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For parents of teens who despair of the time their offspring spend in the virtual world, Hugo Allan is proof that time is not necessarily wasted.
The 17-year-old, who hails from Jack’s Point, Queenstown, is a rarity in motorsport, coming to the racing world through virtual racing.
His 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 marks.
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 at Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell on Saturday, before driving out for race 1 of the Toyota 86 Championship, as part of the Motorsport NZ Premier Championship.
He slipped back to seventh position in race 2 and finished 11th in race 3.
He pushed really hard to get fast in simulated racing, before taking the wheel and seat of an actual car.
"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, but sim-racing exaggerated the forces through the steering wheel, making it a great way to learn what the car’s front end was doing, Allan said.
When he moved to Auckland about 18 months ago to train at the Hampton Downs Academy, Kiwi racers Tom Alexander and Daniel Gaunt worked with him to change bad habits he had brought with him, such as dragging the brake.
"We’ve worked on all of them and I’ve proved to be very adaptable."
Allan, who studies at Takapuna Grammar while in Auckland, said he planned to do a couple of seasons in the Toyota 86 class as career development, then had his sights set on the Porsche Carrera Cup in Australia to develop further.
He wanted to encourage more sim-racers to try the real thing.
"It’s like flying an aeroplane," he said.
"A pilot doesn’t get to fly an aeroplane until he proves what he can do in a simulator."
-- TRACIE BARRETT