Australian Hugh Barter begins his official European car-racing career this weekend with the Melbourne-based teenager to contest the first round of the 2021 French Formula 4 Championship season.
Having spent many years as a successful karter in Australia, the 15-year-old secured a fully paid seat in the French championship after winning the Richard Mille Young Talent Academy in October last year.
Since winning that competition, which saw him beat a number of talented young stars from around the world in a series of driving assessments, Barter has been busily preparing for his first season in an open-wheel race car.
Part of that preparation has included eight test days in a Formula 4 car, four of which have been alongside his fellow competitors in the championship.
Making the year even more challenging is the fact that Barter and his father Chris have had to relocate to the south of France until the end of the season, as it would be too difficult for them to go back and forth given Australia's current international border restrictions.
Despite the obstacle of being away from home for an extended period of time, Barter is ready for a big year and was excited to make his race car debut.
“I have had a lot of time to prepare for this. I knew in October after the shootout I would be racing in France this year, so I've had time to let it sink in. I think it’s a really good opportunity and I am fully prepared,” Barter said.
“I am more focused on my performance rather than being in France because of that reason. Yes it’s different and there is a new atmosphere to get my head around, but I think it’s more important just to worry about how I go on track than anything else.
“I’ve attended a couple four-day conferences where we were taught the main differences between the car and kart, like passing and how they move.
“There are quite a few differences, the main being everything seems a bit longer, especially braking and turns. Obviously you’re going faster in a car but the tracks are a lot bigger and speed is relative to the track size, so that’s something I had to get used to.
“This weekend is going to be exciting though. The weather should make it interesting. I think there is a 50 per cent chance of rain, which will spice it up so I am really looking forward to it.”
Barter will enter this weekend full of confidence in the newest chapter of his life having enjoyed an impressive run of form behind the wheel.
Out of the four test days he completed against his colleagues, Barter finished fastest on two occasions and was within the top three on the other two days.
With half the field making their official race car debuts this weekend, like Barter, and the other half contesting just their second season, the young Australian believes he is a good chance to take out the title.
However, it’s not just about winning this year that is important to Barter, it’s about showing the world what he is capable of and following the footsteps of other Australians competing overseas.
“We want to win the championship. I think it’s a realistic goal for me because in the preseason testing and practice that we have done, we’ve actually looked promising,” Barter explained.
"I don’t know what will happen next year or who might come on board. If I can win the championship, I get $100,000 plus Renault may support me next year, which makes it crucial.
“Everyone has their own story and their own individual situation. We don’t have a lot of money so we were lucky to get this opportunity through the academy, as well as have Richard Mille sponsor us for the whole season now.
“It’s is a huge help, but right now, I am just looking forward to the weekend and starting well.”
The opening round of the 2021 French Formula 4 Championship takes place at historic Nogaro circuit on 3-5 April, with his three races to take place overnight on Sunday and Monday mornings.