The first young New Zealand karter to earn a spot on the grid of the FIA Karting Academy Trophy Series, Jacob Douglas from Christchurch, was quick but ultimately unlucky at the opening round of the 2019 series at Wackersdorf in Germany over the weekend.
The 13-year-old former two-time New Zealand Vortex Mini ROK class champion qualified in 9th place (out of a field of 51) for the Final but crashed out of that race on only the second lap when hit by another competitor.
“Yes, it was an unfortunate way to end what was looking like being a stand out weekend,” said top Kiwi karter Tiff Hamilton, who travelled to Germany with Douglas. “Jacob had the pace to move up in the dry as he had shown with Top 3 fastest times in Free Practice but got turned around by another competitor as he overtook them at turn 4 on lap 2 of Final.
“ Obviously, Jacob was disappointed, because he was looking forward to having the extra track time to show his true pace.”
The lack of track time, particularly when it rained, was an issue for a driver who had to fly in from so far away without the benefit of any prior practise. Though Douglas was quickly on the pace in the dry in Practise on Friday, setting the 6th quickest time in his group in his second session and the 2nd quickest time in the third.
So close was the field in their identical karts, in fact, that the 51.491 second lap time which earned the young Kiwi the 21st quickest lap time on Friday was just 0.267 of a second off pole!
He then stepped up a notch through Saturday’s Qualifying Heat races, with a 9th in the first, then 7th placings in the next two.
With a 10th in the final Qualifying heat race on Sunday morning that earned him his top 10 spot (P9) in the Final, a result which Tiff Hamilton says was as good an indication as any of how the weekend went.
“The mixed conditions all weekend, not to mention not a lot of track time meant it was a tough and steep learning curve. Particularly in the wet conditions the Europeans were tough to beat, not only because of their experience with the track but also the amount of rubber that goes down. Yet Jacob took it all in his stride and showed pace from the very first session.
“He also performed with a sensible head in the Heats as he was aware how tricky it is to even make the Finals at these events. In one of the Heats, for instance, he was on slicks with a full wet track.”
It’s a big ask for a 13-year-old to travel to the other side of the world to compete at the highest level but it is typical of Jacob that when asked about the weekend his first thought was about those at home who had helped get him there.
“It’s been a dream of mine for a few years now to race at the highest level of karting in Europe and I’m just like to thank everyone at KartSport New Zealand and their sponsors Carter’s Tyre Service and The Giltrap Group for helping me take this step. I’m sorry I didn’t get to finish the Final this time but I’ll be trying even harder to get a result everyone can be proud of at the next round.”
Despite the crash in the Final Jacob’s good work earlier in the weekend meant that he is still 17th overall (out of 50) in the Trophy Academy rankings after the first round, with the second at the Sarno track in Italy in June, then the third and final one at Lonato (also in Italy) in September.