If you want to get your kid into racing, apparently having them watch the Japanese anime Initial D is a good start. It fueled Ken Gushi's passion, (https://www.trdusa.com/drift-my-dad.html) and the same holds true for Chinese-born Time Attack racer Jackie Ding.
"My first car was a 1985 Corolla GTS," he shares. "And I actually still own it today." That's the infamous AE86 that Takumi Fujiwara maniacally drifts through the mountains while delivering tofu in Initial D. "That show definitely got me interested in racing. I grew up in China watching that show, but then go hooked on F1 as a kid. By the age of 10, I was already telling my parents I wanted to race cars."
Standard 10-year-old dream, right? But Jackie has been busy making it a reality ever since.
Moving from China to the US as a kid—with a stop in Egypt along the way, thanks to Jackie's dad's job—was quite the transition.
"In China 20 years ago, cars were a rarity. It's not like it is today, where the streets are packed," he recalls. "So, moving to Texas was a huge change. It was so exciting because there were cars everywhere!"
His first open-wheel races were like many American kids—on the go-kart track. And he quickly knew his desire to be a racer was more than just a childhood fantasy. So, unlike most teenagers bumping around in go-karts, he signed up for Skip Barber Racing School.
It was time to get serious about racing.
It didn't take long until his natural skills put him behind the wheel of an F1 car. He started to work his way up the food chain, earning the nickname "Asian Prodigy" along the way. But there was something about F1 racing that just wasn't sitting right with him.
"Open-wheel racing is as much a business as it is a sport," Jackie reveals. "It requires upwards of six-digit budgets because it's year-round racing. And often, it felt like your performance on the track was limited by your ability to secure sponsorships."
So, on a whim, he went to a Time Attack event "to have some fun." That was all it took to put him on a new course.
"Time Attack is more focused on performance," he shares. "You don't have to worry about other drivers—it's about you and your car and how much you trust your car… it's very pure. I don't have to beat someone else or crash someone. I just have to go out and beat myself."
The change in style served him well as he headed into college (yes, Jackie is just 21). He's a Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Michigan with his racing team based out of Chicago. Jackie studies during the week and races on the weekends.
"One of my goals is to help establish a racing team community in Chicago. Our name is PHD Racing—Passion, Hopes, Dreams. We're just a bunch of kids who are trying to live out our dreams."
Part of PHD Racing's mission is to help educate young drivers. "When I first started racing, I didn't even know how to change my oil or my brakes," Jackie recalls. "We want to be able to help those kids just starting out to get into racing safely."
His latest passion? The new Toyota Supra. He recently picked up his new stock Supra and took it to Canada to do some testing. While there, a friend casually mentioned, "Hey, there's a local Time Attack event at TMP Cayuga."
Without a second thought, he headed to the track with his helmet in the passenger seat. He had to borrow a fire-proof suit from another racer at the event in order to be allowed to race. This is a kid who just loves being behind the wheel.
How'd he do? "I had a podium position until the last lap. Someone beat me by a hair." Not bad for the car that's sitting in your local showroom.
Now he's got the Supra tuned up and is tearing up tracks around the country. All while working on his other passion project: restoring the AE86 from his childhood.
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