x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Pole Position: Without parental support, kids' motorsport dreams stall

In return for the investment the parents make in time and money, the child has to demonstrate commitment. If it's not there, it's over.

Perhaps inspired by Danica Patrick, who put her car on pole position for the 2012 Daytona 500 ahead of 49 slower male competitors, 18-year-old Natasha Seatter caught and then passed Joe Ghanem to win Round 10 of the Formula Gulf 1000 championship last Friday.

And let me tell you that she won it totally on merit, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. Nobody stopped or let her through. This was not only her first win in this hotly contested series but was also the first time a woman had ever won a national race in the UAE - history in the making.

When you consider the quality of competition she faced, this was a seriously impressive drive. Ghanem is considered by many to be the best driver around at the moment, currently leading both Formula Gulf and Maserati's Middle East Trofeo series. Seatter also beat Mohamed Al Mutawaa, an FIA Academy driver supported by Yas Marina Circuit, who finished third.

But it's disappointing that nowadays most youngsters appear to believe they can only take up motor racing once they find a sponsor. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that. As with nearly all successful young drivers, Seatter's ambitions are fully supported and funded by her parents. When interviewed for a forthcoming Mobil 1 The Grid television show, she was asked about her ambition. I was hugely impressed that she did not trot out the normal speech about wanting to get into Formula One. No, she said: "I want to win a championship." This is a realistic ambition, which, incidentally, I fully expect she will achieve. Seatter demonstrates the work ethic and commitment that is required to be successful in her chosen sport.

Our FG1000 drivers get two 20-minute races at each event so they get a second chance if things go wrong. It was Ghanem that had won the first race in style after snatching the lead away from fast-starting Seatter at turn one. Al Mutawaa set a blistering fastest lap of 1:39.813 of the day to take second place. Seatter had looked quick but was clearly not happy in third.

"I was annoyed with myself for making a couple of mistakes in the first race, so I decided to really focus on winning the second and try not to make mistakes," she said. "I had a fantastic drive and was able to finally put everything together that I had learnt. I finally got into the zone, had a terrific tussle, with lots of focus and I took my chances."

My experience is that when we find youngsters on the path to a career in motor racing, the opportunity to fulfil their ambition came about because their parents recognised that the sport is a valid family activity that brings a focus on teamwork, fun, achievement, problem solving and hard work. Show me a parent that does not seek these attributes in their children. In return for the investment the parents make in time and money, the child has to demonstrate commitment. If it's not there, it's over.

Unfortunately, we are regularly approached by youngsters who tell us they have to find a sponsor so they can start racing. I wonder why?

Pole Position is written by Barry Hope, a director of GulfSport Racing, which is hoping to find an Arab F1 driver through the FG1000 race series. Join the UAE racing community online at www.gulf-sport.com or on Facebook at GulfSportRacing.