Karting is one of the avenues that aspiring motorsport drivers utilise in order to potentially further a racing career. In Australia many of the top tier Supercars drivers came from the karting ranks. For Formula 1, it’s a similar progression, and of course there are the feeder categories such as Formula 4.
Melbourne based teenager and kart racer Hugh Barter is one of those with the dream, and with the aspiration to move into Formula 4. The end game here is Formula 1.
Like many, Hugh isn’t a single category driver. He’s competing in two championships in an effort to both broaden the racing experience and to gain insight into how different organisations work.
Japanese born Hugh has been interested and racing in karts for over a decade. At the age of three Hugh attended a race event at Phillip Island and was captivated by the small yet rapid karts. A race simulator on site quickly had the youngster drawing a crowd as he battled both the just too far away pedals and a simulated Mount Panorama.Gaming simulators at home followed and helped Hugh develop his love and his racing techniques. On his fifth birthday a kart was a main present and at the age of seven, the minimum age requirement to obtain a kart driving license, he was able to properly get out on the tarmac and put those simulated hours to good use.
One of the aims for 2020 and one still possibly available depending on the global Covid-19 situation, is a trip to France to represent Australia in December. The event is the Richard Mille Shootout, and if that name looks familiar, it’s one found on the sides of the cockpits of F1 cars.The Swiss based watchmaking company is also responsible for the Richard Mille Young Talent Academy, and it’s the bridging point between karting and F4. What marks Hugh’s attendance here is something to consider: only one person from a country is selected and from Australia, Hugh is that person.
But to get there requires more than the occasional weekend blat on a kart track. Naturally there’s no chance of Hugh relying on a monthly run, instead he’s out every weekend and either practicing or competing in the Rotax Pro Tour and the Australian Karting Championship.It’s the Rotax Pro Tour that has opened the door to the international aspirations for Hugh. However, for 2020 the tour has been postponed, whereas he’s been able to get one Australian series event under the tyres.
That was at the karting circuit at Tailem Bend, the new and spectacular circuit near the capital of South Australia, Adelaide. Competing in the KA2 Junior category and racing a kart backed by Ricciardo Karts (http://www.ricciardokart.com/) under the banner of Patrizicorse, run by Michael Patrizi, the weekend would prove to be a testing one due to inclement weather and a lack of trackside vegetation allowing dirt and sand to be blown across the tarmac.Hugh would claim his first overall round victory in this category. Hugh says the schedule for such a weekend is quite intense, especially with categories oversubscribed.
With four qualifying heats and with placings counting towards the final race grid positions, Hugh says the 12 laps in each before a final race count of 20 are crucial in ensuring a better finish.
Technical knowledge in motorsport is also crucial in assisting a team’s setup. In the case of karting, that team tends to consist of the driver and perhaps one or two others. Hugh describes the difference between racing in the Rotax Pro Tour and the Australian Championships in a mental preparation sense as not being that different.
What is different is the driving styles required as the Rotax series runs a different engine and tyre package to the karts in the Australian series. Grip levels, performance levels, and even a driver’s physical size make a difference in how a kart is set up and this is an area that Hugh has nailed down.What happens for Hugh for the rest of 2020 will now depend on the world’s Covid-19 situation. The goal, still, is to travel to France and have a tilt at the Richard Mille Shootout.
Backed by father Chris, and mother Natsuki, Hugh Barter has his sights firmly set on one goal, and that is to be a Formula 1 championship winner. (Pictures courtesy of Pace Images and Chris Barter).