Is Jay Howard the next Ayrton Senna?
by Mark Cipolloni

 November 29, 2005

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24-year-old Jay Howard from Basildon, Essex, England, has followed in the footsteps of so many of today's top drivers by starting in karting. He graduated into Formula Ford in his homeland, and went on to win the 2003 Formula Renault UK Winter Series. When his plans to move on up the racing ladder in Europe were thwarted by a lack of funding, Howard decided to spread his wings to North America. A pair of Cooper Tire FF2000 Series race outings at Infineon Raceway in California in 2004 netted a third-place finish and a victory, after which he pledged to return for a full-fledged attack on the championship this year.

Jay Howard, left, dominates like the late great Ayrton Senna, right, used to

Howard made his presence felt at his one-off Star Mazda event this weekend at Mosport International Raceway, qualifying on the front row and pulling away to victory.  As always the 2nd and third place finishers look demoralized.
Eric McCombs

And attack he did, completely dominating the 2005 Cooper Tire Formula Ford 2000 Series winning the first 6 races in a row and then going on to win a total of 9 out of 12 races, including winning the pole in 10 of 12 races. Of the races he didn't win, he was only beaten once in a fair fight. Mechanical failure took him out while leading round seven at Road America, and he crashed with bitter rival and fellow Briton Joey Foster while battling for the lead at Virginia International Raceway. The only race he lost in a fair fight was a second to Foster at Mid-Ohio.

Other drivers in the series have told us to keep an eye on Jay Howard, "heís so fast he's demoralizing." In fact he's won the first time out in every series he has raced in!

This kept alive his record of winning his debut event in each of the four auto racing series he has competed in, starting with Formula Ford in the United Kingdom, Formula Renault, the USF2000 Championship and now the Star Mazda Series."

Given your dominance this year in the Cooper Tire FF2000 series, you must feel pretty good with your performance?
  I feel like my performance this year has been very good, I have been consistent, so has the team. There is always room for improvement, I always look back on every session thinking of how I can improve no matter how fast I was or how much I won by. So I will be looking to do so in 2006.

Howard took the lead in his first Star Mazda race and drove away in a field that included the likes of Andretti, Rahal, Matos, Hinchcliffe and Pecorari
Eric McCombs

Have you always been this dominating as you worked your way up, or is it a case of you finally putting everything you learned together?
 I have been fairly dominant throughout most of my career. The problem has always been money, therefore you don't get in a car that often when you're pot-less! And if you do manage to find a drive for free, quite often itís not a very good ride. So racing for me has been difficult ever since a young age, until this year where I got a great car (Aiken Racing) and engineer (John Hayes) to show people what I'm capable of constantly, not flashes here and there because lack of money has restricted me to showcase my talent on a regular basis, as some would say!

Who was your childhood racing idol growing up in England?
 My idol is Ayrton Senna, enough said! Don't even compare M. Schumacher, not even in the same league.

When did you know you wanted to be a race car driver and when did you realize you were good enough to actually be one?
 I knew I loved racing at the age of 7ish... When I did my first ever race I won, so right from the start it looked pretty good

Howard demoralized the Cooper Tire FF2000 series in 2005
Bill Kistler

You started your career in Europe, yet decided to come to the USA because of lack of funding. Was the racing that much more expensive in Europe or were you able to find more money in the States?
 There are far too many politics in Europe. Yes, racing is a little bit more expensive in Europe than in the US. Technically, no I haven't found more sponsors here than back home. But I did get myself a great manager though!

They say that the European development series are a better training ground for young drivers. Do you agree, and if so why?
 Yes, I do agree. Europe is a lot more competitive, the racing is closer and more aggressive. One thing I had to adapt to when I arrived was to be careful! What I called racing was too aggressive here in the States. Back home they are more flexible. One of my strongest points as a driver is my race craft, this would show back home, so when I came to the States it really showed just how quickly I could get through traffic. When American guys go to Europe the first thing they say is how tough it is. Itís harder for the American guys to adapt to the European style than it is the other way. One rule in England which is the opposite of America is there are no rules for 'blocking'. This is something I think is a vague area and hard to scrutinize from an officials point, was it or was it not blocking? In the UK, soon as the race starts it's pretty much first one to the finish line! Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying one is right and one is wrong, this is just my view experiencing the different racing from both sides of the pond! If I had to choose, 'first to the finish line' sounds good to me!

You and fellow Brit Joey Foster pretty much dominated things this year. Did you compete against one another in Europe and how did it happen that you both ended up in the USA?
 Yeah, Foster and I raced against each other in the Renault winter series which I won. He was just about a front-runner.  Well the mentality of all British people is, 'I can beat him or I can do that, it's easy' that applies in all sports. No one seems to give any individual credit for their achievements. So when I came to America in 2004 for my one-off visit in which I won, everybody back home says, 'Oh, I can beat him!í Hence why Joey came to America to compete against me. This same theory I have seems to be happening now as the amount of interest in the USF2000 Championship for 2006 has grown considerably. And so it should, it is a great championship to get exposure and jump-start your career. I am confident you will see a number of British drivers come and compete in the series as it seems that they all can break my records! I will be watching the championship closely in 06; it will be an interesting year.

You, Foster, Katherine Legge, Justin Wilson, Dan Wheldon, etc.? Is this a British invasion?
 Nigel Mansell was the first inspiration for British drivers to come and race in America. Wheldon obviously continued that inspiration on and we all seem to have a fairly successful time here! Goes back to what I said previously about the different styles of driving from Europe to the US.

Do you like living in the States, or do you stay here just during the race season?
 Love it!! I'm planning on staying!! One thing I miss apart from the obvious like friends and family, is there is no history here in the states, everything looks the same! But that doesn't really bother me and the weather really makes up for that! I love Florida!

Howard hopes to move straight to Champ Car in 2006
Bob Heathcote

Rumor has it that you want to drive Champ Cars. What's next for Jay Howard?
 There are rumors flying around about me everywhere. Yes, Champ Car would be great, there have been offers but that's all I'm saying!

170 HP FF2000 to 700 HP Champ Cars would be a big step. Doesn't it make more sense to do a year in the 300 HP Atlantic Series first?
 I understand that's how people think, how I look at it is if youíre good enough, you're good enough, that's it. If I had a dollar from every person that has told me 'you should just get straight in a Champ Car, you're ready for it', I'd be rich! A few weeks back I had a test in a 525HP Daytona Prototype and it was easy compared with driving a 170HP USF2000. A few examples for the people that think I'm crazy saying I canít jump straight into Champ Car: Ayrton Senna went from a 165HP car to a 1000HP F1 car, as did N. Piquet and several others. Kimi Raikkonen went from a 175HP F.Renault to 900HP F1 car, so itís all relative. If it was my first year racing in cars I may think twice about it, but I'm not a beginner, very far from it. It shows what Karting does for drivers, especially direct drive racing such as ICA/FA.

Do you have any Champ Car tests lined up? Have you spoken to any teams?

What about money? Do you feel you can get the sponsorship together for a go at the Champ Cars?
 Not my department, I turn up with my helmet and pedal the car around!

Does your family help you financially, or are you on your own when it comes to pursuing your career?
 My family have been incredibly supportive of me right from the start and continue to do so. Unfortunately they are not financially blessed like others in the sport, but they have given me everything they possibly could and now itís my turn to return the favor by giving them all the things they have missed out on over the years because of my expensive racing! A nice car for my dad is top of the list!!

Coming from Europe, is F1 still the ultimate goal?
 F1 is still a goal for me, that's for sure. I do realize there are only a couple of drives that become available each year if youíre lucky and even then you need to be in the right loop, plus the whole politics thing comes back into play. Maybe one day!

What is your primary goal/target in life?
I want to be special. I want people to remember me. Yes I'll win races and hopefully more championships, but you ask nearly any driver this question and itís always, F1 World Champion, Indy 500 winner etc... Yes I want that to, but to be remembered with such words as sensational, special, talented, ability and successful is more important to me. Hopefully I'm on the right path with what I've done this year, anyone who knows me will understand! 

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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