Motor racing, it seems, runs in the genes. And it runs deep, judging by the number of local and international racing families
Racing talent does not fall far from the tree
The youngest addition to father-and-son racing duos is triple FIA world champion Petter Solberg and his 17-year old son, Oliver, who at just 15 became the youngest driver ever to race a top-level supercar when he made his debut at the opening round of the Scandinavian series in Norway in 2017.
Dad Petter did not plan to loan his Citroën DS3 to his son for the race, as he did not expect him to get the required licence. But young Oliver amazed his dad by acquiring the necessary licence from Latvia, denoting he could start racing in this formula in the year he turned 16. That birthday fell on 23 September, the weekend of the final round of the RallyX Nordic Championship, meaning Oliver raced the whole campaign aged 15!
Solberg Jr seems set to follow in his father and uncle Henning’s footsteps in rallying. Petter won the World Rally Championship in 2003 for the Subaru World Rally Team (SWRT), and switched to rallycross after the 2012 season. In 2014 he became the inaugural winner of the FIA World Rallycross Championship, and repeated his title success the following year.
Oliver had a successful debut with Subaru Motorsports USA recently, taking second in the 100 Acre Wood Rally – his first gravel rally in a four-wheel-drive – in a Subaru WRX STI.
Other well-known racing families
Of the many other well-known motorsports families that spring to mind, the first is seven-times Formula One World Champion Michael Schumacher and his younger brother Ralf, the only siblings who have won Formula One races. Then there’s Michael’s son, Mick, who competes in the FIA Formula 2 Championship and is affiliated to the Ferrari Driver Academy.
At the recent Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain, the Schumacher name was again emblazoned on a Ferrari car for the first time in over 12 years as 20-year-old Mick made his debut behind the wheel of a modern Formula One car, piloting Scuderia Ferrari’s SF90 during the first day of in-season testing as the only debutant in the field. He impressed by clocking the second-fastest time of the day and it will probably not be too long before a Schumacher again enters the pinnacle formula of motorsport.
Then there’s Graham Hill, two-time Formula One World Champion and the only driver ever to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport: the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.
Hill and his son Damon, now a TV motorsport presenter, are also the first father and son pair to win Formula One World Championships. Hill Jr recently drove the Lotus 49B in which his father won the 1969 Monaco Grand Prix as part of Formula One’s 1 000th Grand Prix celebrations in Shanghai.
Locally, a revered motorsport family, is the Scheckter brothers, Jody and Ian, with Jody still the only South African racer to win a World Formula One Championship – in 1979. Jody Scheckter was also the last driver to win a Drivers’ Championship for Ferrari until Michael Schumacher 21 years later in 2000. The Scheckter brothers’ sons had mixed success in international motorsport, with Jody’s son Tomas taking part in the US IndyCar Series.
Closer to home, the third generation of Van der Linde racers are now making waves internationally. Granddad Hennie was a multiple South African racing champion, as were his sons, Shaun and Etienne. Shaun’s sons, Kelvin and Sheldon, started kart-racing at the ages of 8 and 6 respectively, with 22-year-old Kelvin currently competing in the Blancpain GT Series and ADAC GT Masters, and 19-year-old Sheldon driving in the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters series.
Jonathan Aberdein, who will compete against Sheldon van der Linde in DTM this year, is the son of Chris Aberdein who competed in the SA Touring Car Championship in the late 1990s, while Simon Moss, son of Terry Moss who was teammate to Aberdein Sr, is now competing in the local GTC Championship.
And finally, like father, like daughter – Tasmin Pepper, 28-year-old daughter of 1990s Polo Cup racer Iain Pepper, has recently been chosen to participate in the inaugural season of the new W Series, an all-female international Formula 3-level racing series. Her brother, Jordan, also races overseas; driving for Bentley Team M-sport in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup and Intercontinental GT Challenge.
Mark and David Higgins
The fantastic Higgins brothers were born on the Isle of Man in the early 70s. Ouboet Mark got started racing motorcycles at age 8, before switching to karts a couple of years later. This is where his younger brother’s racing career also launched.
Fast-forward to 2011 and David joins Subaru Rally Team USA in the Rally America series, as a replacement for Travis Pastrana. David won the title at the first attempt, with three wins from six events. He has won the Rally America championship multiple times.
Mark also excelled at rallying, winning the British Rally Championship in 1997, 2005 and 2006.
While David is holding court as US Rally King, Mark became The Breaker of Times. In 2011, Mark set the fastest production car lap of 185.66 km/h on the Isle of Man TT course, driving a US-spec 2011 Subaru WRX STI. (The previous record of 160 km/h had stood for 21 years.)
The lap took 19min 37sec and at times the STI flew at over 260 km/h. “This was the most thrilling and frightening thing I have ever done,” Mark said at the time. He went on to smash this record in 2014 and then broke his 2014 record in 2016. This time the modified 447 kW STI built by Prodrive reached speeds of 274 km/h around the 37.73-mile (60.72 km) circuit. Mark lapped the course in 17min 35.14 sec, at an average of 207 km/h.
In October 2018, Mark set a record on the Transfăgărășan Highway in Romania, completing the 84 km course (with its 688 turns) in 40min 58.08 sec, driving the Subaru STI Type RA Time Attack car. Watch the video here: