It is remarkable to think that, as he pulled out of the pit lane in a Scuderia Ferrari-prepared Formula 4 single-seater, 15-year old Jack McCarthy had never driven any kind of car before. Yet here he was, at Fiorano, Scuderia – Ferrari’s famous test track, living every young racer’s dream. Having won the Euro Max Challenge and UK Super One karting championships, Jack had been invited to join three other up-and-coming drivers at the sixth-annual Ferrari Driver Academy, in association with Banco Santander.
The three-day event got underway on Monday 19th October with a morning photoshoot at Scuderia Ferrari’s iconic headquarters at Maranello, near the northern Italian city of Modena. Following lunch at the factory, Jack and the other participants were put through a series of medical and physical tests, to assess their health and fitness. The quartet was joined by rising Chinese star, Guan Yu Zhou (whom had also raced with Jack’s team, Strawberry Racing) and Italian GP2 ace, Raffaele Marciello.
The following day, Jack’s reactions and co-ordination were tested and he was also assessed for his ability to cope with mental pressure. Then came his chance to climb into Scuderia Ferrari’s state-of-the-art Formula One simulator. During his one hour session, McCarthy was able to learn the optimum racing lines around the Fiorano circuit, in readiness for driving the real thing in a Formula 4 car, 24 hours later.“The whole thing moved around, replicating what it would actually be like to drive round the circuit,” Jack, a keen gamer, explained, adding: “I’d never experienced that before!”The day was capped with dinner at Montana, Michael Schumacher’s favourite restaurant during his time at Maranello.When asked about his first taste of F4 machinery he commented, with a laugh: “It was bit different! I’d never driven a car before; but I was cautious rather than scared. The car was very powerful, so I made sure I didn’t do anything stupid. I was so excited, as I pulled out of the pit-lane, it was really fun.” Jack added: “The team was impressed with my performance. I was only 2.5 seconds off the fastest lap but everyone else had driven single-seaters before and changed onto new rubber, whereas, in both cases, I hadn’t.”Rating the experience, McCarthy said: “I was pleased with my performance and it gave me a good insight into what being a professional racing driver is like.
The Ferrari Driver Academy has inspired me even more and I want to get to that level, where I can become a professional. Driving round Fiorano? It was one of the best days of my life. I would like to thank Banco Santander, Scuderia Ferrari and especially Luca Baldisserri for giving me this fantastic opportunity.”With little time to savour his experience with Scuderia Ferrari, Jack travelled on to Adria in north eastern Italy, to join up with his StrawberryRacing, in readiness for his senior class debut in the Rotax International Open (24/25 October). Once again, the talented youngster impressed, finishing 5th in a field of 33 competitors.