Singapore drivers in the fast lane

Sean Hudspeth racing for AF Corse during the Italian GT Championship in Monza, Italy, last year.
Sean Hudspeth racing for AF Corse during the Italian GT Championship in Monza, Italy, last year. PHOTOS: FERRARI, ITALIAN GRAN TURISMO CHAMPIONSHIP, ST FILE PHOTO
Hudspeth (left) and teammate Antonio Fuoco emerging winners of the Pro-Am class last season.
Hudspeth (left) and teammate Antonio Fuoco emerging winners of the Pro-Am class last season.PHOTO: ITALIAN GRAN TURISMO CHAMPIONSHIP
Christian Ho, 13, is aiming to do well at the Karting World Championship in Brazil in October.
Christian Ho, 13, is aiming to do well at the Karting World Championship in Brazil in October.

Europe-based Christian and Hudspeth make sacrifices to make racing dreams come true

Up-and-coming driver Christian Ho has dreamt of racing in Formula One since he was very young, and the 13-year-old took a small step to realising his ambition last year when he was recruited by Sauber Karting.

It is part of Sauber Motorsport, which also manages the Alfa Romeo F1 team driven by 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.

While Christian is still miles away from his goal of racing in motor sports' most prestigious series, the Sauber move has fuelled the teenager's ambition - he is aiming to win the FIA Karting World Championship in Brazil in October.

He was the first Asian to finish in the top three at the FIA Karting Academy trophy and DKM German Karting series last year, but had to endure less than satisfying results in some races before getting back on track.

The FIA Karting European Championship in Le Mans, France, in July, where he finished 17th, was the turning point for him.

"It was a wake-up call because I wasn't doing so well," said the Italy-based International School Brescia student.

"But it was quite a good year, and I've improved in things like overtaking, bending and keeping calm."

Sauber Karting team principal Dino Chiesa, who recruited Christian, is putting his money on the young Singaporean, who is "one of the top drivers who has emerged from Asia with his result in 2019".

He said: "He has shown tremendous speed in race weekends which not many have been able to do."

But Chiesa, who kick-started the careers of six-time F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton and the 2016 winner Nico Rosberg, stressed that Christian needs to work on his consistency to take it to the next level.

"We will work and develop with him in this area, so that he will be the contender for the big prizes in karting," he added.

BREAKING NEW GROUND

If someone does well, people will follow, and I hope this can help to open more doors.

CHRISTIAN HO, Singapore karting driver, on inspiring more Asian drivers to move to Europe to pursue a racing career.

Christian joins a handful of Singaporean race drivers who have blazed a trail overseas, including Andrew Tang, Yuey Tan and Ringo Chong.

NOT ALL GLAM

People see pictures of drivers on the podium spraying the champagne, but behind the success is always a lot of tough times and work that goes in.

SEAN HUDSPETH, Singapore racing driver, on the sacrifices he made to follow his passion.

Another Singaporean, Sean Hudspeth, is also aiming for success on the race track this season.

The 25-year-old joined GT racing team AF Corse using Ferrari cars last year, making the leap from the Porsche Supercup to the Italian GT Sprint Championship.

Despite having less than a month to adapt to a new car and a higher championship class (GT3), Hudspeth and teammate Antonio Fuoco went on to claim the Pro-Am overall title.

"It was a very steep learning curve, thrown into the deep end with a new car, a new environment and a new championship," said Hudspeth, who is also a coach at Corso Pilota, Ferrari's driving school.

"The goal was to win every race, but there were hiccups and bumps along the way. It's upsetting but it was important that we didn't give up until it was over.

"It was amazing to win and having the Singapore flag on the top of the podium was pretty special."

While fans often only see the glitz and glamour of motor racing, drivers like Christian and Hudspeth have had to make sacrifices to pursue their passion.

"People see pictures of drivers on the podium spraying the champagne, but behind the success is always a lot of tough times and work that goes in," said Hudspeth, whose goal is to compete in the 24 hours of Le Mans, the world's oldest endurance race for sports cars.

"My family is together only two to three times a year and I miss them. Ultimately, they understand that I'm following my passion.

"In such a competitive environment, if you want to succeed, you have to make sacrifices, you have to work harder than anyone else."

With their hard work on and off the track paying off, both drivers hope their success will pave the way for more drivers from the region.

Christian has already seen some of his friends from Asia moving to Europe to follow in his footsteps.

He said: "If someone does well, people will follow, and I hope this can help to open more doors."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 12, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore drivers in the fast lane'. Print Edition | Subscribe