Most young boys have a wistful notion of where they want life to take them. A pilot, surgeon, explorer or sportsman are dreamy ambitions that usually fade in early adulthood when reality and the need to make a living kick in. Canadian Jakeson Caouette is an exception.
Twelve-year-old “Jakes”, as his mother Lorrianne calls him, has no such vague dream. He’s going to be a world champion Formula One driver.
Jakeson fully intends to follow in the footsteps of compatriots Gilles Villeneuve and son Jacques who in 1997 became the only Canadian to win a Formula One World Championship.
I asked Jakeson if he’d seen the film Rush (he had of course) and whether he thought he was a James Hunt or a Niki Lauda type driver. Lauda, he replied without hesitation – cool and committed. About to become a teen later this year (2014), many in his age group would have gone with Hunt, the notorious womanising driver whose every race was followed by a string of beautiful and adoring girls.
Speaking from his home in Mougins, I got the impression that I was dealing with two different Jakesons. One committed to a demanding sport, who is obviously no wuss. On the other hand, with a soft-spoken manner that is understated – almost shy – he seems quite indifferent to anything that isn’t taking him closer to his goal. A Lauda-like person he certainly is.
He reminded me of another determined 12-year-old I interviewed many years ago, intent on becoming a successful movie actress and nothing could deter her. Her name was Jodie Foster.
Like Foster in her early career years, Jakeson has a supportive family, with five siblings, behind him. His father Jeff is a professional pilot, so like many expat families they moved around quite a bit. Jakeson speaks both French and English fluently and does well in school – so well that his parents opted for homeschooling so that he can devote as many as 30 hours a week to training in karts, the first step in many a successful driver’s career.
Motorsport superstars like Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher, Sean Edwards, Stephane Richelmi and Mark Webber all started behind the wheel of a kart, which prepares a driver for high-speed wheel-to-wheel racing in all weather conditions.
Jakeson started training with the Australia-based Cadet Arrow Kart in May of 2013 and within four months he had set a record time of 56 seconds on the 1.184km track in Bar-sur-Loup.
The discipline demands quick reflexes, focus, precision control, careful attention to set-up, mechanical awareness and decision-making abilities. These skills are further honed by fencing – a sport that helps Jakeson improve his balance, speed and concentration.
Early training is all important and Jakeson’s world-class trainer, Serge Lestrelin, has coached several future motorsport champions in karting, including Nico Rosberg who opened this year’s Formula One season with a decisive win for Mercedes in Melbourne on March 16th, 2014.
F1 drivers make up an exclusive club that includes no more than 25 active members at a time. Qualifying for membership is a tough road to travel and while commitment and training are vital, luck can also come into play. Of average size for his age it would be better if Jakeson doesn’t grow too tall. Many F1 champions are on the short and slim side although there have been notable exceptions. Jenson Button is among the tallest of the current crop at 1m82. Lewis Hamilton measures 1m75 and Filipe Massa is a diminutive 1m66.
There’s no timescale attached to Jakeson’s goal. Sebastian Vettel won his fourth world championship last year at 26 and Kevin Magnussen – this year’s third place winner in Melbourne – is only 22. At the other end of the age scale, Mark Webber retired from F1 last year at 37, and before his recent skiing accident Michael Schumacher was still racing at 45.
Will Jakeson Caouette ever make it to an F1 podium? Only time will tell but his dedication and focus put him well on track for a shot at motorsport’s greatest distinction – a place behind the wheel of one of the most high-performance cars ever made.
For more see www.racewithjakes.com