly why motorsport can be such fun for your family.

Pathways to the Podium

Karting is the cornerstone of just about every journey towards professional racing. Find a successful racer, and most likely their love for racing started with karting. But there’s also a range of other family-fun options from Quarter Midgets to Hyundai Excels that also provide exciting and affordable time in the driver’s seat.

The majority of professional drivers now credit karting as the method of developing crucial race craft during their formative period. Mark Winterbottom, for example, explained that “driving a kart is different to driving a car but the racecraft, the set-up principles and the mental aspect all transfer through”. He even asserted that “many of the same guys you raced in karting are the ones you’re racing in Supercars and they have the same traits today as what they had back then”. It’s quite an interesting thought that even as a racer matures and moves from karts to cars, their driving DNA remains the same.

go karts racing around the track

Karting will always be fun

Garth Tander, who was recently appointed to the Board of Directors at Karting Australia, understands how significant karting is to the experience of junior racers. As he explained: “Karting provided me with some of the best memories of my racing days”, before recalling “the great times that we spent as a family travelling around Western Australia and various parts of the country”.

And this is truly one of the special elements of junior racing. Competing at different events in a lot of different places means dedication from family, and a lot of time spent together.

We should always remember that while not everyone becomes a professional racer, we can all still love racing. We don’t all leave karting behind in our teenage years, and it is one of the best ways to fill in spare time. The costs associated with karting are far less prohibitive than other forms of racing, and we all know how fun they are, and that’s why karters of all ages continue competing for decades. It demonstrates that when it comes to racing, there is a category and budget to suit everyone.

go kart racing

One of the advantages of starting to drive and compete in junior karting competitions is that the youngest drivers amongst us can learn how to drive safely from a young age. For parents, there is often some degree of fear for their child’s safety when they start racing. The Karting Australia circuit regulations and guidelines are extremely thorough and are worth taking a look through. Everything is premised under the notion that “Everyone who participates in any way in the sport of karting has a role to play when it comes to creating a safe environment in which we conduct our sport.” There are many thorough guidelines that make karting as safe as possible, that must be adhered to at all times.

Going beyond karting, there are many professional races and competitions around the world that have varying minimum age requirements. The most common age seems to be 14, and in 2009, the minimum age for circuit driving in Australia was lowered from 16 to 14. Most competitions, however, require you to be at least 16 to compete. Take a look at the 2022 Motorsport Australia Manual for further information about the safety requirements in Australian motorsport.

How good are quarter midgets?

The other major entry into the racing community as a young person is through quarter midgets. These little pocket rockets travel about a quarter as fast as normal-sized midget cars and are built with safety in mind.

Going all the way to the 1930s, we see quarter midgets were the original home-built race cars. There is no family-bonding session quite the same as putting together a quarter midget in your own garage. It is also just extremely fun to learn about the mechanics of cars, and test out your own ability to put them together. Chassis Engineering by Herb Adams Tune To Win: The Art & Science of Race Car Development & Tuning by Carroll Smith are both evergreen classics with incredibly high reviews that can teach you a lot of information about engineering.

The costs for quarter midget racing can be slightly higher than that of go-karting. The vehicles themselves can be between around $3,500 and $7,000, before the licensing and safety gear. However, they are great fun, and in our humble opinion, quarter-midget racing is just as entertaining as go-kart racing.

child next to a go kart

Drivers are getting younger

We have even seen a shift towards growth in youth motorsport in recent times with regard to funding. For example, in 2020 the Victorian Government approved funding for a Community Motorsport Program as part of a $7.4 million package. The initiative was partly aimed at supporting young motorsport enthusiasts by improving facilities and equipment. With such initiatives, we know the future for motorsport is strong, especially as it will help the youth drive this future forward.

Sometimes for children starting out in racing, the journey to professional adult success seems to be a lifetime away. But this is not necessarily the case. Records are being broken all the time for the youngest drivers to win certain races and categories, and these seem to be getting younger and younger all the time.

The drop in age requirement is a reflection of the movement toward younger and younger drivers we are seeing all around the world, and it shows no signs of slowing down. A more extreme example of this is the phenomenal Timmy “Mini” Tyrrell. The young man – he is still in fact only 17 – has already won the CARS Tour Late Model Rookie of the year Award, won a 25-lap Heat Race at Greenville-Pickens Speedway and won a Tour race at Tri-County Speedway – both in South Carolina. Mini started racing go-karts when he was four.

According to his father, there is a key to the development of a child in their racing journey, stating that “the number one thing is to surround the young child with good people and good role models”.

young racer timmy mini tyrrell

And while there’s young racers coming through the ranks internationally, there’s a number of standouts in Australia that will surely produce our next Scott Mclaughlin, Daniel Ricciardo or Mark Webber.

The best young drivers in Australia

On a local front, we have had many very young drivers compete even at our greatest race; the Bathurst 1000. Cameron Waters was the youngest ever driver to compete at the Bathurst 1000 when he had been 17 for just over two months.

grant denyer and cam waters

Even for very young new competitors, this might seem like a tangible possibility. And with more and more rules being brought in to drop minimum age requirements across a number of different racing categories, the youngest racers amongst us can genuinely foresee a successful career ahead of them. There is currently a crop of Aussie young guns who made incredibly early starts to their professional careers, and are already very competitive with the seasoned veterans.

Let’s start by considering Jake Kostecki. He started his karting career at the ripe old age of eight, and was part of the V8 Touring Car series in 2015, as a 15 year old. After moving through the Super 2 series, Kostecki along with his cousin, Brodie Kostecki, teamed up in a PIRTEK Enduro Cup wildcard program, entering the Sandown 500, Bathurst 1000 and Gold Coast 600 races.

jake and brodie kostecki brothers

It is worth taking a look at the way certain junior careers progress, to prove just what is possible with the right amount of dedication. Take Jayden Ojeda, for example. The now 22-year-old from Penrith has steadily risen through the ranks over a number of years. Having started racing karts as a seven year old, Jayden won a NSW State Championship and repeated the feat in 2013 and 2014. By 2016 he was competing in the National Formula Ford Series, and was in the Supercars Super3 Series by 2019 as a 19-year-old. He has now competed in the Super2 Series and has secured wildcard entries for the Bathurst 1000.

Demonstrating just how much talent is coming through youthful ranks in the Australian racing world are a number of teenagers. Nathan Herne, for example, moved from go-karts to race cars at the age of just 14, and is currently the reigning Trans AM Series champion, which he won before his 18th birthday, and is a front-runner in the SR5000 open-wheelers. Nathan gets as much track time as he can including being a Fastrack V8 Race Experience in-car coach in Sydney, Sandown and Bathurst.

nathan herne next to a race caar

Herne will be competing in this year’s events against the likes of Jett Johnson, the teenage sensation and grandson of Supercar legend Dick Johnson. Jett won the 2021 TA2 Muscle Car Northern Series, proving his incredible promise as a third generation V8 racer.

Jordan Love was another young superstar who started in karting. He was just nine at the time, and finished second in the West Australia State Championship in his very first year of competition. He went on to win many competitions, and has now competed in some of the world’s most difficult endurance races.

The dominance of youth drivers goes across motorsport categories, as we have seen some excellent young drivers come through the Formula ranks in recent times as well. Oscar Piastri, for example, began karting in 2011, and was already a professional by 2014. This goes to show just how quickly talented young drivers can move through the ranks if they have the right support. At just 21, Piastri is now a champion of both Formula 3 and Formula 2, and is a reserve driver on the McLaren F1 team.

race car driver oscar piastri

GET BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A V8 SUPERCAR

Go-karts and quarter midgets are a great way to lead us to the thrill of the V8 Supercar. Fastrack V8 Race has access to some of the greatest racing tracks you could hope to experience. Reawaken your inner child that remembers the thrills of thundering around the race track, and check out our  driving & hot lap experiences. Take a spin around the likes of Sandown Raceway, Sydney Motorsport Park or even Mount Panorama in Bathurst.

 

family next to a race car with kids sitting on the bonnet of the car
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