Max Esterson: My New Reality

Written by Team USA. Posted in Driver Blogs, Feature, Max Esterson

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Published on October 08, 2021 with No Comments

I’ve learned so much from racing in the UK.

SNETTERTON, England – The path I took to get to winning the Team USA Scholarship is definitely a unique one. Racing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I have fond memories of going to the 24 Hours of Daytona when I was 5 years old, also of seeing cars go by at 240mph during qualifying for the Indy 500, but for me to actually get behind the wheel and do something similar to what my heroes were doing just did not seem like a possibility. I sort of just accepted that racing was something I would watch on TV and not something that I could do; I thought it was just too difficult for a number of different reasons for someone growing up in New York City.

Around 2009 or 2010 my older brother, Hugh, received a Logitech G25 sim racing steering wheel from a family friend for his birthday. He was kind enough to share, and it was a big upgrade from playing EASports F1 Challenge ‘99-‘02, which was the first racing game I played, using the arrow keys on a keyboard. I bought it from the discount bin at TJMaxx, mostly because it had a picture of Juan Pablo Montoya on the cover!

iRacing an IMSA WeatherTech Dallara DPi car at Spa.

We soon discovered, I believe through from an advertisement in a motorsport magazine, a new sim racing title called iRacing, and that’s when things began to take off for me. I gradually got better at iRacing, invested a lot of time and effort, and took it more and more seriously, and by 2017 I realized that I was getting quite fast. By 2018 I was racing in one of iRacing’s World Championship Series for large sums of prize money and did so through 2019. While continuing to race competitively online, I also turned to sharing my knowledge through coaching others, including several IndyCar and sportscar drivers on iRacing during the lockdown phase of the pandemic.

My first season of racing — in 2020 with Team Pelfrey.

Backtracking a bit, I had my first go at “real racing” at the end of 2018 when I attended a karting summer camp run by sportscar driver Stevan McAleer at Oakland Valley Race Park (OVRP) in upstate New York. I then did most of 2019 club series at OVRP, followed by a last-minute test with Team Pelfrey in an F1600 car right before Thanksgiving. The test went well enough for me to compete in the FRP F1600 Championship Series in 2020. The season went reasonably well, but for a variety of reasons I wasn’t in the championship hunt going into the last round, so I decided to try my hand at British Formula Ford in the fall. Interestingly, that wouldn’t have been possible without the pandemic, because I wouldn’t have been able to attend high school from my laptop across the Atlantic during normal pre-COVID times!

I learned a ton in England and ended up being invited to join Low Dempsey Racing for the Formula Ford Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy. I finished sixth and 14th in the respective events, which was enough to convince me that British Formula Ford and Low Dempsey Racing was the right series and team for me in 2021 – a place with serious competition and challenging cars to drive on great circuits.

Taking flying lessons at Knockhill (Iain Struthers).

Sitting here in October with one weekend left in the season, I am second in the points and still have a shot at winning the championship. It’s quite crazy looking back at the fact that I had never even jumped into a kart until just a few years ago and last year was my first season in a car, albeit abbreviated because of COVID… and now here I am! This whole season has been a great lead-up to the Festival and Walter Hayes, as the team and I have progressed so much in the last six months. I’m thrilled to get underway at both races, amazing events in their own right, but made all the more special by being able to represent the Team USA Championship along with Andre (Castro), who, coincidentally I used to live about a tenth of a mile from in New York City without ever crossing paths!

This weekend’s order of business is to finish the championship strongly. After that, all focus is on the Festival and Walter Hayes to give the results everyone at Low Dempsey Racing and Team USA deserves, and just to continue to enjoy this amazing opportunity I’ve been given. Thank you for all your support – both my regular sponsors who got me this far as well as all my new Team USA supporters.
-Max

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