Race series has goal of finding the next superstar driver | ParkRecord.com

Race series has goal of finding the next superstar driver

Christopher Kamrani, The Park Record

Find the next young racing superstar.

That is a long-term vision for Alec Donachy and the Panam GP (Grand Prix) Racing Series. The new series, which will be similar to that of Formula racing with open-wheel race vehicles, is due to start this weekend in Mexico City. According to Donachy, the Latin America schedule will continue with races in Guatemala, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador, with the final race scheduled for Chile in November.

During Tuesday afternoon’s local media announcement at Newpark Hotel and Resort, Donachy, the general manager of the North American component of the series, discussed the history behind the Panam GP Series, the hope of how far it can go, along with the multifaceted plans for the future.

One of Donachy’s primary objectives is discovering, fostering and developing young talent in North America.

"It’s a sport at the end of the day and we’re looking for the best talent available," said Donachy, a Park City resident.

The plans embrace an initiative which includes identifying children ages 10 to 14 who have developed early racing skills in go karts. The long-term plan of the program, which has already identified three young racers in Northern Utah, will be to "feed" the Panam GP Series, much like local ski programs do for the U.S. Ski Team.

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"We’ll take some of these kids and teach them to drive and teach them to race," Donachy said. "The stop watch tells the story."

"You can equate it to skiing. Obviously the U.S. Ski Team is here and they’re training and nurturing kids 8, 10, 12 years of age, both on the slopes and elsewhere. We’re seeking kids who appear to be good at what they do and we will take them through the classroom, put them on the track, and see if they can become good drivers."

Two of those identified young drivers are 10-year-old Sophia Price of Heber City and 9-year-old Josh Fine of Park City. Both Price and Fine were on hand Tuesday at the announcement. Donachy rattled off a list of their accomplishments as the two youngsters stood next to go karts they’ve mastered in drives at the Miller Motor Sports Park and across the country.

Price recently finished second at the 2012 Gatorz Challenge of the Americas, second at the 2011 Utah Kart Championship and had four podiums in the championship series in 2010.

A fourth-grader at Old Mill Elementary in Heber, Price grew up around the track. Her father, Mike, raced karts and had a brief career in Formula racing in South America. After retiring, he returned to racing karts and that’s when Sophia was introduced to the sport her father loves. At the age of two, she was at the Miller Motor Sports Park track watching her dad race. At age four, she grabbed the steering wheel for the first time.

Racing is in her blood, she said.

"Just going faster," she said when asked about her favorite part of racing. "Going faster than I ever would have thought I could."

Sophia and the Price family travel around the country racing in prestigious kart races. However, Mike Price said, they don’t have the luxury of flying into town on private planes like much of the competition.

"We leave the track in Fontana, Calif., drive straight through the night to Heber, and get her to school the next morning," he said. "With this program, things are looking up for us."

Josh Fine is a 9-year-old third-grader at Parley’s Park Elementary and, much like Sophia, got involved with racing through his father, Rich. At age five, Josh was racing karts in youth series.

Most kids enjoy the competition of rec-league soccer or baseball, but Fine’s love has always been driving.

"He proved to have some skill," Rich Fine said. "It’s like soccer; you see who has the skills. The ability to pass is usually the first indicator. You can certainly be fearless at this age, but when you have the ability to see what the other driver is thinking, that’s important."

"I wasn’t very good at kid kart at first," Josh followed, laughing.

"Not at first, but then you got the hang of it," Rich Fine said.

As a rookie on the Junior 1 kart circuit, Josh finished fourth out of 22 competitors. He is looking forward to trying to win the 2012 series this year.

"It’s definitely an adrenaline rush watching him," the elder Fine said.

Adrenaline is a word obviously tied to the sport of Grand Prix racing and Donachy and the Panam GP Series are looking forward to finding that next superstar on the track.

"It will become a compelling series and a compelling story," he said.