From Kart to NASCAR

Ross Hayes, a young Irish karting driver, told us a little about himself and his recent experience driving a Euro NASCAR

Ross Hayes, a young Irish karting driver, told us a little about himself and his recent experience driving a Euro NASCAR

We recently learned about Ross Hayes, a young Irish karting driver on the launch pad who represents the best the country that gave us Guinness has to offer in go-karting. Born in 1997, Ross is one of almost 80 drivers who a month ago took part in the first Recruitment Days of NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, the series that brings American-style racing cars to race in Europe. This event, held in France and on the Franciacorta circuit, allowed drivers from all over the world and with various backgrounds to get behind the wheel of a Euro NASCAR car, for a real test, for comparison with the down to earth and racy American character. Selected drivers will receive financial help for their 2018 season in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.

Let’s get to know Ross Hayes better: Ross was ten years old when he first got into a kart, which was late compare to many of his colleagues, but since then he has continued driving them, starting immediately to compete and put himself on show in the national championships, so much so that he was recognised in 2008 in the local motorsport as the Irish driver who was the novice of the year. In 2015 he had the chance to race at Le Mans in the X30 senior class, thanks to his second place in the Irish championship in the same class. The French track was good for him since that’s where the Energy Corse team manager Mick Panigada noticed him and invited him to a test by the Italian team on the Lonato del Garda track, a test that later proved to be as difficult as it was constructive for his development as a driver. 2016 was the year he made it at home, and a turning point in his career: Hayes won the X30 title and was rewarded with participation in the X30 Word Finals, where he began his relationship with Energy Corse. In the last motor season, the activity of the twenty-year old Irishman – who over the years has competed with the likes of Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc – finally became international thanks to the Italian team, which has deployed him in several European Championship races.

As we said at the beginning, in 2017 British driver ended with what will certainly remain one of the highlights of his still very young career; the Euro NASCAR event, organised by his team in collaboration with the former F1 driver Alex Caffi, allowed Ross to drive a real racing car for the first time, and not just any car, but a beast with 420 hp, with which he had his first taste of the tough overseas races.

Three test sessions on the Franciacorta circuit allowed him to strongly increase his self-confidence with a average that, despite the great power, allowed him to race fast right away, managing to easily understand the behaviour and go faster and faster. Hayes, as well as other drivers, admitted that the solid machine was easier to drive than expected, which he felt was a bit like a “big go-kart”.

There was also a pleasant surprise for him: “Towards the end of the first session I was catching up on another car, and when I got close to it I realised that Danil Kvyat was driving!”.

The F1 driver, who a few months ago was definitively left high and dry by Red Bull and Toro Rosso, was in fact one of the various faces known to take part on this day; invited by his friend Caffi, the Russian evidently didn’t take long to get fit and open up a few doors in motorsport. In addition to him, a NASCAR racing legend like Bobby Labonte has also driven a NASCAR race (in France), while on the Bresciano circuit together with Hayes there were, among others, the motorcyclist Marco Melandri, the WTCC driver Kris Richard and the commentator of Moto GP Guido Meda. For Ross the test led to an invitation to drive a Euro NASCAR at the Bologna Motor Show, where on 6th December he competed with the same vehicle also entrusted to Melandri. However, unfortunately for the kart driver, misfortune saw his car have a faulty clutch that forced him to retire shortly after the start of the race.

The experience gained with these cars did, however, mark a good step forward in the career of the young Irishman, ready now to return to try his hand with Energy Corse karts, waiting for another good opportunity to snap up.