Teen race car driver Hugo Allan grew up in Jack’s Point, Queenstown, but for him racing at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell on Saturday felt like a home race.
The 17-year-old is a rarity in motorsport, coming to the racing world through virtual racing.
Hugo’s father, Ross Allan, raced a Porsche GT3 on the pro-am circuit, so Hugo grew up with a connection to racing, but he felt no pressure to follow in his father’s tyre tracks.
He turned to the world of simulated racing instead, at about 13.
“A lot of guys typically come through go-karts, but I’ve come through sim-racing,” he said on Saturday, before driving out for Race 1 of the Toyota 86 Championship, as part of the Motorsport NZ Premier Championship.
Hugo started Race 1 in seventh position and finished in sixth.
The following day, he slipped back to seventh position in race 2 and finished 11th in race 3, in only his second career series.
He had pushed hard to get fast in simulated racing before taking the wheel of a race car, he said.
“Honestly, when I started, I didn’t believe I could make the transition into a real car,” he said.
He initially felt he was driving much faster than he was, and said sim-racing exaggerated the forces through the steering wheel, making it a great way to learn what the car’s front end was doing.
When he moved to Auckland about 18 months ago to train at the Hampton Downs Academy, New Zealand racers Tom Alexander and Daniel Gaunt worked with Hugo to change bad habits he had brought with him from sim-racing, such as dragging the brake.
“We’ve worked on all of them and I’ve proved to be very adaptable.”
Hugo, who studies at Takapuna Grammar while in Auckland, said he plans to do a couple of seasons in the Toyota 86 class as career development, then has his sights set on the Porsche Carrera Cup in Australia.
He encouraged more sim-racers to try the real thing.
“It’s like flying an airplane,” he said.
“A pilot doesn’t get to fly an airplane until he proves what he can do in a simulator.”