Kiwi racer Jacob Douglas has big aspirations ahead of his first Formula 4 race in the United States this weekend.
The 16-year-old made the jump from Kartsport to cars last year, winning the top rookie award in the South Island Formula 1600 championship.
Now, Douglas has big plans.
With a drive in the Toyota Racing Series next season on his radar, Douglas and his family decided for the youngster to head to America earlier this year.
There, Douglas linked up with the Kiwi Motorsport team and has already got laps under his belt in the F4 and F3 cars.
“I felt excited getting on the plane and looking forward to the opportunities coming up,” Douglas told Velocity News.
“It felt a little unreal leaving home by myself and I also felt grateful for what I was about to do.
“Arriving in Indianapolis was very cool, getting to go to the track and see just how incredible it is.
“I was very excited and never really was nervous or anything.”
Douglas heads to Laguna Seca next weekend for his first F4 race, but experienced watching an event from the sidelines when he arrived.
He says he was amazed by how close the racing in F4 was compared to what he anticipated.
“When I first watched a F4 race in Brainerd, I was impressed by how close it was and how much passing goes on.”
Battling through scorching temperatures that often exceed 40 degrees Celsius, Douglas then got his first taste behind the wheel.
“My first F4 test went well, it was what I expected the car to be like,” he said.
“I had a really good four days in the car and felt ready to jump into the F3. It ended well with good improvements in the areas we were focusing on.
“Honestly, I haven’t found the heat too bad. Most days it hits 35-40 degrees by lunch. The hottest day was 44. It’s definitely not ideal but I have learnt to bear it.”
After racking up milage in the F4 machine, Douglas tested the faster F3 car.
He says the F3 drives a lot like the current-generation FT60 TRS car, which is a massive step in preparing him for next year’s championship.
“The F3 is a lot faster and has a lot more downforce.
“In the F3 you have to be a lot smoother in comparison to F4. I prefer the F3 for those reasons.
“It is also very similar to the FT-60. Learning downforce has been important to our TRS campaign.
“I feel the experience will help me when I get home. The speeds here are different and although the top speed is only 250kph, the average speed per lap is a lot higher than back in NZ.”
Next weekend, Douglas’ first F4 race will see him compete against some of America’s most promising single-seater drivers and at a foreign circuit.
However, he has been preparing as best as possible and aims to be a regular podium contender.
“Heading into my first race my goal is to be in the top three consistently.
“I have done quite a bit of Laguna on the simulator back at home, so I’ve tried to prepare myself as best I can.
“It will be exciting and different getting on track with a lot of other cars but the testing with Garry [Orton, team owner] and Kiwi Motorsport is preparing me for the best result possible.”
Douglas’ ventures in America aren’t also just giving him valuable race experience.
It is the first time he has travelled overseas on his own. The opportunity has taught him maturity and independence.
“This experience has taught me a lot about both on-track and off-track, especially being independent and looking after myself.
“I’m proud of what I’m achieving, chasing my goals and looking forward to doing NZ motorsport proud.”