Simon Arron speaks to a British GP2 rookie who swapped football for racing
Some racing drivers are inspired by parental influence – a competing dad, perhaps – but it was a broken collarbone that shaped Jordan King’s ambitions.
“There had been no particular interest within the family,” he says (his father, Justin, is a successful businessman, former CEO of J Sainsbury, currently interim chairman of the Manor F1 team and a man who helped introduce Häagen-Dazs ice-cream to the UK). “I discovered the sport almost by accident, after visiting a local indoor kart centre a couple of times. I did quite well and the circuit owner encouraged me to take the next step. I moved up to Cadets when I was 12, but I was also playing football and that always took priority, so I missed a few kart meetings. At the time I was hoping I might make it as a soccer player, but then I broke my collarbone during a game. While I was sidelined, I began to realise that I was missing the racing more than I did the football. It was only then that I began to take things more seriously.”
Having been a front-runner at every level as he progressed through karting, King switched to cars at the age of 17 and swiftly built up a solid portfolio, competing in Formula Palmer Audi, Formula Renault, FIA F2 and the India-based MRF Challenge. “I did MRF for a variety of reasons,” he says. “There was some good prize money out there, plus sponsorship opportunities, and it had decent TV coverage, which helped me acclimatise to dealing with the media. When I first went, though, I hadn’t done much racing so it was a chance to broaden my experience and keep myself sharp during the European winter.”
He stepped up to F3 in 2013, winning the British Championship (while it still retained a glimmer of credibility) and finishing sixth in the FIA European series. “It’s a little ironic,” he says, “that I slipped to seventh in the FIA F3 standings in 2014, despite taking seven podium finishes against the previous season’s two. I had a bit of bad luck last year, though, including a couple of engine failures. It was frustrating not to win a couple of races, but I felt confident that I’d been quick enough. It was more a matter of things not quite coming together.
“I didn’t think I’d learn a great deal more by sticking around in F3 for another year and in my mind I felt ready for GP2. I think the opening round in Bahrain proved that my instincts were right.”
Having signed for Racing Engineering, based in Sanlucar de Barrameda, south-west Spain, he scythed through from 19th to fourth in the first race – the best result of the weekend for a rookie – and recovered to finish ninth in the second after a clash with Sergio Canamasas (who was penalised for his part in the collision).
“I feel I’ve caught up after what was nowadays a relatively late start,” he says. “How old was Max Verstappen when he began? About four? In karting I tended to move up a class year on year, but I was happy to spend a couple of seasons in Formula Renault and F3 and we’ll see how things go in GP2.” He also has a role to play as Manor’s F1 development driver, but has he harboured any thoughts of courting a career in sports cars, a popular option for an increasing number of his peers?“No,” he says, “I’m not yet ready to give up on my F1 dream.”
King is a director of the company managing his career, 42 Racing – a name inspired by the competition number he was given in his first Cadet event.
Eyes firmly on the future, then, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
Career in brief
Born: 26/02/94, Warwick, England
2006-2010 Karting. Asia-Pacific KF3 champion and British GP winner in 2009, second in KF2 Masters in 2010.
2010 Podium finish in first car meeting, Formula Palmer Audi
2011 FRenault; FIA F2; MRF Challenge champion
2012 FRenault NEC, 2nd; MRF Challenge, 2nd
2013 British F3 champion; FIA F3, 6th; MRF Challenge, 2nd
2014 FIA F3, 7th