Ambition, sacrifice drive teen race car driver to succeed
By: Star News
August 14, 2023
First kiwi USF2000 win
While most 16-year-olds were in the classroom, Jacob Douglas was halfway across the world living by himself. Now two years later reporter Daniel Alvey catches up with the fast-driving teenager.
Jacob Douglas has had a taste for racing since he started competing at 8 – now he’s on the road to the top of his sport.
“We started out just (karting) for fun, then we moved to a really good team and then just flourished,” he said.
Douglas, 18, now lives in Indianapolis, United States, but is back in Lincoln at his parent’s house for a break between races.
Team owner Augie Pabst 111 congratulates Jacob on him first win
He has his sights set on racing IndyCar, an achievable goal considering how far he has come since his success in New Zealand with the WKS Kartstore team and coach Matt Hamilton. Douglas found himself travelling the globe to race karts with the team.
“I raced in Italy, Germany, Thailand and Australia,” he said.
After switching from karts to cars, which included racing in Formula Ford, Douglas was ready to make the next step in his career.
The USF2000 car in action
After more success in New Zealand, Douglas and his family knew if he was going to progress his career he would have to move to either Europe or the United States full-time to ensure he was racing with the best.
Being in his mid-teens and still very young to be travelling overseas by himself, it was decided the US route was his best way to go.
When Douglas first moved to the US in 2020 he was on a 90-day tourist visa, meaning he had to leave the country every few months, which became more tricky due to Covid travel restrictions. So he mostly went to the United Kingdom then back to the US.
He then took on a number of US championships, which included winning five out of six races in the YACademy Winter Series.
He is now approaching the final round of his second season in the USF2000 championship. This year he has managed to get on the podium twice – but is still chasing that elusive win.
“It will be about piecing it all together. The pace is definitely there,” Douglas said.
In June, he made the decision to leave Exclusive Autosport, the team he had been with since arriving in the US, for a seat on the championship-winning Pabst Racing team.
“The team switch really helped us get that next little bit.”
Jacob Douglas is back home in Lincoln between rounds. PHOTO: DANIEL ALVEY
Since the switch, he has been on the podium once and has managed two top-three spots in qualifying.
“Overall as a year, we wanted more but it’s part of the learning process.”
Fellow New Zealander Hunter McElrae, a former Pabst driver who is heading for IndyCar, helps coach Douglas.
Other than motorsport, he keeps himself busy at the gym and spends time in the race simulator. He also has to fit some online school work in between.
One hobby he brought with him from New Zealand was golf – and he can often be found on the course with other drivers.
With two full seasons of USF2000 coming to an end, Douglas is hoping he can make the next step up the ladder on his way to IndyCar, which would mean joining the USF2000 Pro championship, where the cars have bigger tyres and more aerodynamics, making them faster overall.
“The plan is to move up to pro, but there’s lots of variables,” said Douglas.
Jacob when he first moved to the USA at age 15
He says the big variable is whether he will be able to find a seat in a pro car. But Douglas believes he’s still on track to get into Indycar over the coming years.
“I think now we are in the right space and learning the right things – I definitely think we are on a good progression towards IndyCar. Just being able to be at the same tracks and on the same weekend as
IndyCar, it’s pretty cool you can see what you’re aiming for.”
Also on his agenda next year is the Formula Regional Oceania Championship, a high-calibre summer series which will run throughout New Zealand in January and February, finishing at the New Zealand Grand Prix at Hampton Downs.
Past champions include current formula 1 drivers Lando Norris and Lance Stroll.
“It’s always a good benchmark to see where we stack up.”
Douglas is set to race in the final USF2000 on August 31 to September 3.