‘I originally started at the age of nine’

For anybody who watched with dismay the unfolding confusion and ridiculousness that was the 2021 Formula One finale in Abu Dhabi, there may be at the very least some hope available about the way forward for motor racing. Specifically, there’s some hope available about the way forward for Irish illustration on the very pinnacle of the game.

We’ve seen Irish drivers do effectively in F1 up to now – names comparable to Derek Daly, David Kennedy, and Eddie Irvine, relying on whether or not you think about that final identify Irish or Northern Irish, spring to thoughts – and now, with luck, a brand new identify is on the way in which to being added to that listing. Alex Dunne.

The teenager from Meath has already had one thing of a glowing profession. He’s a a number of race winner in just about ever type of karting – at all times the nursery slopes for any aspirant racer. He began younger, too.

I feel the change, from karts to automobiles, was initially a little bit little bit of a battle

“I originally started racing at the age of nine” Alex tells The Irish Times. “I started in Ireland, before venturing over to the UK, and got to race in the highest levels of karting there.”

He raced and he gained – Dunne’s victories embody wins in Irish and British karting championships, racing within the IAME karting occasion at Le Mans, putting eleventh in OK world karting championship, and in 2019 taking an outright win on the Adria circuit in Italy, as a part of the Junior European Karting Championship.

Since when, Dunne has made the step up from karts to “proper” racing automobiles. He’s now racing within the German Formula 4 championship, the place the automobiles appear like Formula One racers, however in miniature.

Powered by turbocharged engines provided by Fiat-Abarth, these F4 automobiles are fast, nimble, and difficult. Not solely that, however Dunne will get to race them on such legendary tracks because the Nurburgring and Hockenheim, scenes of many an F1 world championship battle.

“I think the switch, from karts to cars, was initially a little bit of a struggle” Dunne tells The Irish Times. “But after a day, maybe a day and a half, it started to feel more natural for me. I had a lot of coaching from my father, who raced cars as well, so that was helpful. I also had a home simulator, which helped me get used to the gearbox, changing the brake bias, all those sorts of things. So actually I’d felt pretty comfortable before I’d even driven the physical car.”

Alex Dunne competing in a race in Germany.
Alex Dunne competing in a race in Germany.

That use of digital simulation has come a great distance in motor sports activities. The 1997 Formula One world champion Jacque Villeneuve famously used a PlayStation sport to be taught the layouts of the circuits on which he’d be racing, however now drivers like Dunne can’t solely used sim-racing to organize for the actual factor, it’s additionally a method of displaying their abilities to a wider viewers.

“Ever since Covid started, sim-racing has really stepped to the next level” says Dunne. “Lots more drivers started getting onto iRacing and other simulations back when we were all locked down. I actually got to race against both Lando Norris and Max Verstappen in online racing.”

Mention of the newly-crowned world champion begs one other query – Verstappen has been repeatedly accused of being too aggressive in his racing, so how does Dunne really feel about that, as a younger up-and-comer? “I think you can see that they’re two very talented drivers fighting for the world championship” says Dunne.

The downside with motor sport is that it’s actually costly

“If you look back at the old days, racing was pretty tough and aggressive, and I think that’s what we want to see. Not crashes, of course, but good, hard fights for races and wins.”

Getting to race towards Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, et al on the Formula One grid is Dunne’s final ambition. He is as he places it, “fully focused” on making it to the very peak of motor sports activities, and he’s gained a helpful ally on the way in which there. The US Racing group for which he’s been driving in German F4 is co-owned by none apart from Ralf Schumacher, brother of the seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, and a a number of Grand Prix winner himself.

Although he’s not but gained a race in German F4, Dunne has been spectacular, taking a number of “Rookie Wins” – the place he’s been the best-placed newcomer to the collection in a race – and scoring two pole positions in qualifying for races at Hockenheim.

US Racing group co-owner Gerhard Ungar mentioned of his performances: “Alex has a very concentrated and exemplary attitude about racing and being a race driver. His attitude and approach impressed me right at our first test in F4 together. The first test already showed that he has a really good speed.”

Speed isn’t the whole lot in racing, sadly. Money is arguably at the very least as necessary, if no more so however Dunne enjoys backing from some heavy-hitters together with Harris Group, a number one provider of vans and heavy vehicles within the Irish market; Van Fleet Transport; Reynolds Logistics; and Motorsport Ireland.

“We’ve had incredible support from our sponsors” says Dunne. “The next step is certainly possible, but of course the problem with motor sport is that it’s really expensive. But as I say, we have some incredible support which hopefully can help us.”

When Max Verstappen skipped to the highest step of the rostrum at Abu Dhabi, it was the primary time a driver from The Netherlands had grow to be F1 World Champion. Would or not it’s hoping an excessive amount of that Alex Dunne, at some point of the longer term, might add one other first-time nation to that listing?

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