As a precocious boy and then teenager, Daim Hishammudin's trademarks were floppy shoulder-length hair and a wide, toothy grin that made its appearance whenever he won a go-kart race, something that happened regularly from 2008 to 2013 when he took karting championships in every year but one.
Talk of him becoming Singapore's first Formula One driver rapidly accelerated but that was followed by an abortive transition from karts to cars before he called a temporary halt to his racing career in 2015 owing to funding issues, the A-level examinations and full-time national service commitments.
The 19-year-old now wears his hair short but his grin was on full display again last month after he wrapped up the Caterham Motorsport Championship title by winning all 10 of his races.
Its Asian series - which Daim races in - started in Malaysia in 2015, having expanded from Britain. The one-make series (drivers race in the same type of car) saw 19 drivers of eight nationalities fill the 14 cars in this year's edition.
"I went into the first race (in May) happy just to finish on the podium because I hadn't raced for two years," he told The Straits Times last month.
"Even before the third race, I didn't get enough testing in but, thank God, we managed to adapt to the car and team very well and, from there, it was just about building on that confidence."
Daim was racing in the Caterham Seven 210bhp 420R model, which can reach speeds of up to 230kmh.
Seven of the races took place at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia, while the other three were held at the Clark International Speedway in the Philippines.
STEP BY STEP
F1 is definitely still the goal but for now I'm just taking it race by race. There's a lot of work to do before I can get there.
DAIM HISHAMMUDIN, who plans to race in the Asian Formula Renault Series in March, on his ultimate target.
Daim's father Hishammudin Hasan said sacrificing studies for racing was never an option, but acknowledged that taking a hiatus from racing had not been an easy decision to make.
"It was really a combination of factors (funds, studies, NS), but one good thing that came out of the break was that it allowed us to see if the hunger was still there," said Hishammudin, the deputy chief executive officer of a consumer goods company.
He added that Daim is in the midst of locking up several sponsorships, a welcome boost as the multiple karting champion is looking to make the step up to the Asian Formula Renault Series which begins in March. Daim's participation, however, is contingent on getting sufficient time off through the Home Team Sportsman Scheme.
"Formula Renault has six rounds (in China) for which I'll need at least two days off each time, not to mention a minimum of eight test days prior to the championship," said Daim, whose NSF stint runs till September.
"The 10 days of leave I have this year will not cover that so it will be quite difficult without the Sportsman Scheme."
Having the time to prepare is crucial to success, as making the adjustment to Formula cars is not straightforward. Explained the 1.71m Daim: "The way you drive and how the car responds is completely different. It can be very tricky to get your head around the downforce.
"Driving the Formula car is more physically demanding because it's faster and has more grip so your neck muscles have to be stronger too."
Should 2018 work out for him, the next step would be one up to the Formula 3 GP3 series in Europe.
From October, Daim will be based in Britain, where he will start his university education, likely in business management at the University of Sussex.
"A lot depends on whether we have the budget because Europe is a big jump from Asia and purchasing the car is the big cost," he said.
"F1 is definitely still the goal but for now I'm just taking it race by race. There's a lot of work to do before I can get there."
A constant grind of hard work is how he would describe a career in motor sports to budding 10-year-old drivers today, the same age at which he made his karting debut.
Said Daim: "If you're up for hard work, difficulty and pain, what you will find is a sport unlike any other.
"It's very easy to lose hope when you don't know what's coming next, but you need to have the perseverance to keep going."