The Best V8 Supercar Debut
Not many people would dispute that racing a 620 horsepower V8 Supercar when you’re just 16 years old is a pretty cool achievement. But winning a race, in your very first weekend behind the wheel, is something else entirely. And it’s exactly what Benalla boy Zak Best achieved in the opening round of the Kumho V8 Touring Car Series at Phillip Island.
For Best, who grew up in a family involved in motor-racing, it was only natural that he would become involved in the sport.
“My dad (Darren) did a lot of production car racing and I grew up travelling to all his events,” Best said.
“I started driving go-karts around his factory when I was four, and started racing karts when I was seven.”
When Zak’s older sister Ellexandra began racing in the Hyundai Excel Series, Zak decided he was ready for his turn on a full-sized race track.
“I had done pretty well in karts, so we decided to have a go at some national series,” he said.
“When I turned 14, I got my racing licence and I raced in the Aussie Racing Cars in 2016, and then Formula 4 last year.”
Those watching Best closely could see he had talent. He scored a race win in just his second weekend of Aussie Racing Car competition and ran competitively in the F4 field. But he said Supercars were always the aim.
“The Aussie Race Cars were good for learning race craft, but the F4 cars were very different from what I was used to,” he said.
“When I got in the V8 Supercar for my first test day, I felt much more comfortable – the tin-top suited my driving style a lot better.”
With only limited running in the MW Motorsport FG Falcon before the season opener, Best could very reasonably have treated Phillip Island as a learning experience and opted to stay out of trouble, but he had other ideas.
After qualifying third, he made a slow getaway in Race 1 but fought back to fourth. Race 2 was simply outstanding, Best demonstrating a combination of impressive pace and maturity beyond his years, as he again recovered from a slow start to pick up the win. Another strong drive to second in Race 3 netted second overall for the weekend, just a single point behind reigning series champ Jack Smith.
Round 2 of the Kumho Series will be held as part of the Winton SuperSprint, and the Benalla teenager can’t wait to race in on home turf.
“Coming to Winton, and having the chance to race in front of my home crowd will be awesome – hopefully we can finish on the top step of the podium,” Best said.
“My Dad’s long-time race engineer Frank Presser just passed away, so it would also be nice to score a good result for him.”
Best is hoping the Kumho Series will propel him towards his ultimate goal of racing in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship.
“The dream has always been to race Supercars, ever since I was a kid. At first, it seems like a very distant goal but when you work hard and get good results in other categories, you realise it is achievable.”