Young racing star Zak is a beacon of light in a difficult 2020

Newsline’s Ian Gallagher looks at a motor racing success story from 2020…

This year has changed the way we do everything – how we work, how we socialise, how we do the things we love. For me, one of the things I class as the latter is watching live motorsport, something else which has largely been impossible to do this year.

While visiting circuits may have been off the menu, there’s been a very good reason to keep a close eye on what’s been happening in the world of single-seater racing.

At Newsline we’ve thoroughly enjoyed representing talented teenage racing driver Zak O’Sullivan throughout this unusual year – and while spectatorless racetracks are now de rigeur, the action taking place on them has shown us we may have a new star on our hands.  

Zak is 15 and competing in the British F4 championship – the fourth rung of single-seater racing on the ladder, which leads all the way to the pinnacle of Formula One.

Zak won the Ginetta Junior Championship Rookie Cup in 2019 and, as we speak, is tied for the lead of the F4 championship with just one round to go. He has a fantastic chance of taking the title at Brands Hatch next month.

Should he succeed, the omens are good – the last person to follow a Ginetta Rookie Cup win with an F4 championship was Lando Norris, who is now starring for McLaren in Formula One.

But even if he doesn’t win, the job he has done this year has been exceptional. His closest rival, Luke Browning, is three years older and has much more experience in car racing, but Zak has matched him every step of the way.

He’s also firmly avoided the histrionics and lurid predictions of success which can so often accompany young racers – instead concentrating on learning his craft and improving with every weekend.

Not getting too excited about the highs or too down about the lows is a temperament more often associated with professional athletes many years his senior. It’s certainly an approach which will do him no harm at all.

From Newsline’s side, Zak’s efforts this year have often made our job easy! We’ve had great success getting his success talked about in the motorsport press, and he’s also now a regular on his local radio station, BBC Gloucestershire, whose presenters are delighted to be talking up a new sports star in waiting on their patch.

Whatever happens at Brands Hatch next month – remember the name!