Story/Interview January 4, 2022
King’s InterHigh student Jack Hobson takes the racing world by storm
Jack Hobson’s racing career is skyrocketing. Despite the pandemic and only being 14-years-old, in 2021 alone, he became the number one UK go kart racer for his age, 13th best in the world, and Vice UK Champion, which means he came second in this race. The karting circuit worldwide is where some of the world’s top British Formula One drivers begin their careers, including Lewis Hamilton. We spoke with Jack and his dad Shaun to discuss his career journey so far, how he has juggled the demands of racing with his studies and his exciting aspirations for the future.
- When did Jack start go karting?
Shaun: It all started when Jack went to a birthday party at a go karting track when he was eight. As soon as he started driving, the track staff asked how long he’s been karting for; they were shocked to find out it was his first time. He almost beat the record on that first day! They were so impressed they asked him to come back to try the faster cars and it all went from there. He progressed so much that first year, we even got him his very own go kart that Christmas.
- When did you start at King’s InterHigh and what subjects are you currently studying?
Jack: I started at King’s InterHigh in November 2021 after wanting to study somewhere that allowed me to fit my studies around my demanding racing schedule. I’m currently studying triple science, English and maths – my favourite subject is maths because I understand it really well. Racing has helped me get to grips with numbers, as I need to find ways to shave fractions of a second off my race time and that’s all about maths!
- Shaun, can you talk to us about the support you have given Jack?
Ultimately, we are a team. Jack and I lose together and win together. We practice none-stop, work out together, and go to races together. My wife Kerry and I even bought Jack a simulator so he can practice with us at home. We really enjoy working with him on his skills and improving his times. A tenth of a second can be the difference between winning and losing! To put that into context, when you blink, that’s a tenth of a second. So, we’re looking to shave off just a few blinks! He’s racing at 75miles per hour so we are always trying to identify tiny tweaks that could help reduce his time. Equally, if his tyre pressure is slightly off, that can impact his speed. Everything must work together to get the maximum out of the car and it takes a united team to succeed.
- Can you talk us through your career to date?
Jack: I’ve been racing for six years. In 2018, I won my first title at the Northern Karting Federation (NKF) championship, which is a competition for the best of the North of England. Then, in 2019, I got my seeded number. To get this number, a racer has to be named within the top ten best racers in Britain and I came within the top five! This was a really exciting moment for me because I worked so hard for this recognition.
In 2020, Coronavirus hit the world and this impacted my ability to race. For the first half of the year, I couldn’t practice in real life, but thankfully I have my simulator, so I was ready to race as soon as we were allowed to. By the end of the year, I was named the sixth best racer in Britain within the ‘mini’ races and then I came seventh in the Ultimate Karting Championship (UKC)! This was broadcast on tv to over 120 million homes across UK, Europe and the USA.
2021 was my most successful year to date. I won the title of 4th best go karter in Britain and came second in the UKC! I was then offered a place in the world finals for the first time in my career. This was such a huge moment. The world finals are a 10-day tournament held in Italy. This was the first time I had ever competed abroad, and I came 13th out of hundreds of competitors!
Although it was a great achievement, I felt a bit disappointed in the outcome of the race. I got a few penalties which really impacted my score. Nonetheless, it was a brilliant experience, and I did the most overtakes on the grid which was fantastic!
- What is the hardest thing about racing?
Jack: The time commitment. We train every single weekend and most Thursdays and Fridays. I go to school from Monday to Wednesday, then it’s straight to the racetrack. This makes it hard to spend time with friends. Sometimes I feel I’m missing out if they’re going somewhere on the weekend and I can’t be there. My friends will see me compete occasionally, but the competitions are usually far away, sometimes in Scotland, so it’s impossible for them to join me every weekend. I try to overcome this by playing games with my friends online after karting practice but that’s the sacrifice I’ve decided to make so I can pursue my passion.
- What is your proudest career moment to date?
The world finals in 2021, for sure! I never thought I would race in Europe or even get a ticket to this competition, so going there and coming 13th was amazing. Overall, 116 people competed and each competitor represented the best in their country. It was tough competition and an unforgettable experience.
- What was juggling school with racing like before you started your online education?
Jack: I had to take most Thursdays and Fridays off school to race, which meant Mondays were focused on catching up and as soon as Wednesday came around, I was off again! This had a real impact on my education. I couldn’t easily study on the go when I went to a physical school.
Now, I’m able to fit my education around my racing commitments. For example, recently, I’ve secured work experience on Thursdays at MLC Motorsports. I work as their factory driver and learn all about building engines and mechanics, which will hugely benefit my racing skills. The flexible nature of a King’s InterHigh education has enabled me to do this, as I’m not constrained by schooling times. This has furthered my career prospects, which is so exciting!
- How have your friends and family reacted to your racing career?
Jack: My friends didn’t realise how serious go karting can be, until I brought my go kart to school and they all loved it! Just after lockdown, my friends came to my local go kart race and I won. They were talking about it for weeks.
Shaun: People don’t realise how exciting and quick go karts are! Family members didn’t understand at first, but since they’ve watched videos of Jack racing, they’ve become so excited. Also, other go karters love Jack! It’s amazing to see and makes me so proud! I think to myself, ‘that’s my son they’re looking up to’.
- Have you experienced any backlash at all and if so, how have you dealt with this?
Shaun: Bullying has been a problem for us. Go karting is really serious. When your competitors are beating you, they want to be your friend, but when you start beating others, they can try to make your life hard. Some racers didn’t like us turning up and winning.
At one point, we also got a lot of cyber bullying. It got so bad the police had to get involved. The most astonishing part was grown men, often fathers of racers, were perpetrating the abuse, not the boys who were racing.
This really impacted Jack. Once, I took a photo of him the moment he won two events because I was so proud. When I looked closer at the photograph, Jack looked like he was about to cry instead of being happy he had won, as he was nervous about the online hate he would receive. Jack said that was his worst day of racing.
Since then, one of the perpetrators has apologised, the abuse has reduced, and we have moved on.
- What would you say to anyone else considering joining King’s InterHigh?
Jack: King’s InterHigh is brilliant. For the first time in my life, I want my school day to carry on after I’ve finished studying! The learning platform is brilliant because it allows you to keep learning for as long as you want. Your education is based around your interests and desire to learn, rather than a timetable as such. This gives you autonomy and makes you feel in control.
Shaun: The flexibility of online schooling also enabled us to plan Jack’s karting and our weeks so much better. When he went to a physical school, we had to ring the school every time we had a race on Thursdays and Fridays, which was such a headache especially when Covid entered the equation! We were worried about getting fined for pulling Jack out of classes. Now, everything is different. We can concentrate on each lesson in an environment that suits Jack’s needs, which is a huge relief. Our stress levels have decreased so much.
- What are you currently training for? Can you talk us through your plans for 2022?
This year we will be competing in the British championships, UKC and practicing whenever we can. We would love to go to Europe, but we’ll see! We also want to enter Kart Masters in August, which is a four-day event and the biggest single run event in Britain each year. Some really high-profile racers have won this event including Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. People come from all over the world to compete, which is exciting.
- What is your long-term vision for your future?
Jack: My favourite driver is Lando Norris, so it would be amazing to pursue a career like his. However, we understand it costs a lot of money to reach Formular One level, so realistically, I would love to pursue anything related to racing. For example, if I can’t be a racer than perhaps I will focus on engineering and improving the mechanics of racing cars. I would also love to do more coaching to help beginners, who are called ‘cadets’.
Shaun: Jack already coaches some cadets and he loves it. They look up to him and they really listen to his advice, which is wonderful to see. Jack helps inspire the young drivers to beat their own track records and reach their full potential.