Australian rookie Horsten primed for BRDC British Formula 3 challenge

What do Sir Jackie Stewart, Ayrton Senna, Nelson Piquet and Mika Hakkinen have in common? Besides the fact that they all became multiple Formula One world champions, all four also triumphed in what is still one of the most prestigious and important of series – the British Formula 3 Championship.

More recently, former champions such as Jean-Eric Vergne and Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo have used the series as a stepping-stone to further progress their careers. Now, another Australian driver is hoping to follow in these prestigious footsteps by winning the championship and going onto even bigger things.

That driver is 18-year-old Perth born Bart Horsten, who will be competing in his maiden BRDC Formula 3 Championship in 2020. Bart graduated through the traditional route of karting, then the Australian Formula Ford Series, before upping sticks to the UK and immediately achieving success in British F4 – a victory and nine podiums piquing the interest of Lanan Racing.

The ascent to the pinnacle of motorsport is always a tough one, the biggest barriers to success being money, contacts and opportunity. As with any sport, only a small percentage of those setting out to make it go on to succeed. At the moment, however, the cards are falling in the right places, and Bart and his family are making the right decisions and sacrifices to give him every chance.

“The reason I’m here is because one person knew another person, knew another person, and so on. This sport is often about networking, getting certain people’s phone numbers from other people’s recommendations,” Bart told Motorsport Tech about his journey to the UK. “It is funny, and it seems like a lot of random coincidences, but I think it has its own way of working out, you know.”

For any young and ambitious driver setting out on the journey to succeed in motorsport, there really is only one place to be, and that is ‘motorsport country’ in the counties of Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire.

“I’m based close to Banbury in Oxfordshire and Brackley in Northamptonshire. You have to be in this area of the country because it’s racing country. You have all the tracks pretty much within three hours, so that’s pretty easy, and all the teams are within a few hours as well. Of course, all the F1 teams and facilities are around here as well so it would be silly to move all the way over here and not be close to the action!”

Anyone who has seen the fabulous Universal Pictures film ‘SENNA’ will be aware of the sacrifices drivers have to make in the pursuit of excellence. The great Brazilian often cut a lonely figure, away from his friends and family in the sunny climbs where he was raised, to move to a very alien environment. Fortunately, for Bart, his family of parents and younger brother have made similar sacrifices, and he has enough on his plate anyway not to be thinking about many of those things back home.

“I do miss Australia sometimes,” explains Bart. “But I’m busy, so I don’t get too much time to dwell on that kind of stuff and I know I couldn’t do this in Australia. And I know from last year, when I went back to Australia, I was missing racing. So it’s just one of those things. And because I’m busy all the time, I don’t really worry about the nice weather and certain other things because I have so much stuff on and am fortunate enough to get to know a lot of people, and they keep me busy as well.”

That certainly is the case at the moment, with Bart in the middle of testing for his team in preparation for the start of the new season, which begins at Oulton Park on August 1.

“We started testing at the end of last month and have been testing every week, pretty much and we will be testing every week until the season starts in August. We’ve been to every track apart from Silverstone, because Silverstone is really busy trying to get events sorted and trying to get ready for the F1 races. It’s going well and it always goes well if you’re learning every time and making a step forward as a driver which obviously I try to do every day, every week and every time I get into the car.

“You give yourself things to work on, whether it’s track specific or just general driving technique or changing something with the car. I’m learning, but it’s hard to say how good it’s going. We have had test sessions with other teams and it seems like our team is looking quite good, but you still don’t know because in an official test some teams might run light or run more sets of tyres, so, to be honest, you don’t know until qualifying.

“You have an idea in free practice, which will be the first semi-indicator of whether you’re completely rubbish or not, but those last two or three tenths is up to the guys who pull it out in that first qualifying session. It’s always impossible to know. You only know if you’re somewhere or nowhere.”

Another important trait that makes one think that Horsten will continue his steady progress is the vitally important one of ambition. The Australian is clearly a keen student of the game, keeping a close eye on events not only in his category, but in the No.1 feeder series to Formula One.

“The goal is to keep progressing, and I do keep an eye on what’s happening in the FIA F3 championship. Prema have been awesome and, at the moment, they are the class of the field, probably by a tenth or two. It seems like they have a car that’s not only easy to drive but they also have Frederik Vesti and Oscar Piastri, who are very high calibre rookies. Although they are inexperienced, they obviously have the right people to teach them how to drive the car quickly and understand that.

“I’m not sure either of them had raced at the Red Bull Ring, so again Prema have done very well. I don’t know how the team is structured, but they have the personnel to teach the drivers quickly and have also done a really good job with the car and did the same thing they did last year. When the tyres went off, they seemed to still hold their pace. In that first race in the last eight laps, they pulled three seconds on the field so they’re going to be hard to beat. They are there, every time.

“I thought this year it could open up a bit more because it’s not a brand-new car, but it’s looking pretty tough. Things can change pretty quickly, and I wouldn’t rule out Lawson and Hitech yet. Other than that, you’ve got MP, Trident and maybe ART. If Peroni can get third in a Campos, who only scored a few points last year, that tells me anything can happen. Piastri and Vesti are still not complete and no one there is as complete as Shwartzman and Armstrong were. But if Piastri and Vesti started that well, they’re only going to get stronger. I think it’s a goal for a lot of junior drivers to get in that team.”

For the moment, however, the focus is on his debut season in the BRDC British Formula 3 championship and competing for Australia in a new Williams Esports-backed sim racing tournament, the VCO Cup of Nations. If that’s not enough, Bart is also a keen blogger, maintaining his website with regular updates on his career and being active on social media platforms.

It appears that there really is too much on in the life of Bart Horsten to keep him from thinking about the sunny shores of Perth back home.

Fraser Masefield

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.