Drivers don’t always follow the same career path. Simon Arron meets a Japan-bound youngster
It’s a road well trodden and the list of alumni remains illustrious. Geoff Lees, Johnny Herbert, Eddie Irvine, Marco Apicella, Anthony Reid, Ross Cheever and Andrew Gilbert-Scott are among the racers who were schooled in Europe, but spent a significant part of their careers in Japan. For some it opened the door to Formula 1, for others it was the foundation of a solid platform that enabled them to earn a living away from the sport’s European heartland.
There has been less of an exodus recently, but a young British driver has just plumped for Japan as he seeks to forge a professional career. The alternative would have been to join the ever-growing queue of drivers hoping to land one of a dwindling number of F1 seats.
These are early days for Struan Moore, but he’s already come a long way since he began karting in his native Jersey. “It started quite randomly,” he says. “One morning my dad and I saw an advertisement for Jersey karting, went to have a look at a kart and bought it. We stuck a trailer on our Land Rover Defender and went to the local circuit at Sorel Point every couple of weeks. Dad was my mechanic and we’d get up at dawn, along with all the other racers, and prepare the track. It had only three corners!
“The step from that to racing in the UK was massive, and as a result my first year was really tough. I was there or thereabouts, but never really at the sharp end until I moved into cars in the Ginetta Junior series.”
He competed in most Ginetta races in 2011, but constant commuting took its toll on time at school and he subsequently had a year away from the sport – other than popping back for a couple of BARC Formula Renault races.
“During that time,” he says, “I started to feel that school was becoming less of a need for the future. I was sure I’d soaked up everything I could – and it would always be possible to study again at a later date.”
His first conscious career-minded step was to commit to BRDC F4, in which he became a regular podium finisher. In 2013 his team-mates included championship runner-up Seb Morris, and last year he was alongside title winner George Russell.
“I’ve been lucky to have strong team-mates,” he says, “because they gave me a good benchmark. The further I’ve gone in the sport, the more comfortable I’ve felt. After that difficult baptism in karting, cars have helped me build confidence. Following my first win at Snetterton in 2013, I scored a few podiums. That was my first proper full-time season, then in 2014 I managed six podiums in a row.
“For this year I considered F3, GP3 and even GP2, but then began to look at ways I could make myself stand out. Young drivers don’t seem to have chosen the Japanese route in recent years, so it was either that or America. Japan really appealed because my father has a business out there, understands the culture and felt it would be a really good career step. [Fellow Jersey racer] James Walker has been helping: he spoke to the KCMG team and things moved from there. KCMG people were watching in Bahrain at the end of last year, when I slipped from third on the grid to sixth in an MRF race and then recovered to win. That helped clinch the deal.”
KCMG also has an LMP2 team in the World Endurance Championship and Moore hopes to participate in a sports car race or two before the year is out, but F3 is his primary focus. “I moved from Jersey to London at 17, after leaving school,” he says. “That was a big transition, but I’m a bit older now and feel comfortable making the move to Japan. It’s the start of my adult racing life.”
Career in brief
Born: 13/02/95, St Helier, Jersey
2008 Jersey Kart Championship
2009 Super One karting
2011 Ginetta Juniors
2013 BRDC F4, 9th (1 win)
2014 BRDC F4, 5th (1 win); won one of three MRF races contested in Bahrain
2015 All-Japan F3 Championship