This 19-year-old self-taught racing driver is making waves

It was a lightly overcast afternoon. It had rained a bit before 19-year-old Jamie Shaw was able to get into a go-kart for one of his practice sessions at Mumbai’s Ajmera IndiKarting racing circuit.

Shaw seemed to have misinterpreted how wet the track might have gotten due to the light showers. Shaw, who aspires to be a Grand Touring (GT) car endurance racer, knocks the kart into the wall at his first turn. Luckily, no harm was done and Shaw and the kart got another try at some point. When Shaw emerges from the kart after a while, he doesn’t even seem a little shaken. He confidently walks towards me and even seems enthusiastic and excited to explain the reason for the accident.

Why would such minor accidents bother a racer, whose hero is the legendary rider Niki Lauda?

After getting to grips with the physics of the sport, Shaw is eager to do a few more laps. The adolescent’s knowledge of sports and his curiosity come through when he speaks.

Jamie Shaw during his training session at the Ajmera IndiKarting racing circuit in Mumbai. (Image: Prakhar Satchdeo)

Shaw stepped into his first go-kart just four years ago, and since then – around two years after his first local karting race – he has gone on to represent India in the Dubai Kart Drome Endurance Championship 2020. To give a background to Shaw’s realization, he was the least experienced pilot on his team of five; in fact, he was the least experienced driver in the entire event. To put things into perspective, Shaw was racing on a track other than the Ajmera IndiKarting race track for the first time, that too in a race that is widely regarded as one of the most iconic endurance kart races in the world. , one that only allows limited entries from around the world. The karts were a bit heavy and the race track a bit faster, but they weren’t a deterrent for this young driver. Shaw’s team, EBC Brakes, finished second, although their lap times were incredibly close to the champions.

Shaw’s other achievements include his participation in the 2021 MRF Saloon Series, 2021 Indian Formula 4, 2020 National Pro Senior IndiKarting Series and 2019 Interstate Level Karting 2019.

What makes Shaw’s accomplishments all the more impressive is that he learned the ropes and craft of motorsport via YouTube. It’s true. Shaw is a completely self-taught pilot with no coach or mentor in a sport that requires a lot of resources, support staff and capital.

And it is this last element that is Shaw’s biggest obstacle.

Despite the encouraging results, Shaw struggles to convince his family to accompany him on his journey to becoming a world-class pilot. Shaw believes his family wants the best for him, but they believe motorsport is not a sustainable career to pursue. There are financial constraints.

Shaw does not have his own kart. For his training sessions, he uses one of his friend’s go-karts. To own one of these go-karts, one has to part with several lakh rupees, and that does not even include the cost of the tires. Shaw explains that to register for the cheapest championships in India, one has to spend around Rs 3.5 lakh. For this amount, an aspiring driver only gets one practice session, one qualifying round and the race. A driver must pay a sum as a “deposit” against possible damage. On top of all that, there are expenses during workouts.

“Only rich people can practice. People who have modest means may not be able to practice and register directly, and people who have a budget close to mine cannot even register. So if we cannot not register, we cannot showcase our talent and skills.” said Shaw.

But Shaw’s desire to succeed allowed him to overcome the hurdle of the financial barrier. Shaw runs his own online motorsport course, in which he teaches racecraft theory, motorsport rules and terminology, and a racer’s perception and ultimately earns money. The money that comes in, Shaw uses to fuel his dreams.

He sometimes takes gigs as a freelance videographer to keep making money. Shaw says he will do everything in his power to keep racing. This year, he plans to compete in the Indian Volkswagen National Championship. For this, he organizes an online fundraiser on Milaap. The competition requires a hefty entry fee of Rs 17 lakh, and it has only managed to raise a few thousand rupees so far.

Shaw is determined to grow as a person and as a runner. Along the way, he picked up several skills that, in the long run, might start reaping benefits. Shaw is good with social media. His Instagram account has over 7,000 followers. He has his own YouTube channel. For a year, Shaw managed Ajmera IndiKarting’s events and sponsorship deals. He’s doing all of this while enrolled in college — Shaw is currently in his third year of his Bachelor of Commerce degree.

Let’s not forget that he is not yet 20 years old!

Shaw is promising, but it hasn’t been easy for him.

“I was in very poor health and unfit just before I joined motorsport. I was incredibly spoiled growing up. I was used to the easy going in life. I used to get bad grades at school…I was a terrible person overall,” a cheerful Shaw recalled of his childhood.

Shaw is showing promising signs, but it hasn't been easy for him.  (Image: Prakhar Satchdeo) Shaw is showing promising signs, but it hasn’t been easy for him. (Image: Prakhar Satchdeo)

Shaw was borderline obese and he couldn’t even fit properly in a go-kart the first time he tried to sit in it. At one point, Shaw also wanted to be a singer, but his parents wouldn’t allow it because he was just all over the place. Shaw had to work hard in his studies. From failing in sixth grade to being the best when he left school, Shaw has come a long way in his studies. Only positive results in studies could convince Shaw’s parents to give the green light to his dream of pursuing a career in motorsport.

Considering all of this, Shaw’s maturity — especially at his age — is impressive. He learned to be grateful in life. He learned to tell the difference between happiness and satisfaction. He doesn’t complain if another competitor has more funds and trains more. Shaw just tries to always be happy.

Shaw is at this point in his career, where you have to do or die. He must either continue to consistently deliver results or simply quit the sport, as several talented runners in India have already done.

If you’re wondering what drives young drivers like Shaw to push the limits, in his own words, “to still want to get ahead, you have to be a little crazy to join motorsport.”

Words to drive.

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