The youngest championship racer in this season’s national Super Sprint Series will line up this weekend for only his third race meeting, and he’s hoping to set a top-ten starting time. Jackson Culver will be 12 years and 4 months old when he competes in the Formula First supporting races.
He has been Kart racing since he was six years old in New Zealand and Australia; the pre-teen North Canterbury driver obtained his MotorSport NZ racing licence as soon as the regulations allowed and competed in his first-ever national motor race meeting in October.
When he decided to make the switch from karts to cars, Culver attended Formula First school days run by Dennis Martin’s Sabre Motorsport at Manfeild, where he was assessed for his racing licence. He is racing the full championship with the Palmerston North-based team.
Culver is the youngest driver Martin has ever fielded in the national series, helped by the fact his birthday is late in the year and not long before the start of the summer motor racing season.
The former Formula First champion and longtime team owner is full of praise for his young charger.
“We’re really impressed. Given that he’d never actually raced on Manfeild before the start of the national championship, he was certainly in at the deep end. He’s impressed everybody, regardless of the results. Everyone has been impressed with the way he drives and the way he conducts himself,” said Martin.
“The other drivers don’t mind racing wheel-to-wheel with him and say that he’s good to race with. That’s always a good sign.”
Martin has seen the best young New Zealand drivers pass through his Formula First team when they start car racing. From current Formula E drivers Nick Cassidy and Mitch Evans, F1’s newest recruit Liam Lawson, Brendon Hartley, Shane van Gisbergen – the list goes on.
In the short six-race career, Culver had already notched up four top-ten finishes with a best place of sixth and would be leading the rookie standings heading into Hampton Downs if not for two non-finishes, one which came when an oil line came away from the car’s engine, and he retired.
“Thankfully he picked it up on the gauge and stopped the car without doing any engine damage, which again shows a level of maturity,” said Martin.
In fields of up to 18 Formula First cars, Culver has qualified just outside of the top ten starting positions, and he hopes to break that mark at Hampton Downs this weekend.
“I would love to have a top-ten qualifying; I’d be really stoked,” said the diminutive Culver, who just missed that target in the opening two rounds by a position or two.
Not only is his racing car much bigger than the karts he’s been racing competitively for the past six years, but the car racing circuits are much longer than the kart tracks he’s used to.
“I like the longer [car] races because there’s a lot more thinking and strategy to try and get past the other cars, with the slipstreaming and all that.”
In his short car racing career, Culver has experienced just about all conditions, from dry to wet and every track condition in between. He quipped he “only needs a race in the fog now!”
But none of the varying conditions has phased the 12-year-old, who’s been quick to adapt, although he admits his first start in the wet at Manfeild needed some improvement, and his tutor Dennis has given him tips to be ready in case of rain at Hampton Downs.
Culver’s family expect he’ll race for two years in the Formula First category before assessing his progress and determining the next step in his career. In the meantime, the budding young race star just wants to be starting nearer the front.