They call him Baby Driver from Argentina

By Jessica Elgot, May 3, 2012
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Boy racer, Eric Lichtenstein

Boy racer, Eric Lichtenstein

A 17-year old Argentinian Jewish schoolboy is on track to become a Formula Ford racing champion, zooming round at speeds of 250 kph.

Eric Lichtenstein from Buenos Aires, who has won 16 karting championships, is now training in Surrey and keeping up with his studies via an online ORT course from his Argentinian campus.

British weather has been an adjustment for the teenage Argentine racing champion.

His first observation is the different conditions – Britain is definitely a bit damper than Argentina. “That’s what I hate the most, the weather. But I love the people, everyone is so polite. The tracks are so much better. The racing in Argnetina is poor, but here it’s a proper racetrack. In Argentina, there’s no security at all, one of the drivers died last year, because of the conditions of the track.”

Mr Lichtenstein, despite being the the second youngest driver, came second at the first 2012 Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain at Oulton Park, but he was hoping for one better. “There’s no prizes for second, you have to be focussed on being number one,” he said. His next race is on May 22 at Brand Hatch, where he is hoping to shake the champagne on the winner’s podium.

Instinct is everything, he said. “When I get in the car, I sit behind the wheel and I don’t think; I just let it be. It’s not me anymore. Everytime I start thinking, I get two seconds slower. You just feel, you cannot think.”

He has big dreams for the next four or five years. “I want to be the world champion in Formula One. I want to win it in Argentina. One of my sponsors, Velociudad, is building a F1 track, the Velociudad Speed City in Buenos Aires. Our dream is for the track to be completed and for me to win the championship there. I’m so grateful to them for sponsoring me. If everything goes to plan, I hope to be competing in F1, in four or five years time.”

Living in the quiet Surrey town of Esher with his sponsor while he trains has been an adjustment. “Jewish life is very different. I studied at the ORT school, so I had lots of Jewish friends, and I spent a lot of time at the Amichai Jewish Community Centre, it’s a big community. I’ve lost that; I don’t have my Jewish friends any more. I’ve been to the synagogue here, in Kingston, but it’s very small. There’s 5,000 people in my community at home.”

Petrol is in the blood of the Lichtenstein family. “I don’t remember when I first started being interested in cars, I’m told I was very, very little, that I was always following my father around, pretending to hold the wheel. My father was a rally driver and when he realised I like racing a lot, he decided to see if I would be good at karting. I got the chance to go karting as a present on my sixth birthday, and I competed for 11 years."

The experience doesn’t stop his mother fretting. “This is my dad’s dream for me, my mother is always worried, but she has had to get used to it. I started so little, that now it’s normal.”

    Last updated: 4:25pm, May 3 2012