Culver closes in on Formula First rookie title

Young Canterbury motor racing star Jackson Culver is continuing to impress in his debut season and has the 2023/24 Hi-Q Components NZ Formula First Championship top rookie prize firmly within his sights.

The 12-year-old from Loburn, who was aiming to crack the top ten in his races when the season began, is now the leading rookie driver, seventh overall. With six championship races to go he’s pushing to get his first podium when the action returns to Manfeild this weekend.

Culver has so far racked up 15 top-ten results from 18 races with a best result of fifth at Hampton Downs last time out, where he again showed his superior skills on a wet racing surface.

“I was happiest with the last round because I got my best qualifying and race result so far. The rain’s my favourite.”

Jackson Culver, #12, New Zealand’s youngest national car racing competitor, has all but bagged the NZ Formula First rookie of the year title with two rounds remaining.

And it was on a wet Hampton Downs international track back in early February that the youngster was thrust into the spotlight. After stalling his car at the start of a race, Culver turned on a remarkable comeback drive from the back of the 18-car grid in atrocious conditions to finish sixth – a performance that turned heads.

Switching from kart racing to car racing as soon as he was eligible for a Motorsport New Zealand licence, Culver says there’s been a lot to learn. The most difficult transition, he says, has been adapting to new driving techniques.

“It’s a bit weird braking with my right foot and not my left one. Mastering heel and toe, learning throttle control and changing the brake bias in the car to adjust to wet and dry have been the biggest challenges. It’s feeling a lot more natural now.”

“I also love the drafting and when to be in the front of the pack and when not to, stay in the back and hold the draft until the last laps.”

The rookie championship has always been his goal for the year and with that almost in the bag he’s turned his attention to a podium.

“I would definitely like a podium, any podium I’d be stoked with that,” he quipped. “Or even getting a fastest lap.”

The Formula First series is raced over three North Island circuits, Hampton Downs, Taupo and Manfeild. When quizzed on his favourite place to race, Culver put Taupo Motorsport Park at the top of his list, even though he’s only raced there once.”

“I love the last chicane, it’s super fast and super fun. You don’t have to use heaps of brake force into there, it’s really flowing and I just love getting over the kerbs, straight lining it,” he said.

New Zealand’s youngest national motor racing competitor drives for Dennis Martin’s Palmerston North based Sabre Motorsport team, renowned for running many of the country’s best drivers in their rookie motor racing seasons, including the likes of Shane van Gisbergen, Richie Stanaway, Nick Cassidy and Liam Lawson.

After this weekend’s three races at Manfeild, the series returns to Taupo Motorsport Park at the end of April for the final round.

NZ Formula First Championship points (top 6+)
1/ Chris Symon 1364 (champion)
2/ Liam Nicholson 1116
3/ Hayden Lines 1082
4/ Liam Foster 975
5/ Harry Scott 808
6/ Jensen Foster 795
7/ Jackson Culver (R) 652

NZ Formula First Championship Rookies
1/ Jackson Culver 652
2/ Fletcher Sloan 524
3/ Keiano Weir 504

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