Meath teenager Alex Dunne eyes Formula One future after encouraging season
"That’s my main goal and that’s what I’m working towards."
Motorsport has a rich history in Ireland, writes Ben Johnston. A young driver from County Meath is hoping to add a chapter or two in the coming years.
For a relatively small country, we have produced a number of strong drivers who have come through the ranks, the likes of Eddie Irvine and Adam Carroll and now there is Craig Breen who back full-time in the World Rally Championship with M-Sport while James Roe is racing in the United States.
Earlier this week, we sat down at Harris Group with 16-year-old racer Alex Dunne, who is currently competing in the ADAC Formula 4 German championship. The US Racing team he drives for is run by former Formula One driver Ralf Schumacher, in partnership with Gerhard Ungar.
Dunne's father Noel really got him interested in racing as he watched his dad compete in the Formula Ford 1600 and Irish Touring Car Championship. Alex has been around racing from a very young age and professes a real love for the day-to-day and atmosphere of the sport.
Three top four finishes for Alex Dunne
A visit to his local kart track in Athboy in county Meath saw Alex Dunne fall in love with the sport. He has taken to motorsport like a duck to water and has shown impressive pace throughout his short time in the game.
It led to a phone call from Ralf Schumacher and Gerhard Ungar who invited him to test for the US Racing team. That, in turn, led to Alex competing for the team in the final two rounds of the season for the team in Hockenheim and the Nürburgring.
In the opening race in Hockenheim, Alex was not classified but bounced back in race 2 as he finished in fourth place, just missing out on the podium.
He followed that up with another fourth-place finish, giving him plenty of confidence going into the final event of the year. In race one at the Nürburgring, he finished fourth again just behind his teammate Vladislav Lomko. In race two, he finished 15th and 9th in the final run of the day. "It was a nice confidence-booster," he reflects.
As a young racer finding his feet in the game, Alex is soaking up lots at US Racing from Schumacher, Ungar and all the mechanics and engineers. As for what the future might have in store for Dunne? He tells us:
"Ultimately the end goal would be one hundred percent Formula One, that’s my main goal and that’s what I’m working towards.
"I think, for whatever reason if that is not possible, a professional career in motorsport is the aim but I have always said that the day I stop believing I can make it to Formula One is the day I’ll stop racing."
Hoping to follow in famous foot-steps
Max Verstappen, who is dicing it out with Lewis Hamilton for Formula One glory, was only 17 when he made his F1 debut.
Alex is a big fan of the 'extremely talented' Dutch driver, but is happy to go on his own journey. If Formula One does not present itself in the coming years, the Meath teenager says the IndyCar series is another option, and points to Callum Ilott, who is now racing in the USA after recently competing in Formula 4.
Alex spoke about his favourite circuits in Europe, which include Spa Francorchamps in Belgium - where he scored his maiden pole position - Hockenheim, as he enjoys the flow of the track, and Mugello. Not coincidentally, he has enjoyed good results at all three of these famous circuits.
In a message to anyone who wants to get involved in motorsport, Alex says, "Work hard and work with the team. When you do this, with a good team around you, the good results on track will follow."