Speed demon

Speed demon

Jacky Chan Cheuk-hin is aiming to be the first Chinese Formula One driver

May 26, 2011
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Jacky Chan could be the next Lewis Hamilton
Jacky Chan could be the next Lewis Hamilton
Photo: kart.com.hk, CRG SPA
He's a big fan of the video game Mario Kart, but for Jacky Chan Cheuk-hin, nothing beats the real thing. He doesn't even have a driving licence, but he is on track to become the next Lewis Hamilton. He is already the youngest Chinese racer with a kart licence from the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, the world governing body of motor sports.

A kart, or go-kart, is a small, open, four-wheeled vehicle that can reach speeds of up to 150 kilometres per hour. "I just love the speed, excitement and tension of karting," says the 13-year-old, who came second at the Chinese Junior Karting Championship in 2008, beating more than 100 drivers of his age.

It all began when his father, Joe Chan Wai-to, took him to a go-kart arena on the mainland at the age of five. Jacky's father still recalls the day: in just a few minutes, Jacky mastered acceleration and slowing down and drove around the circuit confidently, says the proud dad, who used to be a champion kart racer in Hong Kong himself. "He's just fearless, and he even asked for more."

Despite his exceptional talent, Jacky still has to practise hard, spending hours behind the wheel. He has been racing in a series of heats and qualifiers every month - one race every 20 days.

Go-karting is almost always the first step to a racing career in the big leagues such as Formula One. It helps equip young racers with the skills required for high- speed racing, such as quick reflexes and the ability to make quick decisions, Chan says.

Jacky, a Form Two student at Jockey Club Ti-I College, is also heavily involved in other sports, including swimming, tennis and even triathlon. All these activities help build up his strength, which is essential for a career in motor racing.

There's little time to relax even on a weekend as he trains in Macau and Shenzhen.

It has been difficult for Jacky to train in Hong Kong since the city's only go-kart circuit closed down about a year ago. A fatal accident at the site saw a British teenager killed when her scarf became entangled in her kart.

"Every sport has its risks, even running. I'm not worried," Chan says. "It is having the appropriate training and safety equipment that matters. He just needs training and also a good balance between his studies and practice."

But Jacky still hasn't forgotten his worst accident, which occurred in the 2007 Asian Karting Open Championship in Indonesia. He was thrown off his kart when it flipped upside down. "I'm glad I didn't give up though," he says. Only 10 at the time, he was determined to complete the race, and finally crossed the line, to his surprise, in third place. "There is always hope if you go for it," says Jacky.

This week, he is Hong Kong's sole representative at the Winter Cup KF3 in Italy, where he will compete against the best young drivers from around the globe.

So what's Jacky's ultimate aim? That's easy, he says: to be the world's first Chinese Formula One racer.

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