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Meet the kid racer pushing the pedals towards Formula One

Jacob Ashcroft is now in his seventh year of kart racing with his sights sets on Formula One.
Jacob Ashcroft is now in his seventh year of kart racing with his sights sets on Formula One. Copyright Lucile Pingaud & Robert Spanring
Copyright Lucile Pingaud & Robert Spanring
By Sharifah Fadhilah AlshahabLucile Pingaud & Robert Spanring
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“You can't think of it as a hobby. Karting is life. Eat, sleep, kart, repeat.”

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SCENES shines a spotlight on youth around the world that are breaking down barriers and creating change. The character-driven short films will inspire and amaze, as these young change-makers tell their remarkable stories.

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso are some of the big names in the motorsport circuit today. But in their former years, they were young kart racers. 

This type of motorsport requires drivers to lap around an often scaled-down circuit, competing for the fastest timing. Karting is a test of speed amidst focus and car control. 

For some talented youngsters, karting can be a stepping stone to a career in professional racing.

Jacob Ashcroft hopes to change gear and move into Formula One in the future
Jacob Ashcroft hopes to change gear and move into Formula One in the futureLucile Pingaud & Robert Spanring

Jacob Ashcroft is eager to follow in the slipstream of these world-renowned racers.

"I want to be a Formula One driver," Jacob tells SCENES.

At 12 years old, Jacob is not quite there yet. But if his track record in karting is anything to go by, he is well on his way.

"This year, I've attended four main championships," Jacob explains, "The Ultimate Karting Championship, in which I came first place. In the Euro Trophy, I was the European Champion. I came third in the British Championship. In the BNL Karting series, I finished the championship, winning and having the maximum score possible."

Trophies are us: Jacob Ashcroft has won multiple titles but is still searching for the elusive World Championship crown
Trophies are us: Jacob Ashcroft has won multiple titles but is still searching for the elusive World Championship crownLucile Pingaud & Robert Spanring

The turning point

Jacob's parents are avid motorsport fans and have been spectators of the races for years. Being exposed to the sport early meant that he's been getting behind the wheel since he was five years old.

"There was a small go-kart on the floor, which I'd never seen before. It's called a bambino kart. I was like, 'Jacob, what do you think? Have a sit in,’" Barry, Jacob's father, reminisces.

At first, Jacob was scared of the engine noise, but those initial fears dissipated quickly after giving the kart a spin.

Jacob first got behind the wheels of a bambino kart at the age of five
Jacob first got behind the wheels of a bambino kart at the age of fiveBarry Ashcroft

"I said to both my parents, I really want to do that again," Jacob recalls.

From then on, his life took a turn onto the fast lane, starting in the Bambino class until he was eight years old. Upon outgrowing this class, children like Jacob advance to the Cadet, Junior, Senior and Gearbox classes.

Karting for the Ashcrofts is truly a family affair. Jacob's father doubles as his mechanic and is responsible for building and fixing the kart. His mother, Louise, prepares their motorhome for race weekends, arranges the catering and provides emotional support when things don't go according to plan.

'That's my son'

"You need to manage because you don't want their mental health to suffer," Louise cautions, "We're racing at the top level of karting for children Jacob's age. So the pressure is on."

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In the world of competitive kart racing, some children are managed by professional mechanics. Others, like Jacob, are managed by their parents. According to Barry, the latter group might have an edge.

On race weekends, Barry Ashcroft assumes the role of mechanic for his son
On race weekends, Barry Ashcroft assumes the role of mechanic for his sonLucile Pingaud & Robert Spanring

"The paid mechanic wants to see the driver do well, but that's my son. I have a much more vested interest in how Jacob performs on the track," Barry explains.

Jacob enjoys the full support of his family as he navigates the highs and lows of kart racing. Gearing up for a weekend of kart racing, Jacob puts the pedal to the metal and clocks at least an hour a day on his simulator at home.

"You can change all types of stuff. You can change your weather, and you can change your tires. Every time we go to a different track, I test around that track on the simulator to make sure I'm all ready," Jacob shares.

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Jacob trains on his go-kart simulator every day to ensure he is ready when he hits the track
Jacob trains on his go-kart simulator every day to ensure he is ready when he hits the trackLucile Pingaud & Robert Spanring

Safety first

Come race day, Jacob goes full throttle. Karting can be a dangerous sport. Racers at the Cadet level, like Jacob, can go up to 80 kilometres per hour, where one mistake could have dire consequences.

"I obviously want to keep myself as safe as possible. Sometimes when I look at going for an overtake, I do think if it will end well," Jacob says, "You've just got to use your head a lot."

Jacob did not earn his stripes overnight and has been competing for seven years, but for mum Louise, watching her son on the track doesn't get any easier.

"These days, I don't watch the start of the race," admits Louise, "That first lap is so manic. They go into the first corner, and literally, you've got 20 to 30 cars all fighting for places."

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Now 12, this is Jacob's last year racing in the Cadet division
Now 12, this is Jacob's last year racing in the Cadet divisionLucile Pingaud & Robert Spanring

But the family is far from putting on the brakes. According to Barry, they head to the racetrack up to 46 weekends a year.

"You can't think of it as a hobby. Karting is life. Eat, sleep, kart, repeat," Barry concludes.

The family is committed to fueling Jacob's aspirations of becoming a Formula One driver. Jacob's parents hope that whether or not he achieves his goals, he can reflect on their action-packed weekends at the racetracks together as a family with fond memories. It is, without a doubt, a unique childhood.

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