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Jackson on fast track to success
Keisha Hill, Staff Reporter
THE MOTIVATION and tutoring he received from his father, Andrew Jackson, shaped the budding career of ace motor-racer Joel Jackson.
Twenty-year-old Jackson is one of Jamaica's leading young race car drivers.
From a very early age, he had a keen interest in motorsports.
"From when I was three years old, all I wanted to do was race," Jackson said. "My father would take me to racing events with him. He told me that when he took me home from the hospital when I was born he opened the bonnet of his car and showed me the engine. From then, he has supplied the motivation for me to become a race-car driver."
His eight-year racing career has seen him win several races and breaking a number of track records. His career kicked off when he started racing karts in 1999. Following his baptism into the sport, he placed second in 2002 and third in 2003 in Jamaica's Light Class Championship and was voted the Most Improved Driver. He was also the Light Class champion for 2004 and the Rotax Max Challenge champion for 2005.
Jackson currently holds the track record in the Rotax Max class. In 2006, he participated in the Rotax International class championship and placed third.
Since launching his driving career, he has developed a reputation over the years for taking pole position in most of the events he enters.
His father is the managing director of Jetcon Corporation and is supportive of his son's choice of sport.
"My dad has supported me 100 per cent from day one. If it weren't for him taking me to my first meet, I wouldn't be a motor-racing driver today," Jackson said of his father.
A glimmer of light shone in his eyes when he also spoke of his mother Gillian's support and motivation towards his sport. A receptionist at the Family Life Ministries, she attends some of his tournaments and throws all her energy into cheering for him.
"Mom worries a lot - she worries like every mother. Some times she is afraid that I may get hurt, but I have accepted the risks associated with the sport," he said.
Younger siblings Sean and Justine are also supportive of their older brother's aspirations.
"My dad, brother and sister come to training with me on weekends," he said.
Jackson has excelled both in the classroom and on the track A past student of Ardenne High School, he graduated in 2005 with nine CXCs and two A' Levels.
In 2006, he put on hold his studies at the University of the West Indies to focus on developing his racing career.
He was the first Jamaican driver to compete in the international BMW open-wheel racing series. He entered all 14 races in the United States and Canada, and competed against 32 drivers from around the world, including the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Australia, Spain, South Africa and Mexico.
Jackson completed the season as one of the top rookies in the series racing is his passion. he is cognisant of the importance of a good education.
Upon his return to Jamaica, Jackson enrolled at the University College of the Caribbean where he is pursuing a bachelors of arts degree in business administration.
"I want to be a professional race-car driver but I also have to have an education. This sport is risky and anything is likely to happen. Therefore, I have to be prepared should I have to change my goals," he said.
Still, motor racing is locked in Jackson's blood as even in his social life he still embraces his sport. He is interested in various magazines on cars including his three favourites, Performance, Car and Driver and Sport Compact.
He also finds the time to watch movies, among his favourites are Days of Thunder, Pirates of the Caribbean and 300.
Jackson enjoys surfing the Internet and is a moderator on the popular WheelsJamaica, a web-based racing forum.
The ace driver's role model is former Grand Prix driver Ayrton Senna of Brazil. Senna's death while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix marked the beginning of a new era in Formula One racing oriented to driver safety.
"He had a very good energy and possessed a ruthless driving style. He was extremely aggressive and never gave up. Winning was his number one priority," Jackson said of his hero.
Jackson has high hopes of representing Jamaica again next year in the BMW American Racing Series, the BMW World Series race in Valencia, Spain, and to race under Jamaican corporate sponsorship in Shanghai, China in the BMW Open wheel series race.
"It will take about US$250,000 for me to participate in next year's BMW American Racing Series. Last year, we sourced enough funding for the series only and, as such, I was unable to participate in any of the testing (practice) events," he said. "This year, we are asking more sponsors to come on board and support me in this event. We have tried hard over the past year to acquire sponsorship, but our efforts have so far proven futile."
Despite the financial hurdles, Jackson does not plan to hang up his helmet any time soon.
"I am going to compete in motor racing as long as it is feasible. I have never heard of any motor racer who truly hangs up his helmet."
Today, the Jamaica Karting Association will host a fund-raising race meet at the Palisadoes International Raceway starting at 9:30 a.m. to help defray some of Jackson's expenses.