Over the 2019 summer, the New Zealand Formula 1600 fraternity was graced by the presence of a young American driver. Luke ‘Spike’ Kohlbecker may have missed the opening 2018/19 New Zealand Formula 1600 Championship round in Timaru, but he certainly made his mark at the second round at the Mike Pero Motorsport Park, Christchurch, in January.
A fourth, a third and a second placing at that round meant suddenly there was another young driver at the ‘pointy’ end of the grid.
While Kohlbecker never won a race, he finished on the podium in four out of 13 races he entered in the championship. Campaigning the ex Josh Bethune Mygale SJ07a, Spike finished seventh overall.
While winning is always what a young driver is trying to achieve, Kohlbecker came to NZ playing the long-game. He was here to gain experience.
The 16-year-old from St Louis, Missouri, joined Motorsport Solutions in Christchurch after a successful campaign in the 2018 Canadian F1600 Toyo Tires Championship. There he finished on the podium in both the Ontario series and the Ontario/Quebec Super Series
Now he is heading to the UK, joining Cliff Dempsey Racing to compete in the BRSCC Avon Tyres National FF1600 Championship.
“Coming out of my successful rookie Canadian F1600 season as the youngest driver in the field I wanted to really challenge myself in the next step of my racing career and that’s why I went to New Zealand,” Kohlbecker commented. “The New Zealand experience will no doubt serve me well as I now focus my attention on what will be a very competitive series in the UK,” Kohlbecker went on to say.
“Deciding what to do after New Zealand was not easy for me, not until the partnership with Cliff Dempsey came together. I was fortunate enough to have several offers in various series, but I like the idea of finishing my racing foundation with a full season of FF1600 in a very competitive series. If you look at the drivers and teams that are set for this series it’s going to be tough but I’m not looking for anything easy, I want to be challenged,” added Kohlbecker.
We may not have seen the last of this young American who has obviously forged a new network of Kiwi relationships and may turn up to compete again in our Formula 1600 championship, or even better, in the Toyota Racing Series.