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At just 17 years of age, Jake Walker immediately turned heads in his very first outing in Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America.
As a rookie in just his second year of car racing, Walker entered the competitive one-make championship in the Am class initially but found himself catapulted to the top table after a solitary free practice session.
The top brass of Super Trofeo North America analysed Walker’s lap-times and decided that he would be better suited competing two classes further up, among the Pro drivers such as eventual double champions Kyle Marcelli and Danny Formal.
As far as baptisms of fire go, the mountain facing Walker was as high as he had ever scaled.
“For the first round at Laguna Seca, I admit that I was a little bit nervous,” reflects Walker, who recorded two podiums over the campaign. “Ahead of the season, I had the mindset that I was going to be an Am driver, but the organisers bumped me up to the Pro category right after first practice.
“So, I had to kind of reset my goals for the year after that. I realised pretty quickly that I was going to have to put in so much more effort just to keep up with the Pros, which was a challenge.
“The guys at the top of the Pro category in North America are big role models for me. To see them on the racetrack, I always try to put myself behind them and analyse what they do, how they drive, where I can improve and get quicker, basically just learning from them. And off the track, they are inspirational too.”
If the race winners and Pro champions are inspirations for a young driver like Walker, then the latter’s feats in his first season racing the 620hp 5.2-litre Super Trofeo Huracán are proof that, if you’re good enough, you’re certainly old enough.
Walker’s foray into motorsport began like so many other young drivers, in go-karting. But rather than pursue the goal of reaching Formula One or IndyCar, the teenager set his sights on the more tangible target of GTs, where careers and junior programmes are far more accessible.
As part of the Forty7 Motorsport stable, Walker not only drove for the team during the 2023 season, but also worked alongside them as a driver coach for the outfit’s karting division in the US national series.
“I have been racing since I was about nine years old, initially in go karting and then in recent years I made the move into cars and Lamborghini Super Trofeo,” says Walker.
“My dad did a little bit of racing as a hobby, but only when he was a bit older, he never raced when he was younger. I did go-karting when I was around nine or 10, mainly for fun but I started to take it more seriously in my teens and began to compete nationally in the States. I got to a pretty high level in nationals and was achieving some really strong results.
“And then, when I was 16, we decided to make the transition into cars and bigger machinery, so started to phase out of karting. And straight from there, I set my sights on GT racing; open wheel racing was never something I really focused on too much. Seeing these cars as a kid, especially Lamborghini which is my favourite brand, was amazing and it really was a dream to sit in the car for the first time.
“In my spare time, I do a lot of sim racing and I am also a driver coach for the Forty7 Motorsports karting team as well as being a mechanic for them too. I am generally really interested in cars so I try to get involved as much as I can. It’s safe to say that motorsport and the automotive industry is pretty much my whole life!”
Lamborghini Super Trofeo has a long history in helping young drivers move into the one-make category straight from go-karting. Notable examples include double World Finals winner Karol Basz, who spent many years at the forefront of the CIK FIA European and various national championships and, more recently, Egyptian driver Ibrahim Badawy who contended for the European Am title last season.
For Walker, having the right organisation around him was a critical factor in making the progression up the ladder as seamless as it was.
“The transition from karting to Lamborghini Super Trofeo was obviously very big but I have a lot of the right tools at my disposal and definitely the right programme within Lamborghini which has helped make that transition really as smooth as possible.
“The end goal is clearly to make this my career in the future, whether that be GT3 or LMDh and there are many paths I can take to achieve this. I’m happy where I am just now in the sportscar world and am excited to see where it takes me.”
Despite an exceptional breakthrough year in Super Trofeo, Walker remains as grounded as he can, knowing that learning his trade and building experience is the key to future success.
Such is the rapid ascension to the higher echelons of GT racing that Walker has already sampled GT3 machinery, contesting the Indianapolis 8 Hour race in 2023. He’ll add more experience this year when he races in the Michelin Endurance Cup rounds of the WeatherTech IMSA SportsCar Championship.
And all the while, Walker maintains his involvement in motorsport wherever he can, whether that is on-track or off it.
“We had some great results in 2023, multiple podiums and I learned a lot in a really short space of time,” says Walker.
“I attended the young driver assessment day and training programme in Italy, and I was delighted to find out that they thought I would be suitable for the young driver shootout after the World Finals.
“[After Laguna Seca] I tweaked my workout programme a lot more during the season, hitting the gym a lot more frequently. And going to the Lamborghini gym in Sant’Agata, I was able to pinpoint where I was good and where I needed to improve, so it allowed me to make some changes back at home to get in even better shape. And that has really helped me physically.”
With that in mind, it is easy to see how Walker has made such significant progress in such a short space of time. He’s one of several teenagers making waves in Super Trofeo competition and has proved that raw talent is often more valuable than experience alone.